WASHINGTON – The Pentagon Thursday banned four reporters, including one from McClatchy Newspapers, from covering future military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, charging that they’d violated ground rules by publishing the name of a former Army interrogator who was a witness at a hearing there this week.
The news organizations – McClatchy, the Toronto Star, the Toronto Globe and Mail and CanWest Newspapers of Canada – said they’d appeal the Pentagon’s decision and that their reporters hadn’t violated the ground rules.
Col. David Lapan, the director of Defense Press Operations, said the ban affects only the individual reporters and that their organizations would be allowed to send others to future hearings. The banned reporters were Carol Rosenberg of McClatchy’s Miami Herald, Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Paul Koring of Toronto’s Globe and Mail and Steven Edwards of CanWest Newspapers.
Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/201…
(UPDATES x 2 at the end)
Omar Khadr: Photo minutes after he was shot and captured in Afghanistan at age 15.
He was shot in the back, schrapnel blinded him in one eye.
Jim White in FDL’s Sentinel can give you a quick recap here. His piece includes links to Marcy Wheeler (emptywheel) and Spencer Ackerman’s notes and reports.
The four banned reporters are Carol Rosenberg of McClatchy’s Miami Herald, Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Paul Koring of Toronto’s Globe and Mail and Steven Edwards of CanWest Newspapers.
Those four reporters comprise much of the institutional knowledge of Guantanamo Bay and the military commissions, as their colleagues widely acknowledge. Shephard has written the most comprehensive account to date of Omar Khadr’s life and experiences in detention at Bagram and Guantanamo Bay, in both her Star reporting and her book Guantanamo’s Child. Rosenberg is the single most diligent, consistent and experienced Guantanamo Bay reporter in the world, having carved out the Guantanamo beat steadily almost since the detention facility here opened in 2002 and traveled here more frequently than any other journalist. (I personally heard complaints about her from public affairs officers here five years ago – and those complaints amounted to whining about how dogged an investigator she was.) Koring and Edwards have also been invaluable resources about Khadr and Guantanamo to their colleagues these past two weeks.
Carol Rosenberg writes for the Miami Herald, McClatchy.
Michelle Shepard literally wrote the book… from her website:
A sweeping narrative set against the backdrop of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the U.S.-led war on terror that followed, Guantanamo’s Child chronicles the life of Canadian Omar Khadr. He was just 15 when he was shot and captured in Afghanistan and became a prized Pentagon captive. Khadr has now spent almost than a third of his life in U.S. custody in the notorious Guantanamo Bay, where he has undergone hundreds of hours of interrogation and endured “coercive techniques” by his captors that many argue amount to torture.
Khadr faces life in prison, charged with five war crimes including murder for the death of U.S. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer. His case makes history as the first modern day war crimes trial of a juvenile and has drawn worldwide condemnation from legal, civil and human rights groups.
Award winning journalist Michelle Shephard probes the Khadr case from every angle, with exclusive interviews with the soldiers and Speer’s widow Tabitha. The book reveals unknown details about Khadr’s life being shuttled back and forth between Canada, Pakistan and Afghanistan and his father’s alliance with al Qaeda’s elite. Shephard also probes how the political backroom negotiations between Washington and Ottawa have left Canada now as the only Western nation to support Guantanamo and its trials.
Voted by Embassy Magazine as one of the most 20 most influential books of 2008, Guantanamo’s Child is not just an important book, but also a gripping legal thriller that’s difficult to put down.
Steven Edwards of CanWest Newspapers…here.
As has been the case from Minute One, this now is terribly convoluted contortion on a scale Houdini would envy. Complex and mazelike pathways through laws, provisions, loopholes, conditions, “ground rules” turned inside out.
“That reporters are being punished for disclosing information that has been publicly available for years is nothing short of absurd – any gag order that covers this kind of information is not just overbroad but nonsensical,” Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement. “Plainly, no legitimate government interest is served by suppressing information that is already well known.”
Joel Simon, the executive director the Committee to Protect Journalists, called the bans part of “a long history of lack of access for journalists covering military tribunals and other events at Guantanamo Bay.”
“This certainly is a very drastic step,” he said.
On Wednesday, the judge in the case, Col. Patrick Parrish, reminded reporters that even though Claus’ name was public, a protective order intended to keep him anonymous applied to journalists as well.
Rosenberg’s report that day included the following sentences: “Canadian reports have identified that interrogator as Army Sgt. Joshua Claus, who pleaded guilty in September 2005 to mistreatment and assault of detainees at Bagram. He was sentenced to five months in jail.”
Rosenberg said her story was filed before the judge’s warning. She said Claus’ name had already been revealed.
“All I did was report what was in the public domain,” Rosenberg said.
“I am disappointed because I did not violate the ground rules,” Rosenberg said. “I am also surprised because we heard nothing about this, and the ban was issued nearly 24 hours after the piece first appeared.”
Pentagon officials said it didn’t matter that Claus’ name was already widely known.
You might want to have a glance at this May 5th blog post from ACLU…. also, just to get more of an idea what we’re dealing with here.
Claus was convicted for his role in the death of an Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar who died in custody while in Bagram in 2002. Claus was one of his final interrogators. Coroners found that Dilawar’s legs had “basically been pulpified,” and the injuries were comparable to being run over by a bus. Claus pleaded guilty in 2005 to maltreatment and assault, and was sentenced to five months in prison. He admitted to forcing water down Dilawar’s throat and twisting a hood over his head. Dilawar’s death was the subject of the Oscar-winning film Taxi to the Dark Side. The ACLU obtained Dilawar’s autopsy report (PDF) through the Freedom of Information Act.
Just a little reminder:
First Amendment – Religion and Expression
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;
or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;
or the right of the people peaceably to assemble,
and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
UPDATE 1: Scott Horton, Harpers this morning with this headline: Press Censorship at Guantánamo
Things are going very poorly for the Defense Department at Guantánamo. When the proceedings convened, it was learned that the Defense Department had prepared a new set of procedural rules, written entirely in secret without following standard procedures that envisage consultation with the bar. The initial hearings then had to be adjourned so that the prosecutors, defense counsel, and judge could read the new rules. Under international law standards that the Supreme Court ruled binding on the United States in Hamdan, the military commissions are only valid if they are a “regularly constituted court.” There is little doubt that proceedings in the American military-justice tradition, applying the rules normally used in courts martial, would have met this test. But the Guantánamo commissions have departed from those traditions at every turn, making clear that they are “irregular.” The embarrassing secret dealings surrounding the rules coupled with blatant retaliation against critical media serve to highlight their illegitimacy before the actual transactions of the court are even examined.
At this point the only way out for the Obama Administration is to arrange a plea bargain for Khadr. The case is now so thoroughly compromised that any other outcome will only be a further embarrassment.
UPDATE 2: Rachel all over it last night.
crossposted at Wild Wild Left