May 8th, 2010
12:28 AM ET

4 reporters banned from Gitmo court proceedings

The Pentagon has banned four reporters from covering court proceedings on the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, because they published the name of a former U.S. Army interrogator.

The journalists violated ground rules by reporting the name of a protected witness, Defense Department spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said.

Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg, Globe and Mail reporter Paul Koring, Toronto Star reporter Michelle Shephard and Canwest News Service reporter Steven Edwards were notified by Defense Department officials Thursday.

Editors at the news organizations involved said the name of the man a judge asked reporters to describe as "Interrogator No. 1" in a Guantanamo court hearing Wednesday was already part of the public record.

"Banning the information now - when it is already known around the world - serves no apparent purpose other than to raise more questions about the credibility of the Guantanamo courts," Globe and Mail Editor-in-Chief John Stackhouse said in an article on the newspaper's Web site.

The stories in question named former Army Sgt. Joshua Claus as a witness in a hearing this week for Canadian detainee Omar Khadr. Claus spoke on the record to the Toronto Star in 2008 about his role as one of Khadr's interrogators and his name was widely published in accounts of his court martial in September 2005, the Miami Herald reported.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said kicking out the journalists was an unnecessarily drastic move.

"This man's identity has been widely known. There is video on YouTube that is available to virtually anybody. He has been giving on-the-record interviews about his involvement in the case," she told CNN.

But Lapan said past public mentions of the man's name were irrelevant.

"The fact that the individual's name was out at some time in the past doesn't change the fact that there was an order protecting his identity at this hearing," Lapan told CNN.

He said the ban applied only to the four reporters, and not to their news organizations. He said the news organizations could appeal the decision through the Defense Department.

"They all had copies of these ground rules, they were well-known, they were established," Lapan told reporters Friday. "... The judge had reminded them in court two days ago that the protective order, protecting the names, the identities of the witnesses, applied to them. Yet they published anyway."

Khadr, the Guantanamo detainee, has accused interrogators of torturing him at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

Prosecutors allege that he threw a grenade that killed a U.S. Army medic, received training from al Qaeda and was caught on a surveillance video making roadside bombs and planting them where U.S. troops traveled.

Defense attorneys representing Khadr, 23, say confessions he made during questioning were a product of torture and should not be admissible.

Editors at several of the news organizations have said they plan to appeal the Defense Department's decision to ban the reporters.

Dalglish said her organization has requested a meeting about the issue with Defense Department attorneys.

Banning the reporters has negative consequences for readers as well as news organizations, she said.

"The public is deprived of the very skilled reporting of journalists who have been covering this story for a long time," she said.

A story from McClatchy Newspapers, which owns the Miami Herald, said Rosenberg has covered every military commission hearing at Guantanamo Bay, with the exception of one week, since the proceedings began in 2004.

A story on the Toronto Star's website said Shephard is currently on her 21st trip to Guantanamo Bay. In the article, Toronto Star Editor Michael Cooke described the Pentagon's decision as "absurd."

"This is ridiculous and an unfair ban and the Toronto Star will object strongly to it," he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union also sharply criticized the Defense Department's decision.

"No legitimate government interest is served by suppressing information that is already well known," the ACLU's Jameel Jaffer said in a written statement. "We strongly urge the Defense Department to reconsider its rash, draconian and unconstitutional decision to bar these four reporters from future tribunals."

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Filed under: Military
soundoff (59 Responses)
  1. A.A.Allen

    That John Mac guy is a moron! Just because he's in his own country, doesn't mean he's not a terrorist! If you harbor terrorists, you are a terrorist. If they nation you are in harbors terrorists and continues to do so after warnings, then it is a terrorist nation! If you throw grenades at those people coming in who are looking for ONLY the terrorists, then you just became a CASUALTY OF WAR, or if you're lucky enough to live through it, you became a terror suspect! Think outside the box John!

    May 8, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  2. A.A.Allen

    How right you are James,,, they don't expect you to trust them blindly, they just expect you to trust them! Remember the court is OPEN to the press, there was a just a SIMPLE ORDER not to state an witnesses name during the trial, and with our ever-so intelligent reporters that you trust to get the story right, 4 of them couldn't manage to understand a single rule that they were reminded of several times as stated in the story!!! The rest of the reporters who were intelligent enough to follow VERY SIMPLE RULES, didn't get kicked out! This isn't rocket science!

    May 8, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Observer

    I agree with the comments: What part of the Court Order did they not understand? Why can they ignore a court order, yet if one of us did we would end up in jail?
    They should stop thinking they are above the law and obey the same laws they say they are their to protect.

    May 8, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Rob

    Carol Rosenberg has been reporting on GTMO for years. Her reporting is completly biased with a far left liberal slant. Banning that liberal tool from the court room is a win for objectivity.

    May 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jason

    Wow, the ACLU is on their side. What a shock that is. The ACLU is against everything that is good an pure and American. The first sign that these reporters really screwed up was that the ACLU was on their side. America needs to label the ACLU as a terrorist organization and ban it's attorneys from practicing law in the US.

    May 8, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John Mac

    Funny isn't A.A.Allen, that's what the British said about the Founding Fathers.

    May 8, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Grace

    First of all the names of the interrogators, witnesses etc. are available all over the internet. Then the judge says hey you can't publish their names, but they are already available almost everywhere. Personally Gitmo needs to be closed, Omar Khadr needs to be sent home to Canada, if there is any doubt at all that he didn't do it, and from what I am reading the story has changed a few times so there is reasonable doubt. Send the boy home and let Canada deal with it. As for the ACLU, thank God we have an organization that defends the rights of people. Sometimes they are wrong, sometimes they are right, but they are there, and in this case they are right. The Republicans unfortunately would restrict the rights to free speech and fair and unbiased reporting, so I wonder what party the judge supports? I know that usually most of the military supports the GOP....

    May 8, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Diane1976

    They didn't ban all the Guantanamo reporters who mentioned the name, just four who happen to know more than most about it, and they were providing other reporters with background information. See an article on this by Spencer Ackerman in the Washington Independant. He was also at Guantanamo.

    There isn't much that hasn't been published about this case, including the name and the story of that witness.

    The case has been going on, and off and on again for years, and the Government has made up the rules, and even the law under which the accused is charged, as it went along.

    May 8, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. John Mac

    The problem is, he hasn't broken a law in Canada. If he comes here he's free.

    May 8, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. stan squires

    I am from vancouver,canada and i wanted to say that the U.S. more people in prison than any other country in the world. that is a sure sign that there is something wrong with the gov.Omar Khadr should have been freed long ago.President Obama is like Joseph Stalin when it comes to political prisoners.The canadian no better since it never made any attempt to bring Omar Khadr back to canada,The american gov. is in no position to critise any the world when it comes to human rights.It is time for the working class in the USA to take political power into their own hands so as to put a stop to these atrocities by the gov.

    May 8, 2010 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. John Mac

    I have to agree with Harper, Let the US legal system do it's job. I don't agree he should be on trial, he's a kid, but, the system has to rule on it. It's taking way too long because it is going to set presidents and be appealed. Unfortunatlly his father should have thought of that when he got him into that sh@#T in the first place.

    Let the system take it's course. Canada must wait till it is decided then take whatever action is required to get him home.

    May 8, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. sean-o

    cnn is censoring my opinion. Just wanted ya'll to let you know...

    May 9, 2010 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jerry

    You are not the only one, sean-o!


    May 9, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
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