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. Patriot in West (by God) virginia

    WHAT PART OF THIS COURT ORDER DID THEY NOT UNDERSTAND.

    May 8, 2010 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
    • John Kantor

      What we need to do is start putting journalists in Guantanamo.

      August 8, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tryn

    Exactly....a court order is a court order...period. If the reporters or their papers had an issue with the court order when they were reminded of it by the judge 2 days earlier..they should have said something about it then. They are crying about it now because they got caught.

    May 8, 2010 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
  3. Patrick Henry Fatrell

    Gitmo is and always be a dark period in our histury.

    May 8, 2010 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. Andy

    Well Patrick, wasn't your newly elected President supposed to shut it down? Another one of his HUGE promises which he is FAILING on.

    May 8, 2010 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
  5. StrangerRick

    This is just more proof that these are drumhead cortsmartial and have not connection with justice. Might as well just get a rope. Lynch mobs never like to work in public where their activities can be scrutinized. These "courts are a shame and a blot on America. We should all be ashamed of them. As a veteran and a patriot, I am ashamed.

    May 8, 2010 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
  6. Keith

    Secret witnesses with secret crimes.....sounds strange to me. Oh yea the government beat the hell out of someone....that is why it is secret

    May 8, 2010 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
  7. Joe Williams

    News reporters are mostly liberal types who see themselves above the law. Gitmo has served us well, except we treat the prisoners much to well and they have too many rights and cost us too much. The media is mostly corrupt and most liberals worry more about the prisoners than they do about the safety of the US citizens!

    May 8, 2010 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  8. Bill Clark

    It's pretty obvious that anyone will say anything to stop the torture, especially if they were faced with the horrific methods that were carried out at Gitmo. Most of the people at Gitmo have been found to be innocent and we have no right to hold them prisoner.

    May 8, 2010 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
  9. Bill

    As Veteran normally PROUD of USA. But the entire events at Guantanamo has severed to destroy our country. The US Supreme Court has sustained Article 3 Courts, UCMJ and the rules followed in both. But the establishment of a prison where it is not "open" but "secret" the tribunals are not bound to follow the rules of evidence, merely those created by Rumsfield/Cambone. The failure of current administration to comply with promise to close the secret prison tends to cause doubt in those events. Today it appears a prisoner could be detained, tried and executed in secret. Something our forefathers did not approve.Nor do the majority of knowing Americans.

    May 8, 2010 at 5:12 am | Report abuse |
  10. Steve P

    Perhaps the Mr. Obama now sees the value in NOT making public every single move made. Perhaps Mr. Obama now sees the value in Gitmo.

    Sometimes secrecy is good.

    May 8, 2010 at 5:52 am | Report abuse |
  11. John Mac

    While keeping things SECRET is great, we have to look at this in its whole. This is a 15yr old kid who supposedly threw a grenade, in a war zone. 15, he can't even vote or drive, he would have been in grade 10, if in school. If your kid, he'd still be bad mouthing his parents, listening to crappy music and trying to stop zits from appearing on his face. Not in a war zone throwing grenades!
    Make no mistake, I do feel for the soldier's family. They should not have to do without that brave and loyal man, but, to prosecute a 15 yr old under military law, in secret.
    Remember, while you are sitting there having your morning coffee, reading the paper trying to decide when to wake your kid for the trip to the sports field, some of these kids are scratching for their lives from not only the countries but from their families who use them to better themselves.
    This story is very sad. Shame

    May 8, 2010 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
  12. NoWay

    Play by the rules or get the rules changed BEFORE playing the game

    May 8, 2010 at 7:24 am | Report abuse |
  13. Harvey W

    First these reporters disregarded a court order. Secondly, the Pentagon said that the news agencies were NOT banned from the proceedings but that those specific reporters were. Maybe the next time a Judge issues an order they will listen. If it had been anybody else besides the media that violated a court order, we would be held in contempt and pay a fine or possibly be jailed.
    All you people talking about "secret" hearings have a screw loose. As stated in the report, other journalists will be allowed to report on the hearings.
    And just because he was 15 when it happened does not mean that he can't be an enemy combatant as is evidenced by his actions.

    May 8, 2010 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  14. Alton

    Reporters ofttimes invision themselves as Gods. Rules are for other people, not them.
    They were even told beforehand but arrogance took over. Probably some youngsters.

    May 8, 2010 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
  15. J R Brown

    What I find here is a lack of ability by some folks to disassociate their idea of daily life from that of those in a warzone....teens throwing grenades at our soldiers is not akin to one throwing a rock at a passing car in Queens.

    The fact that Obama campaigned against the "draconian" measures of the Bush Administration yet still employs them now is telling. It's one thing to spew rhetoric...it's another to deal with the matters at hand..

    The reporters should be banned. The broke the rules of which they were well aware. One of the single greatest problems in our society today is the notion that people don't have to follow laws with which they don't agree.

    May 8, 2010 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
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