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. PJinChicago

    Patrick Henry Fartwell. The terrorist in question was interrogated at Bagram, not Gitmo so what exactly is your point about American history?

    May 8, 2010 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. PJinChicago

    Don't you just love the American Criminal Liars Union.

    May 8, 2010 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  3. PJinChicago

    Bill, You're wrong. Read Courting Disaster by Marc Theissen, and you'll understand. I already sent a copy to Obama, and his decision to NOT close Gitmo is proof. Moreover, the terrorist in question was interrogated at Bagram not Gitmo. Do you see the disconnect?

    May 8, 2010 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jimbo,Minneapolis,Mn

    Most of you are saying that being known as a nation of torturers is no big deal...how about the moral high-ground? We condemn while we secretly do the same thing...not the country I served for, that's for sure!

    May 8, 2010 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
  5. jim

    If, as their editors said, the name was "already known around the world", where was the "journalistic imperative" to use the name when they had been told not to?

    May 8, 2010 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  6. Peter (Albany, New York)

    When a judge / officer gives an order, it is meant to be followed. While I do not fully understand how the military branches operate; I respect that the officers/officials in charge have reasons for their actions and protections of our soldiers is paramount in today's highly lethal terrorism containment efforts.

    I fail to understand how any one of these journalists can have a leg to stand on when the judge gave the order, confirmed it and put the directive in writing. Quit complaining, accept your slap on the wrist, put a new journalist in the courtroom (as the journalists individually were banned, not their employers) and move on.

    May 8, 2010 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. MLH

    Why didn't they follow the court order and then appeal it? You don't just get to decide on your own that a court order is unnecessary.

    May 8, 2010 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  8. dan

    its GTMO not GITMO. there is no "i" in guantanamo.

    also people in GTMO are terrorists that have kille damericans...... why do peopel kep saying oh its a bad place. those people killed americans and innocent people.

    stop feeling bad for those terrorists.

    May 8, 2010 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
  9. Ohhiya

    I hear lots of talk about justice and the lack of in the courts

    Courts have nothing to do with justice, they deal in Laws. Hence a Court of Law, not justice

    Why are the two so often combined when they are not the same. At times even opposite

    May 8, 2010 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  10. Dude

    people forget we are at WAR, you cant open every book for the enemy to see what your moves are, they dont wear uniforms, we need to keep some things from the enemy and protect our own

    May 8, 2010 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. Do As You're Told

    When US troops kill a civilian in Afghanistan Americans never stop telling me it's no big deal, what else can you expect in war zone. I agree that it was pretty stupid of those Afghans to build their home in a war zone. But on the other hand, when a 15 yr old kid throws a grenade at US troops in a war zone, he's a criminal and a terrorist. Funny how that works.

    Oh and for all those ppl here who love court orders so much, US courts have absolutely no jurisdiction over what can or cannot be published in a Canadian newspaper. Get over it.

    May 8, 2010 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. Lance

    You gotta love the ACLU chiming in, if the guy who had his name released was a black or hispanic guy they would be up in arms but as long as it's just a white guy it's OK. What's absurd is that they had clearly defined rules but chose not to follow them and they only questions about the credibility of the GITMO courts is coming from the media. Questioning the credibility of these courts is nothing more than a manufactured story by the left wing media, as far as I am concerned the dirt bag terrorist on trial is lucky to even be getting a trial.

    May 8, 2010 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  13. Kevin Brooks

    They don't want reporters there because they know what they've done to this kid was completly illegal. Regardless if he was cohericed into aiding the Taliban, he was a 15 year old child soldier that the United States of American thrrew into Gitimo and tortured a confession out of.

    The real crime here is the Canadian Government sitting by and allowing a 15 year old citizen to be tortured by the USA in it's so called crusade against terrorism.

    May 8, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  14. Kevin Brooks

    Torturing at 15 year old into a confession is a war crime.

    May 8, 2010 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jaime Greer

    A 15 year old killing my 18 year old son and a school full of women and children with a IED is a WAR CRIME.

    May 8, 2010 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
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