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. Trash

    Kevin spins the wrong wing story. Nice agenda.

    May 8, 2010 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  2. Average American

    There should be NO REPORTERS there anyway, unless invited by the Military.

    May 8, 2010 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. cfo

    Used President Clinton's logic. Court order applied to others, not them.

    May 8, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pat Davis

    There were children younger than 15 that killed our troops in meny other wars. All is fair in love and war. As far as the reporters go I say good ban them they suffer from delusions and often think they know better than anyone else. The report half truths or truths presented by their ouw liberal views. Enemy combantants there is a meaning here listen up we are at war with terrorism. How quickly people forget about 9-11. Will it take another one before we relaize we are at war. I really dont car that Obama does not want us to use the word muslim in reference to terrorism maybe thats because he is one. Im disgusted with this whole thing and its only gotten worse since is highness Obama has taken the Court.My husband died for his country and is turning over in his grave at the disgusting turn this country is making. God save us all.

    May 8, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. commonsense

    Why does the media think that they are privileged and that the rules do not apply to them? A court order is a court order. They have and continue to publish information which jeopardizes our military personnel and their missions under the premise of free speech. It's too bad that they don't utilize some common sense along with their goal to inform the public. Some of their stories have resulted in additional injuries and deaths for our soldiers thus giving them more news to exploit. I think they should be accountable not only the government for unnecessarily putting personnel at risk but they should also be accountable to the families who's loved ones dies as a result of poor choice in judgment and lack of common sense.

    May 8, 2010 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Irishace11

    Courting Disaster? Are you putting me on? Marc Thiessen is the laziest, stupidest, most arrogant guys I've ever seen. That book is full of lies, half-truths, innuendo, and made-up ideas from Thiessen pea-sized brain.

    May 8, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. thisguy

    Kicking reporters out of a military tribunal for a child soldier... what is this, Burma?

    Way to go America.

    May 8, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tcaros

    The coverup of Bush torture continues.

    All the coverts have to do is create some evidence to cover up their story.

    May 8, 2010 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tcaros

    The world elite now run the American government through the covert intel people.

    They blackmail everyone with personal informaton in their position of homeland security.

    May 8, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Richard Sensenbrenner

    The civillian sector constantly judges the military by civillian standards and are always amazed when the military seems not to adhere to them.

    May 8, 2010 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  11. John Mac

    How is it he's a terrorist??
    He's in Afghanistan fighting for his family's homeland. He didn't throw the grenade in the US. He's either an Afghanistan criminal or an enemy soldier. If not, your playing with work like some lawyer would.
    Either way he's a child, Laura Bush ran over a kid when she was young and didn't even see the inside of a Police Station. This guy is in prison now for 5 or 6 years. Get real, convict him them let him go or haul Bush up on charges.
    Not everyone who disagrees with the military are terrorists, maybe they just want to be left alone in their own country.

    May 8, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Klaark

    The best part is the people supporting this action.

    When they try you in a secret hearing with secret witnesses, I wonder how loud you'll squeal for a reporter to say something?

    May 8, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. A.A.Allen

    A court order is a court order. This happened on DOD installation and the orders were not to publish. The order didn't say "don't publish if nobody already knew", but instead simply said "don't publish the name, use name: Interrogator #1". This is just an example of the press trying to push the lines further.
    As far as the comment left about Gitmo being a dark period in our history... I say "absolutely not"! Sure, bad things have happened there, as they do at any other jail or prison in the world. Nobody takes into account the added stress and pressures these military members are already under when these events occurred. Nobody seems to take into account the THOUSANDS of other military members who have been stationed there who didn't take part in the activities that a others did.
    Everyone is so worried about the rights of the detainees, all I have to say is: What about the rights of those innocent civilians here in America who died because there was no Gitmo at the time?
    Detainees have rights, but they are extremely limited because they were found in precarious situations that caused concern that they may be in a position to take the rights away from citizens here in the US. We didn't just pick the first couple hundred Arabs or Muslims we saw to throw in prison, these people fit the description and profile of previous terrorists.
    If there is a person taking a flight class, who has family links and ties to other known or suspected Al Qaeda trained individuals, has access to explosives or know knowledge of how to create explosives, and only has a ticket to America for a one week, or even month stay, this isn't what I'd call profiling,,, this is what I'd call a SUSPECT! Arrest him already, ask questions later!
    America needs to quit being so naive! WAKE UP PEOPLE!

    May 8, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Reason

    Good job by the courts. Ban the morons who can't follow security rules. It's not like they banned all reporters... just the ones who endanger the security of witnesses.

    May 8, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. James R Jefferis

    How dare those reporters violate the Kangaroo Court order! We should just trust the military to dispense justice in our names. After all, when has the military ever lied to or misled anyone?

    May 8, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
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