No Comment — May 7, 2010, 10:08 am

Press Censorship at Guantánamo

The Gates Pentagon has decided to ban four journalists from covering the Guantánamo proceedings. The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein reports:

The Pentagon said they were expelling the reporters because they had revealed the name of a former U.S. interrogator whose name is under protective order — but is widely known. The four are Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald and three Canadian reporters, Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Paul Koring of the Globe & Mail, and Steven Edwards of Canwest. The papers can send other reporters to cover the prosecution of Omar Khadr, a Canadian picked [up] by American forces in Afghanistan when he was 15, the Pentagon said. He is now 23.

The U.S. interrogator at the center of the ban controversy was all but identified during a pre-trial hearing earlier in the week, when Khadr’s defense attorney asked a question about a detainee made to kiss the American’s boots. One of the banned reporters, the Toronto Star’s Shephard, has written a book on the Khadr case, “Guatanamo’s Child.” Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan, director of Defense Press Operations, told the newspapers that their reporters had “violated established and agreed-upon ground rules governing reporting on Military Commissions proceedings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” “Specifically, your reporters published the name of a witness whose identity was protected in court,” Lapan said.

There is more to this than meets the eye, because the identity of the interrogator is already a matter of public knowledge, and more than these four publications have already disclosed the name. The interrogator gave an on-the-record interview to the Tortonto Star in 2008 and was court-martialed in September 2005, with press accounts giving his name and a specification of the charges against him. He appeared on camera in an Oscar-winning documentary in which he discussed the process of detainee abuse as it was practiced at the Bagram detention facility in Afghanistan. The notion that his name is a secret is therefore absurd. The order seems to be a pretext for blocking coverage of Guantánamo by critical media. The reporters banned by this order are those who have done the most in-depth coverage of the case of Omar Khadr, who was seized as a child by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and harshly abused—in the view of one of his own interrogators, tortured—during his custody.

Spencer Ackermann writes in the Washington Independent:

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.

The Pentagon public-affairs officers would prefer a different sort of reporting–one that regurgitates their own news feed, perhaps with a slight admixture of comments from defense counsel who are themselves subject to tight restrictions about what they can say to the media. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the bulk of major media covering the proceedings at Guantánamo produce.

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.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

June 2015

Loitering With Intent

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Polite Coup

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Findings

What Went Wrong

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Shooting Down Man the Hunter

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

[Browsings]
“Here, a long finger of snow replaced by gray patches of dirt and rock; there, a grayish blob of ice the texture of corduroy, where once a vibrant white patch of snow lay.”
Photograph by the author
Article
Legends of the Lost·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“A bond with reality has gone, and sometimes you wonder whether that fosters our feeling that movies are a fleeting art.”
Photograph by Alexander Perrelli
Article
What Went Wrong·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In the seventh year of his presidency, Barack Obama was presenting himself as a politician who followed the path of least resistance. This is a disturbing confession.”
Photograph by Pete Souza
Article
Surviving a Failed Pregnancy·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If this woman — who spent her days studying gray screens for early signs of gestation — could not see my pregnancy, what were the chances that anyone else would?”
Illustration by Leigh Wells
Article
Interesting Facts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“My husband is forty-six. I am forty-five. He does not think that, in my forties, after cancer, chemotherapy, and chemically induced menopause, I can get pregnant again, but sisters, I know my womb. It’s proven.”
Photograph by McNair Evans

Number of British women killed last fall by lightning conducted through their underwire bras:

2

British women wear heels for fifty-one years on average, from the ages of twelve to sixty-three.

Thousands of employees of McDonald’s protested outside the company’s headquarters near Chicago, demanding their wages be increased to $15 per hour. “I can’t afford any shoes,” said one employee in attendance, “and I want Versace heels.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today