Four reporters expelled from Guantanamo Military Commissions

The Washington Post reports that on Thursday the Pentagon said they were expelling four reporters covering the prosecution of Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay because they had revealed the name of a former U.S. interrogator whose name is under protective order — but is widely known.

The papers can send other reporters to cover the prosecution of Omar Khadr at the military commission.

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.

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.

The decision can be appealed, Lapan also advised. Judging by the reactions of editors at the news organizations, it will be.

“The identity of the interrogator had already been disclosed in previous news reports, including an on-the-record interview the interrogator gave to Shephard in 2008,” the American Civil Liberties Union noted.

“That reporters are being punished for disclosing information that has been publicly available for years is nothing short of absurd – any gag order that covers this kind of information is not just overbroad but nonsensical,” the ACLU’s deputy legal director, Jameel Jaffer, said in a statement. Jaffer added:

“Plainly, no legitimate government interest is served by suppressing information that is already well known. We strongly urge the Defense Department to reconsider its rash, draconian and unconstitutional decision to bar these four reporters from future tribunals. If allowed to stand, this decision will discourage legitimate reporting and add yet another entry to the long list of reasons why the military commissions ought to be shut down for good.”

The Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman, reporting from Guantanamo, noted that “While the judge in the case, Col. Patrick Parrish, issued an admonition yesterday for reporters to respect the anonymity of the classified witnesses, he did not rule that any reporter here had violated the protected order.”

”The decision to block the four reporters from returning to Guantanamo Bay is a matter of policy from the Office of the Secretary of Defense,” Ackerman wrote.

“And those four are not the only ones within the press corps here to have reported Interrogator #1’s name.”

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2 Responses

  1. […] major news organizations is challenging as unconstitutional Pentagon rules that were used in May to ban four reporters from covering the prosecution of Omar Khadr at Guantanamo […]

  2. […] reports that the Pentagon on Friday 9 July reversed itself and agreed to allow two reporters it had banned from Guantánamo Bay back onto the naval base after  a coalition of news organizations […]

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