Pentagon Bans Journalists from Covering Gitmo Trial

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It seems that four journalists covering Omar Khadr’s trial at Guantanamo Bay— Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Steven Edwards of Canwest, Paul Koring of the Globe & Mail and Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald—have been banned from returning to the island. Their offense was reporting the name of a witness whose identity is under a protective order. Spencer Ackerman explains:

A letter written by an official in the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s public affairs division specified that each had published the name of a witness who testified to the military commissions today under the name “Interrogator #1.” Identifying information about that interrogator was entered into the record of the hearing during open court testimony by both the prosecution and the defense. Ironically, the letter confirmed that witness’s identity.

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

Spencer explains that this is significant in part because the four reporters in question “comprise much of the institutional knowledge of Guantanamo Bay and the military commissions, as their colleagues widely acknowledge.” Suffice it to say that this is not only a dubious-seeming decision on the merits but illustrates the inherently problematic nature of substituting military trials held on a military base in Cuba for a real legal process.