Friday, May 07, 2010

Say, What?

I noticed this link while scrolling through comments at Eschaton yesterday. Frankly, the post made me blink a few times.

Two weeks’ worth of proceedings in the pre-trial hearing of Omar Khadr found an unexpected meta-conclusion this afternoon as the public affairs shop in the Office of the Secretary of Defense banned four reporters from returning to Guantanamo Bay. Their offense: reporting the name of a witness whose identity is under a protective order.

The four journalists are Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Steven Edwards of Canwest, Paul Koring of the Globe & Mail and Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald. They are not being thrown off the base, but, as of now, they are barred from returning. ...

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.

Those four reporters comprise much of the institutional knowledge of Guantanamo Bay and the military commissions, as their colleagues widely acknowledge. Shephard has written the most comprehensive account to date of Omar Khadr’s life and experiences in detention at Bagram and Guantanamo Bay, in both her Star reporting and her book Guantanamo’s Child. 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.
[Emphasis added]

My first reaction was that the journalists screwed up big time. When the identity of a witness is sealed, the judge does so for some good reason, most often to protect the life of the witness. When that order is violated, the judge usually follows through with some pretty heavy sanctions. Reporters know this. Yet, in this case, no sanctions beyond an admonishment ("bad reporters! bad!") issued.

Additionally, these four reporters weren't the only ones to reveal the witness's name. In fact, I spotted the name while scanning the news on this "trial" across the internet. At the time, it didn't mean much to me because I was unaware that the identity was under seal. Since I don't regularly read any of the newspapers for which these four reporters work, I am certain that more than four reporters committed this grave sin.

Clearly something else is going on here, and I think the second paragraph nails the real reasons these four got swatted by the Department of Defense which is running these dog and pony show trials. These four have been doing their jobs too well, providing crucial news to their readers about Guantanamo Bay and the horrors committed there. Tired of being embarrassed, the Department of Defense lackeys finally got their payback.

Now, this isn't 2005, 6, or 7, when President Run Amok was busy trampling the Constitution. It's 2010. We were promised something different, and we expected it. That's why so many of us voted for Barack Obama.

Silly us.

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