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News Outlets Object to Gitmo Reporter Ban

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July 6, 2010

Early this morning, a plane carrying journalists departed from Andrews Air Force Base for Guantánamo. Tomorrow, the pretrial hearings of 50-year-old Sudanese national Ibrahim al-Qosi will restart.

Muna Shikaki of al-Arabiya tweeted from Andrews that only four American news outlets were on the plane to cover al-Qosi’s proceedings.

Perhaps most notable is who was not among the journalists: Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, who’s covered the military commissions since its inception and has served as the unofficial den mother to all Gitmo journalists. Rosenberg, along with three other reporters, remains banned by the Department of Defense (DOD) after reporting the name of one of the interrogators who testified at Omar Khadr’s pretrial hearing in May. The military commissions judge had ordered the identity of the interrogator withheld, even though it had already been disclosed in previous news reports and an on-the-record interview he gave to one of the other banned reporters, Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, in 2008.

Last Thursday, David Schulz, an attorney whose firm is representing the Miami Herald, the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones & Company, The New York Times, Reuters and the Washington Post, sent a letter to DOD general counsel Jeh Johnson raising legal objections to the ban, and specifically requesting that the ban on Rosenberg be lifted. McClatchy reports:

the organizations argue that the Pentagon’s interpretation of the rules is “plainly illegal” because it bars publication of information considered “protected” even if the information is already widely known and publicly available.

Soon after the reporters were banned, the ACLU, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the National Institute for Military Justice — all organizations that monitor the military commissions on a regular basis — sent a group letter calling on the DOD to reverse its decision.

The DoD has agreed to lift the ban on August 5. With hearings resuming now, that’s not soon enough. The ACLU’s Jamil Dakwar is in Guantánamo now and will be blogging about the hearings this week.

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