Carol Rosenberg and three other reporters have been banned from covering future hearings at Guantánamo Bay by the Pentagon for naming an interrogator before being warned against it. Rachel Maddow commented on her program, Friday night (4:13):
Four reporters were banned by the Pentagon from reporting on future hearings at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Thursday, for reporting the name of a former U.S. Army interrogator, Nancy Youssef reports at McClatchy late Thursday night.
The interrogator, Sergeant Joshua Claus, was on the record as “Interrogator No.1,” but the judges warned the journalists this alias was to be applied by the journalists after at least one of the reporters had filed her report.
Sgt. Claus testified Thursday that while stationed at Bagram Air Base in 2002, he told then-15-year old Omar Khadr he would likely be raped in an American prison. Mr. Khadr, a born Canadian citizen, is being tried in a military commission—charged with the war crime after being kidnapped by the U.S. military and confessing to killing a U.S. serviceman with a grenade. The confession, his lawyers contend, was a result of torture and should be inadmissible. Also, there is no evidence said serviceman died from a grenade and the report on his death was altered.
Sgt. Claus identified himself as one of Mr. Khadr’s interrogators in a 2008 interview, where he denied torturing the young boy. He did not incriminate himself in is testimony this week.
He pleaded guilty in 2005 after being charged with assault, prisoner maltreatment and lying to investigators. He was the last reported man to have interrogated Dilawar—the innocent 22-year-old, 5’9″, 122 lbs. Afghan taxi driver—who was tortured to death while in U.S. detention at Bagram. The U.S. at the air base in Afghanistan was brought to the public eye in the 2007 Oscar-winning documentary Taxi to the Dark Side.
“Dilawar’s last interrogation eroded into more abuse and assault and he was returned to his cell and re-shackled,” according to an amicus brief submitted by the Project to Enforce the Geneva Conventions.
“Dilawar was found dead the next morning.”
Of the four banned reporters is McClatchy‘s Carol Rosenberg, whose report Sayyid utilized in his post on the show-trial of Omar Khadr, now-23 years of age. McClatchy has edited or removed their specific references to Sgt. Claus by name in the testimony reports, but a headline grab at The Huffington Post remains.
Ms. Youssef reports of the bans and the respective news organizations:
Col. David Lapan, the director of Defense Press Operations, said the ban only affects only the individual reporters and that their organizations would be allowed to send others to future hearings. The banned reporters were Carol Rosenberg of McClatchy‘s Miami Herald, Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Paul Koring of Toronto’s Globe and Mail and Steven Edwards of CanWest Newspapers….
[Claus] was first publicly identified as Khadr’s interrogator on March 13, 2008, during a hearing at Guantanamo. He subsequently gave an on-the-record interview to Shephard of the Toronto Star, one of the banned reporters, where he asserted that he’d never abused Khadr, who was 15 years old when he was taken captive by U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2002.
“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 [overboard] but nonsensical,” said Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, in a statement. “Plainly, no legitimate government interest is served by suppressing information that is already well known.”…
Rosenberg’s report that day included the following sentences: “Canadian reports have identified that interrogator as Army Sgt. Joshua Claus, who pleaded guilty in September 2005 to mistreatment and assault of detainees at Bagram. He was sentenced to five months in jail.”
Rosenberg said her story was filed before the judge’s warning. She said Claus’ name had already been revealed.
“All I did was report what was in the public domain,” Rosenberg said.
“I am disappointed because I did not violate the ground rules,” Rosenberg said. “I am also surprised because we heard nothing about this, and the ban was issued nearly 24 hours after the piece first appeared.”
Pentagon officials said it didn’t matter that Claus’ name was already widely known.
“If his name was out there, it was not related to this hearing. Identifying him with Interrogator No. 1 was the problem,” Lapan said….
The banned reporters are among the most seasoned on military tribunals and the Khadr case. Rosenberg is the longest-serving reporter at the American detention center and has covered every hearing of a military commission, with the exception of one week, since the proceedings began in 2004.
Shephard published a book about the Khadr case. Koring and Edwards have consistently followed Khadr’s case for their news organizations.
Mr. Edwards, in 2008, included Sgt. Claus’ name with reference to Ms. Shephard’s interview that identified the interrogator as one of those experienced by Mr. Khadr at Bagram:
Legal arguments before the U.S. war crimes commission in Guantanamo Bay indicated Sgt. Joshua Claus of military intelligence participated in many, maybe all, of the interrogations of the Canadian terror suspect after U.S. forces delivered him to the Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan in July 2002….
Prosecutors argued they’d provided either what they could, or what was relevant to the case, but army Col. Peter Brownback, the presiding judge, told them to make a bigger effort to comply.
Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler told Col. Brownback that while Mr. Khadr had undergone “dozens, if not hundreds” of interrogations, the prosecution has provided notes of only three from a single interrogator—apparently not Sgt. Claus….
Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler seeks to show at an eventual trial that early statements Mr. Khadr made are invalid if interrogations involved coercion. At least one Bagram interrogation took place while Mr. Khadr was still being treated in hospital for extensive battlefield wounds suffered during the firefight.
Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler said Sgt. Claus “didn’t just participate in numerous interrogations of Omar, according to (prosecutor Major Jeffrey Groharing), he did virtually all of them….
A fellow interrogator told the probe that on the day Dilawar died, he saw Sgt. Claus twisting up the back of a hood that he’d placed over the detainee’s head.
The same report, first uncovered by The New York Times (NYT) in 2005, told how Sgt. Claus had made another detainee roll back and forth on the ground kissing a fellow soldier’s boots.
Last week, Charlie Savage at The New York Times reported the Obama Administration was “seeking to compel” his colleague—James Risen—“to testify about his confidential sources for a 2006 book about the Central Intelligence Agency”.
Mr. Savage reported Mr. Risen “received a subpoena [that week] requiring him to provide documents and to testify May 4 before a grand jury in Alexandria, Va., about his sources for a chapter of his book, State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration“.
Two weeks before, Thomas Drake—a former official at the National Security Agency (N.S.A.)—was indicted “on charges of providing classified information to a newspaper reporter in hundreds of e-mail messages in 2006 and 2007”, Scott Shane reported at the NYT. Though the indictment didn’t name the reporter or news organization by name, “the description applies to articles written by Siobhan Gorman, then a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, that examined in detail the failings of several major N.S.A. programs, costing billions of dollars, using computers to collect and sort electronic intelligence”.
In 2005, Mr. Risen revealed the existence of the N.S.A.’s unlawful warrantless wiretapping program and now he finds himself under the threat of losing legal protections with a former N.S.A. official.
Couple these with the recent report by Josh Gerstein and Patrick Gavin at Politico that the White House press corps would only criticize the Administration anonymously “out of fear of retaliation”.
“National political reporters are furious over various White House practices involving transparency and information control, but are unwilling to say so for attribution due to fear of ‘retaliation’, instead insisting on hiding behind a wall of anonymity,” Glenn Greenwald, at his Salon blog, commented on the report. “Isn’t that a rather serious problem: that the White House press corps is afraid to criticize the President and the White House for fear of losing access and suffering other forms of retribution? What does that say about their ‘journalism’?”
There is a large backlash from the government toward anyone who does not go out of its way to whitewash atrocities in order to portray it as perfect, yet humble—a beacon of hope that stands for justice and goodness and fairness and puppies and ice cream and heroes, etc.
Mr. Greenwald continues:
It’s the flip side of those White House reporters who need the good graces of Obama aides for their behind-the-scenes books and thus desperately do their bidding…
The article notes that aside from punishing reporters who say things it dislikes, the White House rewards those reporters (with special “scoops” and other privileges) who subserviently promote its agenda, and specifically identifies White House “favorites” David Sanger of The New York Times (the Judy Miller of The Iran Threat) and Richard Wolffe (the single most sycophantic White House stenographer after Jonathan Alter). It’s nice that the White House’s most loyal journalist-servants are petted on their head for their Good Behavior (it’d be sad to see that level of devotion go completely unrewarded). I’m sure Alter and Ryan Lizza’s Obama books will be accordingly suffuse with White House favors. I can’t recall reading any sentence quite as illustrative as this one from Politico stating (without any irony) that White House reporters insisted upon anonymity because they’re afraid of angering the White House with their public statements.
Michael Calderone at Yahoo News reported that White House press secretary Robert Gibbs—a couple of week before the Politico piece—said, “This is the most transparent administration in the history of our country.”
To this, Mr. Calderone gives a rather relatively heroic response—as pointed out by Mr. Greenwald—that:
The Obama team came to Washington promising transparency, but White House reporters say privately that the administration is not living up to that pledge. At times, they say, it plays favorites with writers it deems more sympathetic to the administration.
There’s a thread here of the Obama Administration attacking whistleblowers’ protection and journalists’ shields while turning a blind eye to the criminal Bush Administration. As it continues the crimes of the prior regime, indicting it becomes self-incriminating. And the journalists covering the current crimes are forcefully being denied the access to inform the public of the government’s crimes.
EDIT: Scott Horton, international law scholar, commented at his Harper’s blog: “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.”
He adds that the Administration’s only hope is arranging a plea deal. Seeing as this has been shot down by Mr. Khadr and his military counsel, this is extremely unluckly. An interesting note to add is that Mr. Khadr’s counsel is extraordinarily aggressive in pursuing his defense. Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler either has been so disgusted by the treatment of his client that he heavily sympathizes or is objectively fighting that his client isn’t unjustly detained, based on his documentation of reports being altered and his client’s confession being the sole result of torture. Either way, this shows exactly why the Administration needs a plea to win and why a guilty verdict would be grossly unjust.
This story stuck out to me, personally, because—as Spencer Ackerman commented at The Washington Independent—Ms. 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”.
EDIT2: Rachel Maddow covered this on her show in a heroic manner, Friday night. A woman e-mailed me, outraged by this story, Friday morning after reading my post. Tonight, she e-mailed me with the YouTube clip of Ms. Maddow’s report, so I inserted it at the top of this post. I’d give her a hat-tip if she included a link to a website for me to plug of hers, but without her consent, I won’t post her name. I’ll just say: Thanks!