Pentagon backs off ban on four Guantanamo reporters

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, June 16, 2010 18:18 EDT
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WASHINGTON — Four reporters who were banned from covering trials at Guantanamo have been offered an opportunity to be reinstated by requesting it in writing, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon public affairs official, made the offer in a letter responding to an appeal by three of the journalists, and was expected to send a similar letter to the fourth journalist, said Major Tanya Bradsher.

“It gives them an opportunity to be reinstated if they request it in a letter,” she said.

She said the Pentagon would not release the letter, which was sent to the lawyer of three of the journalists.

But the Miami Herald, which sought to have the ban against its correspondent Carol Rosenberg overturned, said the letter asserted that the Defense Department acted correctly.

“It is my determination that officials of the Department were correct to take the actions they did against these three individuals,” Whitman wrote.

The newspaper quoted him as saying he would “consider lifting the coverage ban on these reporters if they individually request reinstatement.”

The reporters from the Herald, the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and CanWest news service were banned last month after they published the name of an interrogator testifying at a hearing.

The Pentagon said the four had violated a request from a military judge to keep the witness’ identity secret.

However, the interrogator had already been identified in previous news accounts and had given an on-the-record interview with one of the journalists.

“Interrogator No. 1,” as the Guantanamo court identified him, had been sentenced to five months in prison in 2005 after he pleaded guilty in a court-martial to abusing an Afghan detainee who was found dead at the Bagram US military base.

According to journalists in Guantanamo, the decision came after interrogator No. 1 testified that he used the threat of being gang raped in a US prison by “four big black guys” to scare Canadian detainee Omar Khadr into talking.

Apart from Rosenberg, the banned reporters were Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Paul Koring of the The Globe and Mail, and Steven Edwards of CanWest news service.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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