ACLU and Other Rights Groups Send Letter Urging Pentagon to Lift Ban on Guantánamo Reporters

For Immediate Release

ACLU and Other Rights Groups Send Letter Urging Pentagon to Lift Ban on Guantánamo Reporters

Decision Further Discredits Military Commissions

NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union and
several other rights groups today sent a letter to the Pentagon
expressing concern over the banning of four reporters from future
Guantánamo military commissions proceedings. The reporters were banned
for reporting the name of a witness in the pre-trial hearings of
Guantánamo detainee Omar Khadr, even though his identity had already
been disclosed in previous news reports and an on-the-record interview
he gave in 2008.

The letter urges the Defense
Department to reconsider their decision to ban Carol Rosenberg of the
Miami Herald, Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Paul Koring of the
Globe and Mail and Steven Edwards of CanWest.

In the letter, the ACLU, Human Rights
First, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and National Institute
of Military Justice said that "this move by the Department of Defense
not only runs counter to the U.S. administration's stated commitment to
transparency in government, but will also bring the military commissions
into further disrepute, internationally and within the United States."

An ACLU statement on the ban is
online at: www.aclu.org/national-security/aclu-condemns-banning-four-reporters-guantanamo-military-commissions

The full text of the letter is below
and online at: www.aclu.org/free-speech-human-rights-national-security/sign-letter-pentagon-re-banning-reporters-military-commis

Col. David Lapan
Director, Press Operations
1400 Defense Pentagon
Room 2E961
Washington, DC 20301-1400
May 12, 2010

Dear Colonel Lapan,

We are writing to express our serious
concern about the Defense Department's decision to ban four journalists
- from The Miami Herald, the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and
CanWest Newspapers of Canada - from covering future military commission
proceedings at Guantánamo Bay on the grounds that they had revealed the
name of a witness in violation of rules governing media reporting of the
commissions.

We consider that this move by the
Department of Defense not only runs counter to the U.S. administration's
stated commitment to transparency in government, but will also bring
the military commissions into further disrepute, internationally and
within the United States.

As you know, the witness who appeared
in Omar Khadr's pre-trial hearing, identified by the prosecution as
"Interrogator No. 1," had previously been the subject of a widely
publicized military court-martial in 2005 that resulted in his
conviction for detainee abuse committed at the Bagram airbase in
Afghanistan in 2002. His connection to the Khadr case had also
previously been revealed from information he himself gave in an
on-the-record interview to a reporter at the Toronto Star. That
reporter, Michelle Shephard, who wrote a book about Omar Khadr, is now
one of those being banned from future commission hearings simply for
reporting the same information that had previously been widely published
and disseminated.

Whatever confidence the public in the
United States and around the world may maintain in these proceedings
can only be eroded by a move that is perceived as being motivated by a
clampdown on informed media reporting rather than the protection of
classified or confidential information.

Because the proceedings are based at
Guantánamo and are open only to a select number of journalists, military
personnel and NGO observers, continuing access to these proceedings by
knowledgeable and experienced reporters - such as the four here - is
even more important than it would be in an ordinary federal trial, open
to the general public.

We urge the Department of Defense to
reconsider what we believe is an ill-advised decision to exclude these
reporters.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
Amnesty International
American Civil Liberties Union
National Institute of Military
Justice

cc: Douglas Wilson, Asst. Sec. of
Defense for Public Affairs
Bryan Whitman, Deputy Assistant
Secretary of Defense for Media Operations
Vice Adm. Bruce McDonald, Convening
Authority, Military Commissions

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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