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News Organizations Formally Protest Exclusion of Their Reporters From GTMO

On the heels of a letter to the Pentagon from human rights groups, the news organizations of four journalists banned from Guantanamo Bay for allegedly violating military-commission ground rules have lodged a formal protest to the Office of the Secretary of Defense urging their reinstatement.

According to The Miami Herald, whose Guantanamo beat reporter, Carol Rosenberg, was among the banned, lawyer David A. Schulz, who represents three of the four news organizations, contended in a letter that it was unreasonable to sanction journalists for reporting the name of an anonymous witness in the commissions whose identity was already public. “The order is mistaken, the remedy is too severe, and the expulsion should be rescinded,” Schulz wrote to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Bryan Whitman.

Schulz said the law that created the military commissions leaves such decisions up to a judge.

Further, the reporters did not obtain the name of the witness at the hearing, and it serves no military purpose to ban someone from publishing information that’s already public, Schulz argued.

The judge in the case, Army Col. Patrick Parrish, has not issued any finding that the four journalists violated a protective order on the identity of a court-martialed military interrogator put in place by a previous judge. Banning the journalists was a policy decision made in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, not a judicial reprisal issued from the bench.

In addition to Rosenberg, the banned reporters are Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star; Paul Koring of The Globe and Mail; and Steven Edwards of Canwest. Schulz represents the Star, the Herald and Canwest in the appeal.

Whitman declined comment to the paper.

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