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Pentagon Upholds GTMO Reporters Ban but Suggests a Climbdown

Bryan Whitman, a principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, has ruled to keep four of my colleagues banned from reporting from Guantanamo Bay. Their offense, as you may recall, was to report the publicly available name of an interrogator who testified to Omar Khadr’s military commission under a protective order — a protective order that the judge on the case has never ruled them to have violated. “It is my determination that officials of the Department were correct to take the actions they did against these three individuals,” Whitman wrote in to a letter to three of their news organizations that one of them, the Miami Herald, partially publishes.

Whitman is the boss of Marine Col. Dave Lapan, the officer who banned Carol Rosenberg, Michelle Shephard, Steve Edwards and Paul Koring in the first place. He’s also apparently the last stop in the appeals process. There’s a certain ironic similarity to the way the military commissions themselves have structured, but I digress.

Interestingly, Whitman offers the news organizations something of a way out. The Defense Department would “consider lifting the coverage ban on these reporters if they individually request reinstatement.” So as long as the news organizations break their united front, then apparently the public affairs shop has no problem bringing them back. Or, well, some of them back. That’s not even an effort at pretending there’s any principle at stake. But it does smell a lot like Whitman deciding he’d rather pick and choose which reporters to keep out.

(Hat tip: Marcy Wheeler.)

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