Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Rumsfeld kicks reporters out of Guantanamo

This is not going to go down too well. From Editor and Publisher:
In the aftermath of the three suicides at the notorious Guantanamo prison facility in Cuba last Saturday, reporters with the Los Angeles Times and the Miami Herald were ordered by the office of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to leave the island today.
E&P makes it sound like the reporting about the 3 suicides is the reason the reporters were ordered to leave. Reading further, however, one learns that this may not be so.

First of all, news reporters do not have free access to the camp. They must have special permission to be there. There were reporters at the camp from only three newspapers; the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald and the Charlotte Observer. The LAT and Miami reporters had been invited solely to cover the tribunals which were to have convened on Monday. After the 3 suicides, the tribunals were canceled, so, the Pentagon says, the reporters should leave. The Charlotte newspaper was granted permission to have a reporter and photographer there to do a story on the camp commander, a hometown boy. The reporter and photographer from Charlotte had been authorized to stay for only one day, which they had stretched into a week.
"He was doing a hometowner, a hometowner takes one day," J.D. Gordon, the Pentagon's press officer, said. "You would think that a man allowed down for a whole week would be a bit more gracious about it. Have the good grace and class to leave."
Grace and class on the part of the MSM? You gotta be kiddin' me. In addition, many other newspapers had vociferously complained about their exclusion and some had threatened lawsuits. There originally were 10 reporters invited to cover the tribunals. All were scheduled to arrive at Guantanamo by military aircraft but, when the tribunals were canceled, the flight was likewise canceled. The two reporters from LA and Miami got on a commercial aircraft and arrived anyway. The camp's commander made the unwise decision to allow them to stay.
"We told [the journalists] on Monday that we are in a difficult position," said Gordon, the Pentagon press officer. "We are trying to be impartial and fair." He added that pressure from other media outlets to be given similar access also forced the complete press ban. "We are between a rock and a hard place," he said.

But he said that Williams and Rosenberg arrived on their own, via a commercial aircraft, and were allowed to be on. Michael Gordon, who had also arrived Saturday, was allowed to remain for his story. "We didn't like it, we didn't think it was appropriate," the press officer said of their arrivals. "But it was plausible."

By Sunday, however, J.D. Gordon said he began getting complaints from other news outlets, such as Fox News, AP, CNN, and Reuters, claiming that their reporters should be allowed on the island if the three other journalists were there. "The other media started to have a mini-phone riot," he told E&P. "'Hey, why are they there?' We had a major issue on our hands for other media to 'either get them in there or we have to see you in court.'"
Tony Snow is going to get buried by the White House press hounds.

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