Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Access

Access.  That's what it's all about.  Better to receive limited and sanitized information than to bite the hand that feeds you, because doing so might mean that you would actually have to go out and locate other sources.  But no problem, reporters travelling to Guantanmo Bay are usually led around by the hand and force fed.


NYT Link


Reporters who visit Guantánamo are usually reluctant to criticize the military publicly because it controls their access to the base. Once there, reporters are paired with "minders," who organize and restrict their movements and escort them around the grounds.


Now, in the wake of suicides by three Guantanamo Bay inmates, reporters have been asked to leave the Naval base.


Last Wednesday, after spending four days reporting from the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, three newspaper reporters and a photographer were ordered off the island by the Pentagon.


Oh my, ordered off the island, and it wasn't even put to a tribal vote!  But apparently, one of the reporters may have heard too much.  


The Charlotte Observer said its reporter, who was originally assigned to write a profile on a military commander at the base, may have obtained too many details about the military's response to the suicides, leading the Pentagon to impose new restrictions on reporters.


Can there really be too many details?  Well, if there's nothing to hide it shouldn't be a problem, right?  But, it's okay, because the Pentagon just wanted all reporters to be treated equally.


A Pentagon spokeswoman, Cynthia Smith, said it was unfair for those three reporters to be allowed at Guantánamo when others had been denied access. "We want to be fair and impartial," Ms. Smith said. "We couldn't just give them an exclusive."


Right.  But maybe this had something to do with it.


Rick Thames, the editor of The Charlotte Observer, said the Pentagon was unhappy with articles Mr. Gordon had filed, including an account of a morning staff meeting on June 12 led by Colonel Bumgarner.


And those damned Gitmo detainees, you just can't trust them.


Mr. Gordon had quoted Colonel Bumgarner as telling the staff, "The trust level is gone," referring to the detainees. "They have shown time and time again that we can't trust them any farther than we can throw them." Mr. Thames of The Observer said, "We can't be certain, but we believe the Pentagon was uneasy with close-up access to the operations of the prison at a time of crisis," adding, "Clearly, they were at odds over this."


And if you can't trust a Gitmo detainee the distance of a throw, who can you trust?  But if they are throwing detainees, maybe that's the crux of the problem.  But maybe I'm wrong and this is really the crux.


DOD Link


WASHINGTON, June 14, 2006 - Detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are dangerous men, and the best place to deal with them is in military courts, President Bush said here today. [...]"I'd like to close Guantanamo," he said. "But I also recognize that ... we're holding some people that are darn dangerous and that we better have a plan to deal with them in our courts."


Darn dangerous those detainees may be, but there is apparently no danger in the dying (or dead) independent media.  But wait, the foreign media are apparently not subject to the level playing field.


Ms. Smith, the Pentagon spokeswoman, said that there had been no change in Pentagon policy regarding the media and that reporters from three overseas news organizations -- Deutsche Welle, Le Parisien and The Times of London -- are to visit this week.


But really, who reads those foreign papers anyway?

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