The office of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters covering Guantanamo to take a hike. The reporters from the Los Angeles Times and the Miami Herald were given orders to be prepared to leave by 8:00 am Wednesday morning. Another reporter from the Charlotte Observer was given until Saturday with the stipulation that he would not be given access to the prison camp. Which, I suppose, means that he could still use the spa and lounge on the beach.
The reason given for the booting was that other media outlets were threatening to sue if they were not allowed in. This reason doubles as an admission that the Pentagon was already denying access to other reporters. The Pentagon did not identify any party that indicated an intent to sue, nor were reasons given for their exclusion.
The reporters who managed to gain temporary access were invited to cover military tribunals that were to have begun this week. But while they were there, three prisoners, protesting their detention without charges or legal rights, committed suicide. The tribunals were subsequently cancelled and the reporter’s invitations revoked.
The Center for Constitutional Rights was representing the three men who committed suicide. They released a statement regarding the media blackout:
“At a time when the administration must be transparent about the deaths at Guantanamo, they are pulling down a wall of secrecy and avoiding public accountability. This crackdown on the free press makes everyone ask what else they are hiding down there. This press crackdown is the administration’s latest betrayal of fundamental American values. The Bush Administration is afraid of American reporters, afraid of American attorneys and afraid of American laws.”
That just about says it all.