Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

  Rumsfeld can't handle the truth

Talk about inconvenient news. Yesterday I wrote about the series of reports this week by Michael Gordon in the Charlotte Observer about conditions in the Guantanamo prison. His stories portrayed the camp commander in a less than positive light, by the tried and true method of quoting his actual words.


Today, as if on cue, Rumsfeld abruptly ordered two reporters present at Guantanamo, from the LA Times and the Miami Herald, to leave the island immediately. Gordon has left as well, since by Rumsfeld's order he's being denied any further access to the prison - though he was invited by the military in the first place. What's more, the excuse given by DoD for running the reporters out of town is absurd.


A Pentagon spokesman, J.D. Gordon, confirmed the order to leave the island this morning, but told E&P it was unrelated to the stories produced by the journalists, while admitting that Gordon's piece had caused "controversy." He asserted that the move was related to other media outlets threatening to sue if they were not allowed in. He did not say why, instead of expelling the reporters already there, the Pentagon did not simply let the others in, beyond citing new security concerns.


Other news organizations, such as the AP, have said they asked after Saturday's three suicides for permission to send their own reporters to Guantanamo. But they denied that they threatened to sue for access. I hate to sound harsh, but it looks as if the DoD has been caught in a fib.


"All three have been screaming [about the order to leave] like it is going out of style," he said. All of the journalists, including Gordon, were reportedly en route to Miami late this morning.


A curt e-mail to reporters Carol Rosenberg of the Herald and Carol Williams of the L.A. Times mentioned a directive from the office of Rumsfeld, and stated: "Media currently on the island will depart on Wednesday, 14 June 2006 at 10:00 a.m. Please be prepared to depart the CBQ [quarters] at 8:00 a.m.''...


Still, J.D. Gordon said the decision was made that all of the media had to leave the island. But he denied any accusation that such expulsions were in reaction to any of the tough-minded reporting.


"No, totally not true," he said. "Some of the things [Gordon] wrote caused controversy, about changing detainees clothes and forced entry. But we are not into content management. The issue was that other media were threatening to take us to court."...


The Committee for Constitutional Rights in New York, which was representing the three men who committed suicide, released a statement today: "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 comes close to being a truism, I suppose.


The editors of the newspapers whose reporters were expelled have reacted angrily. Here is a second report by Editor & Publisher.


Tom Fiedler, executive editor of the Miami Herald, and Rick Thames, editor of the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, said the decision to expel the Herald's Carol Rosenberg and the Observer's Michael Gordon, along with Carol Williams of the Los Angeles Times, was a clear denial of press access....


Thames echoed that view in statement e-mailed to E&P today. "The Pentagon appears to have panicked when it discovered it couldn't manipulate a first-class reporter, so it shoved him and all other press out," the statement said. "Michael Gordon was invited by the commander to report on the base for six days, and he was doing that in a very professional manner.


Here is a report in the Charlotte Observer on the expulsion of their reporter Michael Gordon, whose stories probably were the main reason for Rumsfeld's ire.


Gordon said the Observer journalists had a full itinerary on Tuesday, touring the base with their military escorts. After a lunch with Col. Bumgarner, their escorts told them the afternoon itinerary had been cancelled, Gordon said, and he and Sumlin were ordered aboard a ferry.


"When we got back to the other side, they said, `You will be on the plane tomorrow,' " Gordon said.


Oddly, I found no mention of this incident at the DoD website, nor in Stars and Stripes. Not even a curt press release. Increasingly, the DoD gives the impression that it just can't handle the truth.

Incidently, you will discover on the front page at DoD this very useful page on Country Music & Troops. You won't, however, find any information there about the recent survey of the audience for Armed Forces Radio, which revealed that AFR loses nearly all its listeners every time it plays Country music. You'll be relieved to learn that AFR plans to ignore the recommendations that it drop unpopular programming. All of that information cannot be found on the Country Music & Troops page, just as the information about the expulsion of journalists from Guantanamo cannot be found anywhere on the DoD site. Because there's only so much truth that can be fit onto the internet.

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