In the early months of the detention center, Rosenberg signed up as often as she could for the routine daily tour—the one given to members of Congress and journalists who were visiting briefly. Through those tours, Rosenberg says, she was able to establish rapport with a huge array of personnel: cooks, guards, nurses. Over time, cultivating those sources paid off.
When the Pentagon quietly established a new joint task force to conduct interrogations at Guantánamo, Rosenberg was the first reporter to deduce who its commander must be: Major General Michael E. Dunlavey. From sources on the base, “I had started to hear that there was something going on down at the brig,” Rosenberg says. “And we were hearing that there was a secret intelligence unit, JTF-170. I kept asking Bill Costello, the public-affairs officer, Who are they? Who runs it? And Costello kept saying they were not ready to talk about it. But one day I was down at the airfield and I saw a two-star”—that is, a major-general—“hanging around the lounge. I walked up to him and said, ‘I think you’re the secret commander of JTF-170.’ And Costello appeared with his hand on my elbow and led me away. And I said, ‘Bill, that was him, wasn’t it?’ And Costello said, ‘We’ll work something out.’”
Two years later, in February 2004, Rosenberg was the first reporter to identify and describe Salim Hamdan, who was one of the first detainees slated for trial before the Bush administration’s early military tribunals. She got that story by endlessly calling Swift, Hamdan’s attorney. Swift, who is now in private practice in Seattle, remembers those phone calls vividly. “Carol was not the first journalist to contact me, but she was the first to get an interview, because she pushed,” he says. “I think one of the things that drives Carol is, when you say, ‘I don’t want to tell you that, I don’t want to show you that’—with Carol Rosenberg, she comes right back with, ‘Okay, we’re going to talk about that, and you’re going to show me that.’”
‘She’s a Hard-ass’
During the August visit, Rosenberg’s interactions with Guantánamo’s public-affairs officers seemed mostly cordial, with only occasional flashes of conflict. Her clashes with those officials, she says, have typically been with upper-level representatives from the Secretary of Defense’s office. Her worst relationship by far, according to several accounts, was with Navy Commander Jeffrey (J. D.) Gordon, who preceded Major Bradsher as the Western Hemisphere spokesperson.
In July 2008, Gordon wrote to the Herald’s executive editor, Anders Gyllenhaal, to complain about Rosenberg’s conduct. A year later, he sent Gyllenhaal another note, and this one was leaked to the press. He accused Rosenberg of bullying her colleagues and making homophobic comments to him: “Have you ever had a red-hot poker shoved up your ass?” and, “I know you’re hot for your interns and bring them down as your ‘companions,’ but seriously, if I’m going to do their work anyway, what purpose do they serve?”
The Herald spoke with more than three-dozen people before releasing a brief statement that exonerated Rosenberg. “It was an unfortunate and sort of a mysterious series of questions that he raised,” says Gyllenhaal. “We spent a lot of time on it, talked to a lot of people, tried to sort through it, took it seriously. The end result was that his complaint didn’t hold together.”
Rosenberg declined to talk on the record about the incident other than to say, “This was a deliberately manufactured smear from inside the Pentagon, a bid to discredit me with my employer. I didn’t harass anyone.”
Jane Sutton, who covers Guantánamo for Reuters and who is a friend of Rosenberg, says that she found Gordon’s accounts implausible. His letter was “shockingly ridiculous,” Sutton says. “I have known Carol. I’ve been there. I’ve shared a tent with her. I’ve never heard her say anything remotely like that.”