It was an obvious decision, Rosenberg thought, to use Claus’s name, given that he had effectively outed himself in that 2008 interview. Three of her colleagues—Shepherd, Steven Edwards of Canwest News Service, and Paul Koring of The Globe and Mail—also mentioned Claus by name in articles on May 5 and 6.
But the Pentagon was not amused. On the afternoon of May 6, Major Bradsher walked into the media hangar to inform the four reporters that they had been permanently banned from covering military-commission proceedings. The conversation happened in public, and there was no immediate chance to appeal. The four reporters left the island the next morning.
They did not go quietly. Their editors immediately filed letters of protest. But the broader fight erupted over the next several weeks, when David Schulz, a prominent First Amendment attorney, placed calls to the legal-affairs staffs at The Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Dow Jones. Schulz sent a letter to the Pentagon in the name of all of those organizations, arguing that restrictions on printing public information constituted illegal and unconstitutional prior restraint. On August 2, representatives from those organizations were invited to the Pentagon for an off-the-record meeting.
Bryan Whitman, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, says that Claus may have given an interview to the Star in 2008, but it was only because of things said inside the Guantánamo hearing room that reporters were able to identify him as “Interrogator #1.” If a military court judge says that witnesses’ identities are protected, then reporters should respect that, Whitman says. “The vast majority of reporters down there followed the rules,” Whitman says. “They didn’t publish the name. Four reporters decided not to.”
Be that as it may, the Pentagon announced in early August that it was acceptable for news organizations to use Claus’s name. And in September, it issued a new set of ground rules, including a provision that makes clear that reporters may publish information that they legitimately obtained outside of their work at Guantánamo.
The Beat Goes On
There have been nights when Rosenberg has been the only person sleeping in the media tent city, which can hold as many as fifty-four people. (Less rarely, she has been there with only one or two other reporters: Michael Melia, of The Associated Press, and Jane Sutton.)
Many reporters complain about the tents, but Rosenberg says they have advantages over the old arrangement, where reporters were housed on the leeward side of the island, far from the courtrooms.
If Rosenberg ever feels uncomfortable in the tents, she may have herself to blame. The tent city owes its existence, in part, to a story that Rosenberg broke in November 2006. Thanks to a tip from an officer, she discovered on an obscure government-contracting website that the Pentagon was planning to spend up to $125 million on a huge facility to support military-commission trials. The complex—which Rosenberg privately refers to as “Commissionsville”—would have included beds for 1,200 people, a dining area for 800, and hotel-style rooms for reporters.
But the project struck some as outlandishly expensive. More troubling, as Rosenberg revealed, the Pentagon had planned to bypass the standard congressional appropriations process by invoking certain post-9/11 emergency powers. Her stories helped provoke an uproar in Washington, and Robert Gates, the freshly nominated Defense Secretary, disowned the project during his testimony before Congress.
On this most unusual of beats, then, Rosenberg has made her bed—figuratively and, in this case, literally. And despite the recent turmoil, and her persistent criticisms of the way the military runs things at Guantánamo, she seems somehow suited to the story. So of course Rosenberg is taking a wait-and-see approach toward the liberalized media ground rules that were recently announced. The Guantánamo press officers who are charged with implementing the rules did not join a September 10 conference call when the new rules were described, as they had been expected to do. And when Rosenberg and nine other reporters next traveled to Guantánamo on September 20, no one there seemed aware at first of the new ground rules. None of that was encouraging.