Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Quick response at Gitmo

In the aftermath of the deaths of three inmates at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the Bush administration.... kicked reporters out.

Reporters with the Los Angeles Times and the Miami Herald were ordered by the office of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to leave the island today.

A third reporter and a photographer with the Charlotte Observer were given the option of staying until Saturday but, E&P has learned, were told that their access to the prison camp was now denied.

Despite the timing, the Pentagon said the expulsions were unrelated to the deaths.

A Pentagon spokesman, J.D. Gordon ... 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.

Security concerns? I understand having to develop tighter controls over the detainees in the aftermath of the suicides. I don't see how that involves kicking out reporters. The pressure from other news organizations does create a dilemma -- how to decide who to let in? How to manage them once they arrive? -- but those are solvable.

Kicking out the reporters just makes it look like we're trying to hide something. That's just compounding the PR damage that began with the "PR stunt" explanation for the deaths.

Investigate the deaths. Report the findings. And let reporters cover the whole thing. Only with transparency can we dispel suspicions about what happened at Gitmo.

Oh, and shut the Gitmo facility down. Not because of the deaths; but because it's a legal, moral and PR disaster.

Update: David Ignatius says much the same thing.

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