Media organizations are increasingly worried that they won’t be able to accurately cover the pending military trial of alleged 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-conspirators. Among the concerns are how many reporters will be able to see what is happening in the military courtroom – even through closed-circuit TV – and getting prompt access to the documents generated in the case.
In a sharp reversal, the Obama administration announced earlier this month that KSM would face a military commission at Guantanamo rather than a civilian trial. But the press and the military have tangled for years over press rights at the military base in Cuba, and interest in KSM’s commission is expected to be extremely intense for obvious reasons.
The military has previously issued a 13-page set of “ground rules” – basically 13 pages of restrictions – on covering commissions at Guantanamo. The short version is that only a handful of media reps can get into the courtroom and the Pentagon has wide latitude to pre-review and censor reports from the base. Access to court documents is supposed to be available on a website but the release is at the whim of a military judge.
It’s too bad. More open access to the proceedings, even with carefully implemented measures to protect classified information, would help disperse the cloud of illegitimacy that hangs over the commissions, and go a long way towards keeping the focus on the real monsters in this drama, just as the Nuremberg trials at the Hall of Justice in Bavaria did with the Nazis following World War II.
Imagine if the coverage at Guantanamo looked more like this: