POLITICS

Pentagon Censoring Reporters As Guantanamo Trials Near

04/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A defense lawyer lets slip at the war court convening here that a battlefield commander changed an Afghanistan firefight report in a way that seemed to help a U.S. government murder case. Reporters hear the field commander's name but are forbidden to report it.

In another case, a judge approves the release of a captive's interrogation video showing the blurred face of an American agent. But a federal prosecutor on loan to the Pentagon withholds it ``out of an abundance of caution.''

Even as the U.S. government edges toward full-blown, war-crimes trials by military commission here, with more hearings next week, all sides are grappling with what information can be made public and what must be kept secret.

Consider: A new courtroom here sequesters Pentagon-approved spectators behind a soundproofed window. If a terror suspect tries to shout about his treatment in U.S. custody, a military censor can mute the audio feed that observers hear.

Under rules that protect interrogation techniques, the Pentagon's war court won't let the reputed 9/11 architect, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, say he was waterboarded -- something the CIA director, Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, confirmed on Feb. 5.

Pentagon officials defend the Military Commissions as engaged in a delicate balancing act -- working to mete out justice to war-on-terrorism captives without exposing U.S. intelligence tactics and personnel to public scrutiny.

As long as there is an al Qaida, they argue, such information could be used to hurt Americans or their allies.

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