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Media faces restrictions at Gitmo trial

July 29, 2008 at 7:28 AM

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, July 29 (UPI) -- Media covering the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, tribunal of accused al-Qaida member Salim Hamdan face significant barriers, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Although the U.S. Department of Defense has emphasized "transparency" as its public relations theme for the military trial of Hamdan, the freedom of the press has strict limits at Guantanamo, the newspaper said. For instance, documents used at the tribunal are often not released until months after they are filed and much of the evidence against Hamdan, the former driver of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, remains secret.

Reporters covering the tribunal are escorted everywhere at Guantanamo Bay by military watchers, who are also present at all news conferences. Reporters watching the proceedings on closed-circuit television in a nearby aircraft hangar sometimes weren't shown witnesses' faces or evidentiary documents and video, the Times said.

The Times said that when a reporter noted that in the United States observers are permitted to see witnesses and evidence in the case, a spokeswoman for the Office of Military Commissions at the Pentagon, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gail Crawford, responded, "This is not America."

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