A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists


By Quill

Court decides to open deportation hearings

Media lawyers and civil rights advocates cheered a decision by a federal appeals court in Grand Rapids, Mich., stating that secret deportation hearings cannot be held for Rabih Haddad, a Lebanese man with possible terrorism ties.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed down the decision, which could have weight when decisions on other terrorism investigation cases are argued. Lawyers who brought the lawsuit against the federal government believed the ruling to be an important first step toward a more open and accountable government.

The legal battle began when Haddad was arrested Dec. 14 for a visa violation. The U.S. Department of Treasury froze his Global Relief Foundation bank accounts, and government agents raided its suburban Chicago office. The Bush administration believes the Global Relief has funneled money to terrorists, although no criminal charges have been filed against Haddad or the foundation. Both have denied any involvement with terrorism.

After his arrest, Haddad had three closed hearings before a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service judge in Detroit before he was sent to Chicago in January. The INS is an arm of the Justice Department.

Guantanamo press restrictions increase

The news media have 598 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to cover, but they have no access to those detainees because of heightened military restrictions at the Camp Delta naval base.

All interviews involving U.S. military personnel are monitored by media escorts, who follow journalists almost everywhere on base, including to bathrooms and vending machines. The media also are restricted from talking to civilians on base without prior authorization.

“During times of war, we give up certain rights,” Lt. Col. Joe Hoey, the spokesman for the detention mission, said Sept. 13. The journalists at the base, before arriving for a four-day stay for Sept. 11 ceremonies, were at first told they could photograph events then later told they could not. The military said news coverage would “interfere with the spirituality of events.”

Hoey went on to say that journalists must be watched so personnel on base won’t jeopardize operational security. He also said escorted journalists would lead to more accurate reporting.

When detainees began arriving at the base in January, journalists could roam freely interviewing people on base, and they were allowed to view detainees from a distance. Journalists now have no access to detainees and are separated from them at all times by a green screen, a measure that has been taken to protect detainees.

The pictures that led to public outcry actually were from the Department of Defense and showed arrivals kneeling, shackled and blinded with goggles. This led to an outcry by news organizations, with headlines in Britain reading “Tortured.”

The camp can now hold 612 people, but construction of 204 other cells is under way. Officials estimate that there may ultimately be about 2,000 cells.