Breaking Into Guantánamo Bay

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Three months after 9/11, 20 men deemed dangerous to America landed at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base. In the nine-years since, nearly 800 detainees–often arrested without probable cause and held without being tried or even charged–have been jailed on the Cuban island. Some have been released, some have been tried, and some have committed suicide. And Carol Rosenberg, a reporter for the Miami Herald, has covered it all.

“Carol’s daily accounts are what you need to read to understand Guantánamo 101,” Karen Greenberg, executive director of New York University’s Center on Law and Security tells David Glenn, who wrote a profile about Rosenberg for Columbia Journalism Review that was published in November. “She’s still the only person who can contextualize what’s going on. Carol’s has been the consistent presence.”

She’s also a dogged daily reporter (an increasingly rare breed), who pushes back at the military’s efforts to limit information; files sharp, 1,000 word stories chronicling everything from the most mundane regulations to the most colorful detainees; and is completely uninterested in punditry. She isn’t even peddling a book. Instead, Rosenberg sleeps in the uncomfortable media tents at the Naval Base and cultivates her expanding list of sources, proving that institutional cooperation and feel good stories are not only unnecessary, but a waste of time.

“Reporters’ movements on the base are heavily stage-managed and during waking hours they’re almost never out of earshot of a public-affairs staff member,” Glenn writes. “Rosenberg has done much of her work here by gaining the trust of attorneys, guards, medical workers, and other personnel–and then finding way to communicate with them from Florida.”

Her scoops include a story about the Pentagon’s decision to create a joint task force to conduct interrogations at Guantánamo and a piece introducing Salim Hamdan, who, according to Glenn, “was one of the first detainees slated for trial before the Bush administration’s early military tribunals.”

It comes as no surprise, then, that Rosenberg’s tenure at the base has been threatened. In 2009, she was accused of unprofessional conduct and in May she was temporarily excised–along with three Canadian reporters–for allegedly violating a protective order. A few months later, she was given a First Amendment Award by the Society of Professional journalists.

“She’s a hard-ass. She’s tough as nails,” MSNBC contributor Bob Franken tells CJR. “But she doesn’t cut corners. The military sometimes seemed like they only wanted us to offer light color commentary and root for the home team, and Carol never played that game.”

Source: Columbia Journalism Review

Image by Dharmit Shah, licensed under Creative Commons.

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