McClatchy wins investigative award for Guantanamo series

McClatchy NewspapersMarch 31, 2009 

WASHINGTON — A McClatchy series on detainee abuse at U.S. prison facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Afghanistan on Tuesday tied for top honors as the best newspaper investigative report of last year.

Investigative Reporters and Editors, the country's most prestigious organization of watchdog journalists, said that the five-part series, "Guantanamo: Beyond the Law," by McClatchy reporters Tom Lasseter and Matthew Schofield, "allowed the American public to find out what really happened at Gitmo and other American detention camps."

"Equally impressive," the judges wrote, "was the commitment of the newspaper chain: The thorough findings in a five-part series were published on the front pages of 25 McClatchy newspapers."

The series was based on Lasseter's and Schofield's interviews with 66 former Guantanamo detainees, whom they tracked down in 11 countries over an eight-month period. It found that many of those swept up and transferred to Guantanamo had little, if anything, to do with international terrorism and that some actually had been allied with U.S. forces.

The report also documented abuse at U.S facilities in Afghanistan, where many of the former detainees said they'd been treated more severely than at Guantanamo, and quoted detainees who said the abuse had turned them from admirers of the U.S. into enemies.

The series remains the largest systematic effort to document the experiences of people held at Guantanamo. It included an extensive Internet component, with a searchable database, individual stories on each of the detainees, videos of the detainees and an archive of official U.S. documents.

Travis Heying, a photographer and videographer for McClatchy's Wichita Eagle newspaper, accompanied Lasseter on many of the critical interviews in Afghanistan.

The project, which totaled nearly 108,000 words, can be viewed at www.mcclatchydc.com/detainees/.

The series tied for first place with the Detroit Free Press investigation of an affair between the Detroit mayor and an aide. The Free Press fought for four years to force the release of hundreds of text messages that documented the affair and proved that the city's subsequent payout of more than $9 million was an effort to cover up their lies.

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