It's always instructive to see the difference between what an administration says and what it does. Upon taking office, President Obama declared, "Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency." It hasn't worked out that way at Guantanamo.
In early May, following enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2009, the Pentagon convened the first full military hearings at the detainee facility since Mr. Obama became president. They were a big disappointment for anyone expecting significantly improved standards of fairness and accessibility.
The case involved Canadian-born Omar Khadr, 23, who has been held since being seized on a battlefield in Afghanistan at the age of 15 after allegedly lobbing a grenade that killed Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer. The hearings involved Mr. Khadr's claims of abuse under interrogation and a motion to exclude evidence gleaned from questioning.
The hearings began only hours after the Defense Department approved a new set of procedural guidelines to make them conform to last year's revisions by Congress, making it hard for lawyers to prepare. In addition, one witness was subpoenaed in secret, six others testified under pseudonyms and security officers closed the court to screen a video available on YouTube.
You don't have to be a former constitutional law professor like Mr. Obama to see how the process falls far short of any reasonable standard of openness and transparency.
To compound the problem, the Pentagon barred four reporters -- including Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald -- from covering hearings because they reported the name of one of the witnesses. He was known as "Interrogator One" in the proceedings, but his true identity has been known for years and he has given voluntary newspaper interviews about his role as an interrogator.
This is a preposterous interpretation of the rules. It would punish the news media for reporting information already in the public domain and would deny access to a reporter who has covered the detainee issue from the beginning and is well-regarded for her store of knowledge.
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