GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba – U.S. military officials imposed strict reporting limits Tuesday on the first journalists to go to the U.S.-run detention camp for terror suspects since the arrests of a Muslim army chaplain and two interpreters.
The reporters were required to sign "ground rules" for coverage that banned questions about the investigations on pain of being removed from the U.S. Navy camp located at Guantanamo (search) Bay, on the eastern tip of Cuba.
The arrests involved civilian interpreter Ahmed Mehalba (search), a naturalized U.S. citizen from Egypt found with classified documents from Guantanamo, and Air Force Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi (search), an interpreter accused of espionage for allegedly sending classified information about the camp to an unspecified "enemy." Another suspect is Army Capt. Yousef Yee (search), a Muslim chaplain being detained without charge at the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C.
Reporters were presented with a statement to sign as they prepared to board a flight chartered by the military from Jacksonville, Fla., on Tuesday. A new paragraph was added to earlier requirements:
"Asking questions or perspectives about ongoing and/or future operations or investigations can result in restricted access on Gitmo, removal from the installation, and/or revocation of DoD (Department of Defense) press credentials."
Signing the statement was a requirement to board the military flight to Guantanamo. Among those who signed were reporters for The Associated Press, The New York Times and Fox Television. The Associated Press and New York Times reporters signed only after protesting.
Asked why journalists are being warned of consequences if they ask questions, Army Lt. Col. Pamela Hart said, "Why ask a question that you're not going to get an answer to?"
Hart, a spokeswoman for the detention mission, said the ground rules helped in "protecting the integrity of the investigation."
"The ground rules are because we have an ongoing operation. ... To discuss details about ongoing investigations may prejudice the outcome," she told The Associated Press.
Almost all the detainees, from more than 40 countries, are said to be members of Al Qaeda (search) terrorist network or the ousted Afghan Taliban (search) regime. The U.S. government says they could be held until it declares an end to its "war on terrorism."