Pentagon inviting media to Guantanamo 9/11 hearings

The Pentagon said Tuesday it was sending invitations to news organizations to cover the arraignments of the five alleged September 11 co-conspirators in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said about "four or five dozen" journalists and technical personnel from domestic and international news organizations would be allowed onto the base for the June 5 arraignment.

The reading of the charges is expected to mark the first public appearance of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, since his capture in Pakistan March 1, 2003.

Mohammed and four others face capital charges of murder, terrorism and other war crimes. Charges against a sixth, the alleged "20th hijacker" Mohammed al-Qahtani, were dropped in April by the Pentagon official overseeing the process.

Whitman said invitations were being sent to news organizations on Tuesday.

"Our responsibility at the Defense Department here is to make sure we have sufficient US and international media there to be able to report on the proceedings, to make it as transparent as possible.

"But obviously we can't open it up to everybody. There are logistical issues in terms of getting down to Guantanamo," he said.

"We're trying to be robust in our approach. But at the same time we are trying to do it in a responsible way, inviting news organizations that in the totality will cover the world, basically."

Only a handful of journalists will be allowed in the courtroom, confined to a glass enclosed booth where they can be shut off from hearing testimony on the judge's instructions.

The other members of the media will be in a separate media center where they can watch the proceedings on a video screen and take notes.

Audio recordings and pictures of the proceedings are barred. But a sketch artist will be in the courtroom.