The Flip-Side: Monitoring Guantanamo Bay Hearings via CCTV at Ft. Meade, Maryland


This looks like just a picture of a fence. It is. But, behind this fence is the courtroom for the military commissions in Guantanamo Bay. For security purposes, this is the only permitted photo of the Military Commission courthouse. Part of my job there was to make sure this was the only photo the media took directly of the courthouse area.

From June 2013 to February 2014, I was deployed to Guantanamo Bay as an Army public affairs non-commissioned officer. While there, I worked in the Media Operations Center (MOC) where the foreign and domestic media watch the pre-trial hearings via a live feed from the courtroom. When court was not in session I made sure the media had transportation, a comfortable and clean tent to sleep in, and followed the security rules set in place. But when the court sessions began, I would sit and watch the hearings live feed with the media. The two cases I saw concerned the alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and of the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole off the coast of Yemen.

I often watched these hearings with fascination at how the arguments were presented and wondered what their implications were for the realm of international law.

All of that was before I started law school.

Now, I am in my second year at Indiana University School of Law studying international law. The Guantanamo Bay, Cuba U.S. Military Commission Observation Program (MCOP) through the Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL) of Indiana University McKinney School of Law provided the opportunity to travel this week to Ft. Meade, Maryland, where pre-trial hearings are being broadcast live via CCTV direct from the Guantanamo Bay courtroom. Unlike three years ago, I will be an objective and independent human rights observer specifically tasked with attending, observing, analyzing, critiquing, and reporting what I see and hear. That is my role with the Program.

I am enrolled in an International Criminal Law course this semester, taught by Professor George Edwards. In this course I am researching a section of a Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual. I am using this opportunity at Ft. Meade to gain further insights into my research topic for the Manual.

My mind is eager to know more about this process and to witness these hearings as a student of the law—to be a part of the flip side.

Katherine M. Forbes, J.D. Candidate 2018

NGO Monitor, U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)

Program in International Human Rights Law

Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

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