Ft. Hood - If the public is unaware that the general court martial of Major Abu Nidal Malik Hasan is yet another evolution in the global war on terror - a war that is carried out by means of terror - the reporters and correspondents who are covering the daily proceedings should be.
Maj. Hasan is on trial for his life in the capital murder case stemming from the massacre of 13 unarmed soldiers and civilian workers at the Soldier Readiness Center on November 9, 2009. An additional 32 persons were injured in what has been charged as specifications of premeditated murder and attempted murder with a powerful handgun that shoots a round designed to pierce the kind of body armor worn by soldiers and policemen.
Media representatives check in each morning at a local shopping plaza off post, where Army security personnel attached to the Public Affairs Office check and re-check their credentials from a previous registration and vetting process, then stamp a gate pass.
Arriving at the designated gate, the satellite trucks and car loads of print journalists show their passes and personal ID, and they are passed into the fort.
At the news media staging facility, they are again checked in, asked to initial each page of an agreement on ground rules laid down by the judge, and the wait begins until court time.
All access screening is scheduled a minimum of an hour and a half in advance. For instance, for a 9 a.m. court session, everyone must be in place and ready no later than 7.
Cell phones are not allowed inside the courtroom or the closed circuit television screening room. All travel around the post is possible only with uniformed escort.
For instance, all television crews are accompanied to the parking lot to do a stand-up advance story prior to the day’s courtroom session.
Those who are chosen to go into the courtroom are put through a magnetometer check for metal objects, marched about a half-mile to the courthouse door, where they again go through a magnetometer check for metal objects, and are passed into the courtroom after they deposit their phones with security guards.
The entrances to the courthouse are guarded by Hesco barriers placed tightly enough to bar all rifle and rocket attacks and a concentric ring of shipping containers stacked three high. Additional security is provided by concrete traffic barriers that require all vehicle traffic to zig zag in the route to the building.
Any infraction of the ground rules or the day’s instructions are grounds for expulsion for the remainder of the trial.
In case of serious infractions, according to officers in charge of media security, the judge could rule out media participation entirely, allowing only a small group of “pool” reporters into the courtroom or the closed circuit television viewing room who then agree to brief all other news media at the close of the day’s session.