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Last Updated: Friday, 3 October, 2003, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
The Guantanamo incident

Vivian White
Panorama reporter

guantanamo bay
Guantanamo Bay holds 700 detainees
Guantanamo was strange, remote, and very hot.

The base itself was calm - transplanted America, complete with a McDonald's and ten-pin bowling. There were troops loping past taking hot, healthy runs.

While we were on Guantanamo, we interviewed guards from the prison camp, and their officers, and one of their chaplains, too, and we looked around their base, "Camp America". Eventually we were taken to "Camp Delta", where the detainees are kept.

There, the rules were different and tighter. We were not allowed to film in Camp Delta, but sound recording was allowed. We saw, but could not film, the individual "cages" in the high-security area, and the place in the open air where detainees are taken to shower.

No detainees were present. Then we were taken into the so-called medium-security area. There were two print journalists, a radio reporter, a press photographer taking no pictures, and our team.

I was recording onto a minidisc, and my producer Fiona Gough was recording as well, holding a boom mike. Our assistant producer and cameraman, Dan Trelford was, of course, not filming.

Tour is over

The Panorama team were escorted to the bus, and kept in not very splendid isolation
Vivian White
Then we were brought into a place where a group of detainees were sitting just a few feet away. They were on the other side of a high fence but in very plain view of us all. I began to describe what I could see.

One of the detainees then turned and addressed us directly, in English.

He called out "Are you journalists or whatever?" One of the print journalists and I responded. I said, "We're from BBC Television, we're from BBC TV."

The detainee continued to express his pleasure at seeing us.

But it was too much for our hosts. "The tour is over," barked Colonel Adolph McQueen. The whole sudden, unexpected incident, lasted 20 seconds.

Ground rules

Guantanamo Bay
Journalists are told not to speak to detainees
The Panorama team were escorted to the bus, and kept in not very splendid isolation, while the tour continued for our colleagues.

Further interviews which had been arranged for us on Guantanamo with the US military themselves were cancelled.

We were taken to an office building, where quite lengthy discussions took place. The Americans believed I had been questioning detainees and had deliberately broken the "ground rules."

We insisted that I had not questioned detainees at all.

I was escorted back to my room in the "Combined Bachelor Quarters".

Sensitive

The Americans relented sufficiently to let Panorama shoot a further sequence that evening. We had asked to film at the open air movie theatre on Guantanamo, which we had thought would be interesting.

Our American hosts thought that we would like to see the uplifting trailer shown each night before the main feature there.

However, we left Guantanamo Bay the next morning - while the other journalists stayed.

We had expected that our visit would be memorable, and it was. We had known that it would be a sensitive place to work in, and it was.

But we could not have predicted what actually occurred, to us, inside Guantanamo.

Panorama: Inside Guantanamo will be broadcast on BBC One on Sunday, 5 October, 2003 at 22:15 BST.

SEE ALSO:
Inside Guantanamo
19 Sep 03  |  Panorama
Your comments
03 Oct 03  |  Panorama


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