Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sketching the Guantánamo Trials

When sketch artist Wendy MacNaughton traveled to Guantánamo Bay War Court to cover the 9/11 trials there, she faced some of the strictest rules imaginable.

Dilapidated hangar at Guantánamo, sketch by Wendy MacNaughton, published in The New York Times
She had to be approved by the Pentagon, as did all her art supplies, which had to be kept in Ziplock bags and sent through two security checks. She and all the other reporters had to sit well back from the event in a special gallery, behind triple pane glass. No photography was allowed, and she was not allowed to use opera glasses to see the faraway faces.

Two members of Mr. Mohammed’s defense team at the back of the court, chatting during a recess.
 sketch by Wendy MacNaughton, published in The New York Times

She said she was given a list of things she was not allowed to draw, which included: "guards and certain people in certain seats and/or locations; exits, cameras; papers, displays on computer screens; walls. And there was no redacting. If I slipped and drew any of these things, I wasn’t allowed to cover it up; they’d have to confiscate the drawing. While a redaction conceals the specifics of something, I was told, it also reveals that something classified exists in that location, which defeats the purpose. Instead, I was instructed to avoid drawing those things altogether, and to compose my drawing in such a way that a viewer couldn’t tell that I’d removed anything. Final rule: Under no circumstances was anyone inside the spectators’ gallery to make eye contact with, or otherwise acknowledge, anyone on the other side of the glass."

Every sketch—and even her paint rag—had to be inspected and stamped by an official, and some sketches were confiscated.

Janet Hamlin also sketched Gitmo and wrote a book about it called Sketching Guantanamo: 
Court Sketches of the Military Tribunals, 2006-2013

New York Times article, Drawing the Guantánamo Bay War Court


Bevan said...

What a difficult situation.

Meera Rao said...

So interesting especially for someone like me who draws what I want to and is limited by my technical competency ! I did sketch in the Supreme Court twice when I was lucky enough to attend hearings - I was allowed only a sketchbook, pencil and eraser - of course no phones, purses, books or any other personal belongings other than an ID card ! It was indeed exciting to sketch there!

hamchat said...

Thank you for the inclusion James. It really is the most difficult venue with barriers of all sorts. Kudos to Wendy for some fine work.