Reporters on the Job

Window on Saddam's Trial: Staff writer Dan Murphy was one of four Western print reporters chosen by lottery to attend Wednesday's opening day of Saddam Hussein's trial. The security was as thorough as any he's seen in Iraq.

Dan arrived at 8 a.m. in the parking lot of the Convention Center in the Green Zone (a secure area in central Baghdad where US and Iraqi officials work) after passing through the standard procedures for entering the area: four separate security screenings - three pat downs, and a dog that sniffs for explosives.

"From this point, the security was handled by US marshals, and we were told that no pens or paper would be allowed in the courtroom. One US official told me that the CIA had once developed a pen pistol and nobody was taking any chances. The marshal in charge also told us that it would be easier to get into the White House today than it would be to get into Saddam's courtroom," says Dan. He wasn't lying.

Dan and the other journalists were taken by bus to the courthouse, which was surrounded by 10-foot high concrete blast walls. They passed through a guard house, where they were examined by a sonic screening machine. "I was pulled aside and asked what was in my front right pocket. It was 50 Iraqi dinars, or five bills. That's how sensitive the device was," says Dan.

That was followed by passage through a metal-detection device and a pat down by a US marshal. Only then were the reporters allowed to walk into the press room of the courtroom, where they were given pencils and yellow legal pads. Finally, they went through a second sonic screening machine before entering a soundproof room with bulletproof glass separating them from the courtroom. "But we couldn't hear anything for the first half-hour of the trial because the audio wasn't working," says Dan. "It was one of the most frustrating experiences of my journalistic life. Saddam is 10 feet away, and I can't hear a word he's saying. The people watching TV had a better view."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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