Barack Obama signs Executive Orders relating to the closure of Guantanamo Bay [AFP] 

A Fault Lines producer takes us behind-the-scenes to discuss the making of the first episode of the show.

Q. Where did the idea for this story originate?

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The story idea originated pretty much as soon as Barack Obama, the US president, signed the three executive orders [Executive Order 13491: Ensuring Lawful Interrogation; Executive Order 13492: Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities; Executive Order 13493: Review of Detention Policy Options].

The headlines that 'America does not torture' and was closing Guantanamo spewed out across the world, and I think we immediately felt that this was a good opportunity to take a critical look at the reality behind those pieces of paper.

We did not have to do much digging to see that there were some pretty substantial flaws in the White House's message.

By the time we went to air so much had happened since the signing of those executive orders, that the difficulty was really trying to tighten the focus of what we were doing.

What was the most surprising thing you discovered in your reporting?

How incredibly difficult it was to get anyone from the administration to talk to us. We had two of our most tenacious producers working full time to persuade the State Department, the White House, the CIA, the Pentagon, and the Department of Justice to put someone up to speak to us on camera.

Everyone was referring us to the Department of Justice - who at first seemed willing to speak to us, but as the criticism of the flaws in the administration's approach to the 'war on terror' built up, they did a U-turn, and told us no one would speak to us on camera.

In depth

 Executive Order 13491
Ensuring Lawful Interrogation
 Executive Order 13492
Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities
 Executive Order 13493
Review of Detention Policy Options
 International Committee of the Red Cross report on torture

After weeks of haggling, in the end what they offered us was an off-camera briefing. These briefings are always useful for journalists, but are not hugely helpful if you are making television.

Because no one from the Department of Justice was willing to go on camera, we decided that the best approach was to explain in the film that they would not appear, and to film a sequence with Avi going into the Department of Justice.
 
There certainly seems to be a strong desire to control the 'message'. As a journalist, you want to hold people in powerful positions to account, so we found this worrying, especially as just a few months ago Barack Obama promised that his White House would be the most transparent in US history.
 
What kind of challenges did you encounter along the way?

As this was the first episode of Fault Lines, we really wanted to set out what we were about, and put down a foundation that we could build upon over the coming months.

The most important thing is of course the journalism, but there is a whole bunch of other things that go into launching a show - the music, the titles, getting the style right, the editing, sorting out cameramen, flights, hotels, budgets, coordinating with the Al Jazeera newsroom to make sure everyone knows what we are doing. As one producer on the Fault Lines team put it – it is "like herding cats", but it is always interesting.

Source: Al Jazeera