GUANTANAMO BAY — This is complicated. Something vexing a bunch of us in the press room — actually, I’ll just speak for myself here — is how to describe Interrogator Number 11 without falling into some rather odious gender double-standards.

The lay of the land: she’s an attractive young woman and former military interrogator who testified anonymously today about interrogating Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay in October-November 2002. Among the reasons she cited for landing the Khadr assignment was because she could pass as “more of a mother figure” for the detainee she exclusively called “Omar.” Except that she’s clearly too young to actually have been Khadr’s mother — a rough estimate would place her in her 20s or possibly early 30s during the interrogation of the then-16 year old detainee. Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, one of Khadr’s attorneys, hinted during cross examination of what many of us were speculating/smirking about: the military assigned a young and attractive woman to the interrogation of a scared teenage boy to add a sexual frisson, however subtle, to his interrogation in order to get him to spill. And this is a hearing to determine whether Khadr’s statements to interrogators occur under an environment of coercion.

We are the only people with the capability to describe Number 11 to the outside world, owing to the restrictions placed on both the commissions and our ability to cover them. And it so happens that this is a rare case where a woman’s looks are journalistically germane. As soon as I type that, though, I feel as if I’m on a journalistic precipice, at risk of reifying the worst elements of our tradecraft. Just because the way she looks has a measure of relevance here doesn’t give us license to sensationalize or sexualize her testimony in our descriptions.

So I opted with leading with: “A youthful-looking woman in a gray suit with long brown hair is known only to us as Interrogator Number 11.” I don’t return to the question of her looks, but I bring out the “mother figure” quote and her exclusive references to “Omar” while other witnesses used “Mr. Khadr.” My thinking was that I got the subtextual mileage I needed out of that reference, and to dwell on it at greater length would be egregious. (That said, I’ll probably never have another opportunity to insert “Military Interrogator” into a MILF reference and have it actually describe the subtext of a situation — y’know, from Khadr’s perspective? — and so I couldn’t resist tweeting. Spirit willing, weak flesh, etc.)

Point is: I’m not sure I struck the right balance of the journalistic and feminist equities. Your advice is hereby solicited. I’ll be curious to see how my colleagues dealt with this question.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman