May
10
2011

Newsweek, Like Time, Clutching at Straws to Cheer for Torture

The argument that the finding and killing of Osama bin Laden shows that George W. Bush's torture policies were justified got another rehearsal in Newsweek fromYale professorStephen Carter (5/5/11): In the end, we were able to track bin Laden because he communicated only through two couriers believed to be brothers. And what was the source of this vital clue? The intelligence apparently came from detainees imprisoned in secret facilities overseas and subjected to what has been euphemistically called "enhanced" interrogation…. So the information from the detainees was crucial, and we face an uncomfortable irony, both political and ethical. The finest […]

May
09
2011

Sunday Morning Torture

It's bad enough that corporate media are having such an ill-informed debate about whether torturing some prisoners helped find Osama bin Laden. But considering whom the media invite to this debate, it's probably not a surprise. Take yesterday's Sunday shows (please!). On NBC's Meet the Press, Obama national security adviser Thomas Donilon basically refused to take a definitive position on torture, waterboarding and intelligence. "No single piece of intelligence led to this," was his line. They followed up with a segment with former CIA head Michael Hayden and Rudy Giuliani, both of whom basically endorsed the idea that torture worked. […]

May
06
2011

Everything Proves That Torture Worked

Time magazine's new issue (no link to the text is available) includes this weird explanation of how torture helped track down Osama bin Laden: Interrogators grilled 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed for details about the courier. When he pleaded ignorance, they knew they were on to something promising. Al-Libbi, the senior Al-Qaeda figure captured in 2005, also played dumb. Both men were subjected to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, including, in Mohammed's case, the waterboard. As best I can tell, the argument here is that they got no information about the Al-Qaeda courier from torturing these two detainees–which was just the […]

May
05
2011

Did the WaPo Hire Sean Hannity?

OK, this isn't Sean Hannity's byline in the Post today, but it might as well be. The headline should stop you: In bin Laden Victory, Echoes of the Bush Years The piece–actually written by Scott Wilson and Anne Kornblut–lays out the argument: As President Obama celebrates the signature national-security success of his tenure, he has a long list of people to thank. On the list: George W. Bush. After the September 11, 2001, attacks, Bush waged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that have forged a military so skilled that it carried out a complicated covert raid with only a minor […]

Feb
14
2011

Psst. . . They're Talking About Torture

The Washington Post yesterday (2/13/11): Mubarak Resignation Throws Into Question U.S./Egyptian Counterterrorism Work By Mary Beth Sheridan and Joby Warrick Washington Post Staff Writers Sunday, February 13, 2011; A01 For decades, Egypt's government has been a critical partner for U.S. intelligence agencies, sharing information on extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and working hand in glove on counterterrorism operations. Now the future of that cooperation is in question. That "work" and "cooperation" includes, among other things, rendition and torture. It'd be more helpful if this were made clear from the outset, instead of being mentioned in the 11th paragraph of the […]

Feb
08
2011

NYT Documents U.S. Support for Egypt's Torturer

The White House position on Egypt would seem to back the transfer of some level of official power to Omar Suleiman, who Hosni Mubarak recently named vice president. Suleiman's former role as intelligence chief made him a key player in Egypt's use of torture, against Egyptian citizens and in connection with CIA-backed rendition. That part of the story hasn't received enough media attention, but today the New York Times does a great job, splashing the story on the front page…. Sorry, that's not right. It must be here somewhere. Perhaps a stinging editorial denouncing torture… no, that's not it. OK, […]

Nov
19
2010

Torture and the 'Problem' With the Courts

The civilian trial of terrorism suspect Ahmed Ghailani, who was linked to the U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, was unsatisfying to those who believe that accused terroristsshould not be tried in civilian courts. To them, the scoreboard tells the story: Ghailani was convicted on one count, and acquitted onover 280 other charges. The newspaper headlines today lay out the problem: USA Today (11/19/10): Detainee's Acquittals Spark Debate Over Civilian Trials Washington Post (11/19/10): Verdict in Terror Case a Setback for Advocates of Civilian Trials A more rational media system would discuss the verdict primarily as a resultof the […]

Nov
03
2010

NYT: It's Still Not Torture If Bush Did It

Back in June, a study by Harvard students (echoing earlier work in Extra!–5-6/08) found that media outlets like the New York Times consistently called things like waterboarding torture when they reported on them–that is, until the Bush administration's torture came to light. The study sparkeda lot of discussion, with the Times responding that it didn't refer to waterboarding as torture because it wanted to avoid "taking sides in a political dispute." In today's New York Times (11/3/10), a review of George W. Bush's new book shows that the Times is sticking with that formula: He likewise defends his decision to […]

Jul
01
2010

Torture Is When Other Countries Do It

A study (4/10) by Harvard students discovered that waterboarding was commonly called torture by major newspapers–right until the United States was found to be practicing it. The study looked at coverage in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal. As Salon's Glenn Greenwald put it, "We don't need a state-run media because our media outlets volunteer for the task:Once theU.S. government decrees that a technique is no longer torture, U.S. media outlets dutifully cease using the term." The Harvard researchhas been widely discussed, which is certainly a good thing. Michael Calderone at Yahoo! has […]

Feb
16
2010

Washington Post's Tortured Euphemisms

This Washington Post headline (2/13/10) caught my eye: 2008 Habeas Ruling May Pose Snag as U.S. Weighs Indefinite Guantanamo Detentions You have to read the piece somewhat closely to understand what they're taking about. Theterrorism case against one Guantanamo detainee was "ironclad"until afederal judge deemed it "too weak"–because some of thestatements against the defendant had been "coerced." Thishas happened repeatedly–judges "'have gutted allegations and questioned the reliability of statements by the prisoners during interrogations and by the informants." This is bad news, we're told; "the government is likely to suffer further losses" in court. You have to read almost to […]

Aug
20
2009

The Disproportionate Compassions of Corporate Media

Seeing all the press attention given to pitbull-fighter and NFL star Michael Vick's return to football, David Swanson (AfterDowningStreet.org, 8/19/09) can't help but think that Vick should have tortured humans instead of dogs. Then we would have been told to overlook it for the sake of moving forward. Better yet, he should have killed humans rather than only torturing them. Then we would have been told next to nothing about it at all. It might have been reported, but it wouldn't have become a hot topic, an echo-chambered story to be dismissed only after a great deal of hand-wringing. It […]

Jul
23
2009

Big Media 'Worth More Than a Warm Bucket of Spit?'

Having recently "published a report on 1,200 photos of U.S. torture that I have examined but the public at large has not seen," activist David Swanson (AfterDowningStreet.org, 7/21/09) now relates how he talked about the photos on a few progressive radio shows. I received calls from some advocacy groups that have been trying for years to get hold of these photos. But I received not one single inquiry from the corporate media. Even most good blogs ignored this story, despite a handful of prominent blogs promoting it. This started me thinking and fantasizing: What would the world look like if […]

Jul
17
2009

Big Media's 'Steadfastly Neutral' 'Partisan Ideologues'

Asking his readers to "remember" that, on NBC, Chuck Todd "is billed as a reporter covering the White House, not a pundit expressing opinions," Salon's Glenn Greenwald (7/15/09, ad-viewing required) examines a Todd appearance on the MSNBC show Morning Joe "discussing reports that [U.S. Attorney General] Eric Holder is likely to appoint a prosecutor to investigate Bush torture crimes. Needless to say, everyone agreed without question that investigations were a ridiculous distraction from what really matters and would be terribly unfair": In response to virtually every media criticism (at least the few they acknowledge), establishment journalists will insist that their […]