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Reporters Help CIA Torture the Truth
"There is a fierce battle going on over what kind of a CIA director Barack Obama should appoint, when he should close the prison camp at Guantanamo, and whether there should be a full scale investigation (and possible prosecution) of the torture advocates in the Bush administration," notes Charles Kaiser in the Columbia Journalism Review. Unfortunately, reporting on this issue in the New York Times and elsewhere has been flagrantly one-sided, from a position that falsifies the facts and defends torture.
"Most of the Times's sources don't think that anyone who formulated or acquiesced in the current administration's torture policies should be excluded as a candidate for CIA director, or prosecuted for possible violations of criminal law," Kaiser writes. A recent story by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, for example, falsely repeated John O. Brennan's description of himself as a "strong opponent" of torture, even though "most experts on this subject agree that Brennan acquiesced in everything that the CIA did in this area while he served there."
Glenn Greenwald explores the pattern further in Salon.com. He cites examples of "establishment media outlets" including Congressional Quarterly, National Public Radio and National Journal, which "uncritically publish what they're told from their cherished 'intelligence sources' and without even the pretense of verifying whether any of it is true and/or hearing any divergent views." Greenwald continues:
In all of these accounts, Brennan's false claims of unfair persecution -- that he was attacked simply because he happened to be at the CIA -- are fully amplified in detail through his CIA allies, most of whom are quoted at length (though typically behind a generous wall of anonymity). But Brennan's critics are almost never quoted or named. ... The "reporting" is all from the perspective of Brennan and his CIA supporters. None of these journalists even entertain the idea of disputing or challenging the pro-Brennan version. ...
None of this reporting even alludes to, let alone conveys, the central arguments against Brennan and the evidence for those arguments. Unmentioned are his emphatic advocacy for rendition and "enhanced interrogation tactics." None of the lengthy Brennan quotes defending these programs are acknowledged. ...
What instead pervades these stories is the patently deceitful claim typified by Newsweek's Michael Hirsh, who asserted that the case against Brennan was made "with no direct evidence" and then chuckled that this is "common for the blogging world" -- an ironic observation given that Hirsh himself is either completely ignorant of the ample evidence that was offered or is purposely pretending it doesn't exist in order to defend the CIA official Hirsh lauded as "the first-class professional." That's how the persecution tale against Brennan is built -- by relying on mindless reporters to distort (when they weren't actively suppressing) the evidence against him.
Greenwald argues that this campaign of falsehoods is intended as "a clear warning to Obama from the CIA about the dangers of paying heed to anti-torture and pro-civil-liberties factions. ... Those warnings are issued with an eye towards the events they know full well are imminent: debates over how legally restrained the CIA should be in its interrogation and detention powers; demands that light be shined on what the CIA spent the last eight years doing at the behest of Dick Cheney and with the legal imprimatur of David Addington's cabal; and, most of all, efforts to hold those who committed war crimes accountable."
Perhaps the worst tragedy in all of this -- or at least the greatest irony -- is that torture ultimately hurts American soldiers, a point that a former interrogator made with eloquence and passion in a recent column for the Washington Post. Matthew Alexander (a pseudonym adopted for security reasons) led an interrogations team in Iraq in 2006 and is the author of How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq. His conclusions are striking:
Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there's the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.
I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.