Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Years In The Making

Several recent polls on the subject of torture have been pretty surprising to many on the left. While most of the polls show a majority of respondents wanting more investigations, on the other hand there were bigger majorities that actually said they felt that torturing detainees was justified. Greg Sargent tried to tackle the question of how that dichotomy could make sense yesterday, but I think he might have, for once, gotten it wrong. But it wasn't because of a failure of Sargent's analytical skills, it was because he didn't have all of the information.

This morning the New York Times published an article that should be the lede on every cable news station as well as the headline of every major mainstream media outlet that runs a story about the torture program enanacted under the Bush Administration. The story details the abject failure of our mainstream media to scratch below the surface of a story to see whether its fact or fiction when its the hot story of the moment. It also shows how a supposed "whistleblower" can actually be a vehicle to promote propaganda for the people they are supposedly blowing the whistle on. And it also explains exactly why many Americans have now settled into the narrative that torture helped to save lives and is "no big deal". Its because thats the story we were spoonfed by the media outlets and it was the story the CIA planted through one of their agents, the "whistle blower" John Kiriakou:

In late 2007, there was the first crack of daylight into the government’s use of waterboarding during interrogations of Al Qaeda detainees. On Dec. 10, John Kiriakou, a former C.I.A. officer who had participated in the capture of the suspected terrorist Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in 2002, appeared on ABC News to say that while he considered waterboarding a form of torture, the technique worked and yielded results very quickly.

Mr. Zubaydah started to cooperate after being waterboarded for “probably 30, 35 seconds,” Mr. Kiriakou
told the ABC reporter Brian Ross. “From that day on he answered every question.”
His claims — unverified at the time, but repeated by dozens of broadcasts, blogs and newspapers — have been sharply contradicted by a
newly declassified Justice Department memo that said waterboarding had been used on Mr. Zubaydah “at least 83 times.”

Some critics say that the now-discredited information shared by Mr. Kiriakou and other sources heightened the public perception of waterboarding as an effective interrogation technique. “I think it was sanitized by the way it was described” in press accounts, said John Sifton, a former lawyer for
Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group.

During the heated debate in 2007 over the use of waterboarding and other techniques, Mr. Kiriakou’s comments quickly ricocheted around the media. But lost in much of the coverage was the fact that Mr. Kiriakou had no firsthand knowledge of the waterboarding: He was not actually in the secret prison in Thailand where Mr. Zubaydah had been interrogated but in the C.I.A. headquarters in Northern Virginia. He learned about it only by reading accounts from the field.

I would think it wouldn't have been very hard to at least find out that Kiriakou wasn't even involved in Zubaydah's interrogation but the problem is I doubt if anybody in the media actually asked.

Still, he told ABC that the actions had “disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks.” A video of the interview was no longer on ABC's website.

“It works, is the bottom line,”
Rush Limbaugh exclaimed on his radio show the next day. “Thirty to 35 seconds, and it works.”

Mr. Kiriakou subsequently granted interviews to The Washington Post, The New York Times,
National Public Radio, CBS, CNN, MSNBC and other media organizations. A CNN anchor called him “the man of the hour.”

We of course know now that Kiriakou was obviously talking out of his ass. So the question is what gave him any credibility on the issue with so many media sources other than his status as a supposed "whistle blower". Shouldn't it have been some what of a clue that he was there for propaganda and not blowing the whistle when he so zealously defended the waterboarding and, while acknowledging that it was torture, minimalizing the supposed actual harm it had done and maximizing the supposed benefits? I mean I would think that even the world's biggest idiot would ask themselves why someone would be blowing the whistle on a program that its obvious they believed was both important and useful. Maybe I could understand if Kiriakou at least attempted to sell this as something other than propaganda, but he was pretty straight forward about what he was doing but yet and still our media pushed his story out there like it was truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

His ABC interview came at an especially delicate juncture in the debate over the use of torture. Weeks earlier, the nomination of Michael Mukasey as attorney general was nearly derailed by his refusal to comment on the legality of waterboarding, and one day later, the C.I.A. director testified about the destruction of interrogation videotapes. Mr. Kiriakou told MSNBC that he was willing to talk in part because he thought the C.I.A. had “gotten a bum rap on waterboarding.”
At the time, Mr. Kiriakou appeared to lend credibility to the prior press reports that quoted anonymous former government employees who had implied that waterboarding was used sparingly.
In late 2007, Mr. Ross began pursuing Mr. Kiriakou for an interview, “leaning on him pretty hard,” he recounted.

On Dec. 10, in the subsequent interview,
Mr. Kiriakou told Mr. Ross that he believed the waterboarding was necessary in the months after the 9/11 attacks. “At the time I was so angry,” he told Mr. Ross. “I wanted so much to help disrupt future attacks on the United States that I felt it was the only thing we could do.”

Mr. Kiriakou was the only on-the-record source cited by ABC. In the televised portion of the interview, Mr. Ross did not ask Mr. Kiriakou specifically about what kind of reports he was privy to or how long he had access to the information. “It didn’t even occur to me that they’d keep doing” the waterboarding, Mr. Ross said last week. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

He added, “I didn’t give enough credit to the fiendishness of the C.I.A.”

Such WEAKSAUCE from Brian Ross. It wasn't the fiendishness of the CIA that was the problem, it was the fecklessness of Brian Ross and the rest of the members of the media who couldn't be bothered to actually check the guy's story before running their "exclusives". And predicibly the usual suspects picked up the story and carried water for the Bush administration.

In the days after Mr. Kiriakou’s media blitz, his claims were repeated by an array of other outlets. For instance, the Fox News anchor Chris Wallace cited the 35 seconds claim to ask a congressman whether the interrogation program was “really so bad.”

Months later the claims continued to be amplified; the National Review editor Jonah Goldberg used Mr. Kiriakou’s assertions in a column last year to argue that the waterboarding was “right and certainly defensible.”

And now, knowing everything that we know now about just how full of shit Kiriakou was back then what do you think the response is from the people who brought him to us in the first place?

Mr. Ross, who received a George Polk Award for a series on interrogation, expressed no regret about the Kiriakou interview and praised him for speaking publicly. He said ABC was preparing a story that would address the previous reporting.

“Kiriakou stepped up and helped shine some light on what has happening,” Mr. Ross said. “It wasn’t the huge spotlight that was needed, but it was some light.”

Yeah you read that right. Even though Kiriakou's story was basically made up from whole cloth to cover the CIA's ass and just about every single part of it has now been debunked Brian Ross still has nothing but praise for him. If this doesn't make you angry about the state of the media in this country I don't know what will. And bigger than any personal outrage is the fact that because people like Ross advanced this bogus story over a year and a half ago, there are men and women who authorized and ordered torture in the Bush Administration who will likely never face the justice they deserve. This preemptive perversion of the facts is without a doubt the reason for the disconnect in the polling that you see nowadays and honestly I don't know how you unring that bell. But what I do know is that both Kiriakou and Ross should have to answer for pushing this propaganda out there and be held to account. Helping to insure that people aren't prosecuted for breaking the law isn't something Ross should get an award for, its something that should earn him a pink slip.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent!

    Your conclusion of:

    'Helping to ensure that people aren't prosecuted for breaking the law isn't something Ross should get an award for, its something that should earn him a pink slip'

    in today's reality means:

    'Helping to ensure that people aren't prosecuted for breaking the law is something that Ross, ABC News and other MSM sources get paid for, it's something that should earn them awards for knowing how to follow orders.'


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