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How NPR Responds to Revelations of US Atrocities

Mytwords's picture

[cross posted at NPR Check]

Remember back in June of 2006 when three Guantanamo detainees allegedly killed themselves? At the time I opined that "reports should say 'the alleged suicides' of three captives with no access to due process." And a few days later when Dan Schorr allowed John Ydstie to report the deaths as suicides, I noted that "it is essential that when prisoners are seized and held extrajudicially and die in custody, one must be skeptical about the conditions of the deaths..."

My skepticism was justified. On January 18, 2010, Harper magazine published a stunning investigative piece documenting (with FOUR named military sources) the apparent murders of those three detainees by US agents at the Guantanamo Prison Camp - and the subsequent coverup of the murders at the highest levels (e.g. war criminal Admiral Harris). The news of these likely murders is not completely unexpected, because as Scott Horton pointed out over a month ago (Dec. 7, 2009), a professor and Seton Hall students poured over the 503 page redacted military investigation (huge PDF file here) and found not only glaring inconsistencies (e.g. the victims had rags stuffed in their throats - the victims had no rags stuffed in their throats), but ludicrous assumptions underlying the official military story (i.e. under intense prison surveillance all three had to simultaneously bind themselves and hang themselves and go undetected for two hours!)

So how did NPR react to this damning news? So far absolutely nothing in the on-air news shows. This is completely inexcusable given the things that NPR reported (repeated) as facts regarding the detainee deaths:

  • June 10, 2006 ATC (first major report on the deaths) - Jackie Northam: "the military says that the men hanged themselves....everything is coming from the Pentagon at this point, and they're saying that the suicides were planned and were coordinated....They described them all as dangerous members of terrorists organizations....they described this as an act of warfare...."
  • June 11, 2006 Weekend Edition Sunday- Jackie Northam: "All three of the men had made nooses out of their bedclothes and out of the sheets and that, and that's how they hanged themselves.....[the US military] said it was well planned out by these men, who they called dangerous prisoners.....the military called this, not an act of desperation, Liane, but an act of warfare. The Guantanamo commander...Navy Rear Admiral Harry Harris said that these men were committed Jihadists....And this falls in line with what the military has always said, that anytime that these suicide attempts are made, it's a tactic used by al-Qaida to garner support..."
  • June 12, 2006 ME - Jackie Northam: "...a prison guard at Guantanamo Bay discovered one of the detainees had hanged himself....Shortly after, guards discovered two more prisoners in the same area of the detention camp, had also hanged themselves.....Harris called the three men committed jihadists....Harris said the suicides were an act of what he called asymmetric warfare..."
  • June 12, 2006 ATC - Jackie Northam: "Military officials at Guantanamo say the three detainees who committed suicide were ardent Jihadists who were willing to kill Americans and others....The Pentagon says he was a mid- to high-level al-Qaida operative. [The second] is described as a frontline fighter for the Taliban....Guantanamo Bay spokesman Commander Robert Duran said today that [the third] also had links to a terrorist group."
  • May 31, 2007 ME [almost a year later] reporting on another supposed suicide Northam again states, "We're expecting to hear later today...whether he hanged himself like the other three prisoners did last summer, or whether it was something else." Renee Montagne adds, "And those of three prisoners who succeeded in killing themselves last year, they hanged themselves. What does the military do to try to prevent suicides?"

As you can see, not only did NPR repeat all the claims of the Pentagon as fact, but also repeated verbatim the US military's completely unsubstantiated claims about the detainees being dangerous terrorists. It's really tragic that it took a law professor and his students to slog through the military's sloppy coverup and that one reporter at Harper's magazine manages to get four former military men to go on the record with their revelations. It's funny that no one at NPR knows how to read long PDF files or how to get in touch with whistleblowers... If NPR had a shred of integrity, it would quickly and forcefully revisit it's coverage of the detainee deaths, issue an apology and remind listeners that there was never any proof for the statements that it repeated again and again as fact.

I should mention that - with grotesque timing (and typical obliviousness) - NPR did have a related story on the same day that the Horton story broke: June 19th's Morning Edition featured the inept Madeline Brand interviewing torture lawyer, and dynamic professor, John Yoo who was on to pimp his book and his slimy reputation. Brand flailed about, mentioning water boarding once and pointing out the unending nature of the "war on terror," but never pursued Yoo's evasions with follow-up questions and never brought up the obvious criminal behaviors sanctioned by Yoo and his Office of Legal Counsel - forced nudity, wall slamming, forced coldness, sleep deprivation, enforced painful stress positions, etc. Needless to say, she made no mention of the numerous detainee deaths by torture which have followed from Yoo's determinations that US "terror" detainees are outside the protections of US and international laws.

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