Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Friday, April 27, 2007

  The question not asked

American news corporations can be proud that they employ the best stenographers in the world.

It's only been two days since the beltway journalists flew into a snit over Bill Moyers' PBS documentary on the massive failures of journalists before the invasion of Iraq. It wasn't their fault, after all, that Americans believed the administration lies that they faithfully transcribed in 2002/2003. The White House press corps certainly wasn't "compliant" in spreading the administration's message.

And yet, here we have another instance of a ridiculously naive press serving up patent nonsense so uncritically that it boggles the mind.

The Pentagon today made what it tried to portray as a major announcement in the "Global War on Terror". A DoD spokesman held a press conference to declare that the US has captured a senior al-Qaeda operative.

The US Defense Department yesterday announced the capture of one of al-Qaida's most senior and most experienced operatives, an Iraqi who was trying to return to his native country when he was captured.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said the captive is Abdul al-Hadi al-Iraqi. He was transferred to Defense Department custody this week from the Central Intelligence Agency, Whitman said, but the spokesman would not say where or when al-Iraqi was captured or by whom.

A US intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the Iraqi had been captured late last year in an operation that involved many people in more than one country.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano declined to say when and where al-Iraqi was captured. He called al-Iraqi "a veteran jihadist" and said his capture is "a significant victory in the fight against terror - getting him off the street is good news."

Ok, stop right there; that's enough of that. You must have noticed something essential that the reporter (Robert Burns) records but pays little heed to: Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi was captured some months ago...the agencies are mum on the details...and the transfer of his custody some days ago at Guantanamo, from one agency to the other, turns out to be the thing being celebrated.

Burns breathlessly rushes ahead with the business of stenography, unprepared to ask the most basic of questions about what is transparently government propaganda: Why are the DoD and CIA making a big hoopla today about a transfer of custody that occurred several days ago? Or if it is a hoopla about the capture made several months ago, what makes today so special?

In his utter failure to think critically about what he's dutifully recording, Burns is not alone. If you consult the reports produced by Reuters, Bloomberg, CNN, and this Associated Press reporter, you will find that not one of them ever thinks to ask why the heck they're transcribing this nonsense.

The central questions for any journalist exercising critical faculties should have been: What are the CIA and DoD up to, trotting out this stale news and trying to convince us it is "breaking"? And if the capture is really such a great achievement, why announce it on a Friday (of all days in the news cycle)?

A clever journalist, or one who is at least awake, might have noticed also the degree of coordination between the two agencies in trumpeting this "news". Here for example is the CIA cranking up the propaganda mill.

CIA director Michael Hayden, in a note posted today on the agency's internal Web site, said the CIA played a "key role in efforts to locate" al-Iraqi and called his capture "a triumph on which we must continue to build."

Hayden, in his note, defended the CIA's interrogation program.

"The information it has produced has prevented terrorist attacks and saved innocent lives," Hayden said. "Its methods are legal, thoroughly reviewed by our government to ensure that they are fully in accordance with our laws and treaty obligations."

Info about the self-congratulatory, and self-exculpatory, CIA note did not just leak out by accident, did it?

Also hard to miss is the fact that a foreign ally was being roped into parroting this frankly silly domestic propaganda:

In Pakistan, Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao described the arrest of al-Iraqi as a "welcome development" but gave no indication that Pakistan played a role in it.

A "development"? The Pakistani minister knows perfectly well that it's old news, so where do you suppose he got the idea to call it a "development"?

No matter where you look in today's reports, you won't find a single corporate journalist asking the most basic question of all:

"What's this all about?"


For what it's worth, I suspect that it has to be about something that is near and dear to the CIA, which is after all the agency handing over the prisoner. It also has to be about something that the administration could see coming well in advance; the domestic propaganda stunt was well coordinated.

Hmmm...the Bush administration is known for politicizing the "War on Terror".

I wonder if it could be the fact that former CIA Director George Tenet is releasing a book in a few days that is said to be damning of the Bush administration, Dick Cheney in particular? The fact that Tenet is out and about flogging his book on shows such as 60 Minutes this weekend? A major "new" capture of a terrorist might take the focus off Tenet's allegations just a tad.

crossposted from Unbossed

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