Sunday, November 06, 2005

You call this reporting?

In the past few days there has been some talk about this story:
The U.S. Senate added language barring inhumane treatment of enemy combatants to legislation that sets military policy, the second major defense measure the chamber has amended with this provision.
The amendment sponsored by Arizona Republican Senator John McCain passed by a voice vote. It was attached to the Senate's fiscal 2006 defense spending bill Oct. 6 by a vote of 90-9. That bill is being negotiated with members of the U.S. House, including Republicans whose support is in question.
McCain said his intent is to prevent abuses such as those at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. He vowed today that his measure would be "on every vehicle that goes through this body" until it's enacted into law. "It's not going away," he said on the Senate floor. "This issue is incredibly harmful to the United States of America and our image throughout the world."
President George W. Bush threatened to veto the entire defense spending bill over McCain's amendment. More recently, the White House offered to go along if Central Intelligence Agency agents working overseas were exempt from any restrictions. The CIA is holding accused terrorists at secret prisons in Eastern Europe, The Washington Post reported Nov. 2.
McCain said he had "no idea" why the White House was pushing the CIA exemption. That loophole "would be totally unacceptable," McCain said earlier this week, adding he's communicated that view to Vice President Dick Cheney.
This amendment seems to be an excellent idea, and since the more recent vote was a unanimous voice vote in favor I am confident it will pass and easily withstand any possible vetoes. Wide support has been expressed across the political spectrum (only 9 senators voted against the provision when it was first proposed on October 6th), and hawks in the blogosphere have criticised the Bush administration's reluctance to approve the provision (see this roundup). I would also like to note that Senator McCain is a hawkish, pro-Iraq War Republican.
In the great tradition of Italian journalism (ha!), the first page of today's Corriere della Sera carries this laughably clumsy and totally dishonest article on the subject. It should be noted that Corriere della Sera, which has the highest circulation among national newspapers, is widely considered the most sober and centrist daily in Italy. What follows is my (meticulous, if I may say so myself) translation of the entire article:
The latest battle of the American Vice President Dick Cheney
License to torture for CIA agents
US Senators: No more violent intimidation of terrorist-detainees
But Bush’s deputy: Immunity to avoid attacks

November 6, 2005
By Guido Olimpio

The American Vice-President Dick Cheney has asked the Senate to grant immunity to CIA agents in case they should be compelled to use force to avoid an attack. "Cruel, inhuman, and degrading" treatment would therefore be possible in emergency situations. Drastic measures, which on the other hand some sentors would like to abolish.
The standard bearer of this position is the Arizona senator John McCain, who at the time of the Vietnam War spent a long period as a prisoner. The initiative represents the attempt to reverse President Bush’s post-9/11 decision that determined that the Geneva convention on the treatment of prisoners does not apply to terrorists. A command that has encouraged a no-holds-barred campaign against extremists, whether real or alleged. This is the origin of the prison in Guantanamo in Cuba, the proliferation of secret prisons across the world (the "Hotel Californias") where the CIA has sent its prisoners and the recourse to the practice of "special deliveries." A member of Al Qaeda is caught in a country and deported by American spies to another state, where they know how to make him talk. This is what happened in February 2003 in Milan with the imam Abu Omar, who was kidnapped and transferred to Egypt.
But what was supposed to become a precisely aimed response turned into a generalized threat. As several agents have admitted, only few of the detainees had something important to reveal.
But what are the methods used? Let’s see them in brief:
  1. To overset the biological clock of the detainee
  2. Sleep deprivation
  3. Exposure to extreme temperatures, i.e. forcing the detainee to live in the cold
  4. Light always on in the prison cell, music at high volumes for days
  5. Manipulation of nourishment
  6. To keep the prisoner standing or on his heels for hours
  7. Prolonged isolation
  8. The "submarine:" the detainee is submerged in water tanks
  9. Possible presence of dogs (an impure animal for Muslims)
  10. The use of female soldiers during interrogations
The revelations of violence at Abu Ghraib (Iraq) have intensified the push for change. But the more conservative circles have not stood idly by. A key figure is David S. Addington, a Cheney adviser who was recently nominated Chief of Staff to replace Lewis Libby, swept away by CIA-gate. The hawk nosedived on an official who dared to refer to the Geneva Conference: "He ate him for lunch" [trans. note: i.e. "He went off the deep end"]. A harshness that is not fortuitous. It was Addington who established the legal aspects of the post-September 11th strategy and today he is one of the few left in the trenches.
I am simply flabbergasted (though I shouldn't be). This is the kind of trash that is printed in the most serious paper in the country? No wonder people are misinformed!
How can any serious individual call this "reporting"? The author makes a slew of statements and accusations, without even hinting at a source, as if they were established fact and common knowledge (which they are not). He fails to mention that the US Senate unanimously backed the provision banning inhumane treatment and he does not explain that it is far from clear that the Geneva Conventions actually apply to Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters (the question the US Senate is considering is whether the US should extend some protections to them nonetheless). Not to mention the fact that some of the treatments mentioned hardly seem to be torture (prolonged isolation?).
The article is accompanied by this rather imaginative "diagram:"

The text on the bottom left reads:
The 'Treatments:' Beatings with sticks, electric shocks, sleep deprivation and hot-cold treatment: the detainee is held in a room with the heating at the highest level and is then doused with freezing water.
The red box in the upper right says:
150: This is the number of terrorists with ties to Al Qaeda that have been transferred by the CIA to secret prisons.
This is utter fantasy! Beatings? Electrocutions? I am always the first to encourage whistle-blowers and full investigations, but who is making these accusations? Have they been refuted? Whatever happened to showing both sides of an issue? How can this possibly be considered an accurate and honest representation of the issues at hand?
In all seriousness I wonder: Are we reading the National Enquirer or a serious paper?


corpodibacco said...

There are no real journalists in Italy.
Politicians of any color, and Corporations, replaced them all with prostitutes a long time ago (way back before Berlusconi or Prodi).
When it comes to give some real service to the public, and inform, and nobody is ordering them to go in one direction or another, the prostitutes are kind of left on their own. It shold be funny (so to speak) to see from the inside what happens when no political line is given to an editorial staff. In such cases they just go and invent what they don't know, because they are selected to be cautious, not to be inquisitive.
Of course there are exceptions, but they just don't count, as always.
In this particular case, they probably are in a hurry of preparing themselves for the anti-american climate of the post-Berlusconi Era when it will come. The don't want to be fired or replaced that day... Of course in another situation there would be an equal self-censorship in favour of Berlusconi and America, if needed.
You know, Il Corriere Della Sera never closed down one day during the Mussolini era, nor right after the fall of Mussolini. Must mean something.

a. kvetch said...

I totally agree. Maybe I didn't make this clear enough in the post, but I think this problem applies to newspapers across the political spectrum - whether right-wing or left-wing. Hopefully the blogosphere will empower the regular people to keep the media in check.