I touched on some of the problems with that story with my previous post.
The editorial causes me to question again the credulity of the Times' editorial staff.
The American prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has always been built on a great lie: that it would only house the "worst of the worst."I was surprised at the difficulty I found in tracking that "worst of the worst" quotation to its original source. It is commonly attributed to former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld. There's a future project for me, but I strongly suspect that the editorial has led with a lie of its own.
But rather than be honest about the tragic missteps of the past and confront the lingering issues over detainee treatment, the Pentagon puts on a preposterous dog-and-pony show when reporters come calling.As for the supposed "tragic missteps of the past," the reports of detainee mistreatment cited in Laughlin's report, even if we generously supposed their accuracy, occurred well before the date of the 2008 report she used as her source. The Pentagon itself is as able to deal with press inquiries about the past as is the present staff at Guantanamo--perhaps better. How many beatings would Laughlin and the Times' editors give that dead horse?
The editors at the Times have the luxury of debriefing their reporter in-depth. Readers at home lacking that luxury would have detected many signs of anti-Pentagon bias in Laughlin's piece. We expect that the Pentagon will not grant full access to the press, but hope that the press is granted access sufficient to speak to the general conditions at the facility. The resulting story left readers in a poor position to render good judgment after accounting for the reporter's bias. It matters not whether Laughlin acquired her bias before or after doing her investigation, since the reader can't know which is the case.
The demonstration undermines the Pentagon's credibility and makes President Barack Obama's job harder as he wrestles with an intransigent Congress to shutter Guantanamo once and for all.Again, maybe the demonstration undermines the Pentagon's credibility and maybe it doesn't. All we know for sure is that Laughlin's story tries to undermine the Pentagon's credibility and the editors at the Times back her judgment.
St. Petersburg Times staff writer Meg Laughlin and photographer Chris Zuppa spent two days at Guantanamo recently. Defense Department personnel led them through hours of tightly controlled interviews. Laughlin was not allowed to interview a single detainee, despite having obtained permission from at least six attorneys to meet with their detainee clients.I can imagine how disappointing that must have been for the Times and for Laughlin, but it is hardly scandalous. The attorneys could give Laughlin permission to carry a gun in to a client, but that doesn't mean the facility is obligated to let her deliver the gun to the client. Is this not a case of press coercion? Give the Times the access it desires or suffer the consequences?
She would only hear the Pentagon's side of the story. And what a whopper of a story it was — short on facts, corroboration and the truth.The Times resembles that remark.
My criticism of Laughlin's story focused on its claims of detainee abuse. The Times editorial repeated some of those in its third paragraph:
Pentagon personnel wouldn't discuss the torturing of prisoners with sleep deprivation, wall slamming and exposure to extreme heat and cold, all documented in a 2008 Justice Department report, except to say that these techniques weren't defined as torture at the time.The story indicated, at least, that it was intimated those techniques are no longer employed at Guantanamo. So what type of discussion should we have expected?
As for the use of the term "torture"--if it is meant to refer to a breach of the law, isn't it libelous to use the term prior to a judicial confirmation of guilt? In the original context of the story, that seems to have been the point of the military's representative. But the Times twisted it into some type of dodge.
As for the claims of abuse, the IG report cited in Laughlin's story made a very weak case for sleep deprivation having been used as torture. It did not mention wall slamming as a technique used at Gitmo (according to my observations, anyway), and the "extreme heat and cold" probably fell within the range of 55-100 degrees fahrenheit, since 95 degrees was the high estimate from the report and the "extreme cold" was produced by leaving the air conditioning running constantly.
There are limits to how cold the room temperature can be made. When operating in a suitably sized room, most air conditioners will cool to around 21c. Mobile air conditioners are designed for peoples comfort. The ideal summer temperature for most people is around 21- 24c.Twenty-one degrees Celsius converts to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Brrrr!
Sure, we can call anything torture. Including being subjected to the editorial content of the Times. Using the term carries a subjective judgment minus a legal determination.