NYT Again Repeating Pentagon Propaganda

Our guest blogger is Ken Gude, Associate Director of the International Rights and Responsibility Program at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The New York Times is at it again. Reaching back into an old bag of tricks, Bush administration holdovers in the Pentagon have used the paper of record to spread false propaganda at a critical juncture in a key national security debate, this time about released Guantanamo detainees supposedly returning to terrorism. This article has just one purpose: to mislead readers about the true nature of the threat posed by released Guantanamo detainees.

Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller discards any semblance of journalism and merely serves as a conduit for unnamed Pentagon officials to claim without any supporting evidence that 74 released Guantanamo detainees are “engaged in terrorism.” The headline screams “1 in 7 Freed Detainees Rejoins Fight, Report Finds,” and the entire opening of the story presents the Pentagon figures as conclusions of fact that are being withheld for political purposes.

Not until the 17th paragraph does this key passage appear:

The Pentagon has provided no way of authenticating its 45 unnamed recidivists, and only a few of the 29 people identified by name can be independently verified as having engaged in terrorism since their release. Many of the 29 are simply described as associating with terrorists or training with terrorists, with almost no other details provided.

Got that? Bumiller admits that “only a few” can be independently verified, more than half aren’t even identified, and no details are provided about the specific accusations but not until almost the end of the story.

We know previous Pentagon efforts to link released detainees with terrorism have included those who have written op-eds or participated in films about their experience at Guantanamo as “returning to the fight.” What kind of journalism allows a reporter to write a story so clearly slanted in one direction without even a minimal effort to verify the information that forms its basis?

An accurate story using this same information would report that some Guantanamo detainees have engaged in terrorism upon release, but that most of the allegations of such activity remain unconfirmed and that previous Pentagon reports have included activity that is not normally associated with terrorism. It wouldn’t make for such a sensational headline, but it would be much more representative of the truth.