Saturday, January 01, 2005

New York Times on Guantanamo

The New York Times publishes a new article on treatment of War on Terror prisoners at Guantanamo, Fresh Details Emerge on Harsh Methods at Guantánamo (subscription required):

After hours in the air, the plane landed back at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where [Saudi prisoner Kahtani] was not returned to the regular prison compound but put in an isolation cell in the base's brig. There, he was subjected to harsh interrogation procedures that he was encouraged to believe were being conducted by Egyptian national security operatives.

The account of Mr. Kahtani's treatment given to The New York Times recently by military intelligence officials and interrogators is the latest of several developments that have severely damaged the military's longstanding public version of how the detention and interrogation center at Guantánamo operated.

Interviews with former intelligence officers and interrogators provided new details and confirmed earlier accounts of inmates being shackled for hours and left to soil themselves while exposed to blaring music or the insistent meowing of a cat-food commercial. In addition, some may have been forcibly given enemas as punishment.

UPI has picked up and "enhanced" the story: GITMO interrogators confirm US torture. Note how UPI has sexed up the headline. Also note how the NYT's, "some may have been forcibly given enemas as punishment," has been transformed by the UPI to, "Some detainees were degraded by forcible enemas."

As a US citizen, I would like to review and understand my government's behavior. If the US is doing something wrong, I want to know about it and bring pressure to bear to make it stop. But given the media's decades long campaign to undermine US strength, particularly in the last few years, how can we trust the media to deliver accurate facts on which to draw conclusions.

My Epistemology professor used to drive the class mad with the question, how do we know we are not being deceived by an evil wizard who is making us believe the world is something it is not. We (or at least I) thought this was an absurd question. There was no way to deceive my eyes and ears to such an extent. But we can see now that reasonable, conscientious, intelligent people can draw absurd and even disgusting conclusions if their only source of facts is severely biased.

As I have said before, it is good that we now have a means to route around the bias.

As for the New York Times story, the source seems to be a small number of anonymous "military intelligence officials and interrogators." The only on-the-record quotes are asserting humane behavior. I'm going to withold judgement until more reliable information appears.