In FAIR’s Extra! Magazine, Andy Worthington on 9/11, Guantánamo and the Failures of US Corporate Media


Just published, in the September 2011 issue of Extra!, the monthly magazine of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), is an article I wrote about the US mainstream media’s response to the 9/11 attacks and the establishment of Guantánamo, which, of course, has been, for the most part (but with shining exceptions), a disappointment.

In the article, “The ‘Worst of the Worst’?: 9/11, Guantánamo and the failures of US corporate media,” which is available here on FAIR’s website, I examine the unwillingness of the media to criticise the Bush administration’s “war on terror” until after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in April 2004, and how the treasure trove of documents about the Guantánamo prisoners that were released under duress by the Pentagon in 2005 and 2006 were only adequately analyzed by the Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey and by myself, in my book The Guantánamo Files and my subsequent work.

I also examine how, under Obama, the media have allowed themselves to be seduced by Pentagon propaganda about the numbers of alleged “recidivists” released from Guantánamo, which has contributed enormously to the skewed debate about he closure of the prison, dominated by Republicans cynically using Guantánamo as part of their political campaigning.

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) has, since 1986, been challenging media bias and censorship, and back in 2009, I was delighted to be asked to contribute an article about Guantánamo, “Dangerous Revisionism Over Guantánamo: Citing dirty evidence to defend dubious detentions,” dealing with the New York Times‘ reporting on Guantánamo, to their monthly magazine, Extra!

FAIR had leapt to my defense when, in February 2008, the New York Times (after pressure was exerted on its editors) apologized for giving me a byline on a front-page sorry that I had written with Carlotta Gall about the death of an Afghan prisoner at Guantánamo (because I had “a point of view”). That article was particularly critical of the authorities’ disregard for the prisoners, and whether or not there was actually any reason to hold them, and I was grateful for the support shown by FAIR and by others, including Scott Horton. I am also pleased to have been interviewed on a few occasions on FAIR’s radio program, CounterSpin (see here, here and here).

On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I am delighted to have been approached by FAIR to write a brief review of the media’s response to 9/11 and the “war on terror” over the last ten years. As I explain in the article, the media “bear a large responsibility for having allowed cynical lawmakers to portray Guantánamo as a prison holding ‘the worst of the worst,’ despite so much evidence that Bush administration officials were lying when they first coined that phrase.”

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

26 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I’ll do so tomorrow, Andy.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Esteban Chavez wrote:

    you are one of the only americans left. we are all tone deaf and just cannot see nuttn. american being truth justice and blah blah. the irony of the collapse of empire.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George. Goodnight! And Esteban, thanks also. After five years of seeking to expose the truth about the overreaction and horrors of the “war on terror,” I’m still waiting for a return to the values that existed before 9/11.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    On Digg, wanacare wrote:

    Those FEW U.S. citizens who read and care about the politics that mean life and death to those serving the Empire & the citizens in the U.K. must have known from common sense articles that the Murdoch News Monopoly was corrupt even before the story of the kidnapped girl was reported to the public. Therefore I contend that the media didn’t just fail to do a job, they purposefully collaborated with those in power seeking to have propaganda to show the world the western countries are justified in attacking “the worst of the worst” bad guys, even though it was for private oil profits and transportation, against laws and totally unjust.

    However, there have been a few honest men and women, like Andy Worthington, who have proclaimed in every way possible that the media, military and gov. system is so vile that millions of innocent citizens have continued to suffer unspeakable pain for 10 long years and no supposed free & democratic system can stop the Mass murder, torture and kidnapping.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, wanacare. Good to hear from you.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Esteban Chavez wrote:

    sorry, but human dignity and justice are rarely realized. the migration of the human spirit is the only recourse.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Malcolm Bush wrote:

    I subscribe to Fair, so I’ll look forward to the post man coming, and a good read.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Esteban, and Malcolm, that’s good to know. An excellent organization to support …

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Sylvia Martin wrote:

    Yes, it’s a case of active avoidance on the part of our right-wing-owned news.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sylvia. Right-wing-owned, or non-boat-rocking “liberals.” I think honesty requires anger and persistence, and both are rare to the point of extinction in establishment journalism.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Donna Ellison wrote:

    Read the article in “Fair,” Andy. Good going! I think the Pentagon is very slick at using the media to play upon not only the lust for revenge, but also a lot of pre-existing racism, in order to dehumanize enemy soldiers as well as ‘enemy’ civilians. Once people are no longer seen as human, it is a lot easier to turn a blind eye on atrocities and war crimes. Wasn’t this kind of dehumanization in the media the main cause for the American mutilation of Japanese war dead during WWII? We haven’t evolved much. 🙁

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    I think that’s right, Donna. I was just talking with a friend via email about how Goebbels persuaded the German people that the Jews were their enemy, and then, of course, they could be dehumanized. I’d say that resisting the temptation to scapegoat any group is one of the tests of a higher humanity than the type that generally prevails …

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    D J Michael Sanchez ‎wrote:

    Andy: I’m gonna avoid all the “Tear-jerker Moments” during the Sunday 9/11 Programming and instead read a DAVID RAY GRIFFIN Book. The real “Tearjerker” is how so many people freely accept the Government’s Own CONSPIRACY THEORY about how the Twin Towers were deliberately demolished.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Happy reading, Michael.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Mark Erickson wrote:

    Gotta love a commission!

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes indeed, Mark!

  17. arcticredriver says...

    Another excellent and important article Andy.

    You quoted Chris Matthews “Back when I was a kid, I used to go down there and sleep out in places like the Virgin Islands overnight, and I loved it. I slept in tents. I thought it was great. And you’re making it sound like harsh conditions.”

    I wish someone could ask Matthews if his parents let him sleep out overnight when a hurricane was approaching. The base has been struck by multiple hurricanes. I imagine even living in an open cage during a thunderstorm could be very damaging to one’s health unless one was in robust health.

    I think it was Moazzam Begg who described a conversation with a guard about the nearby kennel for one of the guard dogs — an air-conditioned kennel. Why did the dog get air-conditioning, while the prisoners didn’t? He was told “That dog is a soldier in the US Army”.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks! And don’t forget the iguanas, arcticredriver, which are a protected species at Guantanamo. A soldier can be fined $10,000 for killing an iguana, but the rights that extend to iguanas don’t extend to the human cargo of Guantanamo, who had no rights at all for two and a half years, until the Supreme Court ruled that they had habeas corpus rights. Then, of course, Congress tried to take those rights away, and the Supreme Court had to revisit its ruling in 2008. Even so, I’d say that the majority of the 171 prisoners who are still at Guantanamo are effectively held without any rights, as Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and their lawyers originally intended, because Congress, the judiciary and the Obama administration have all acted to prevent their release, or to prevent them having trials.

  19. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks Andy.

    With regard to those first OARDEC documents released on 2006-03-03… That was a Friday. Judge Jed S. Rakoff had set a deadline of 6pm for the DoD to deliver those documents to the Associated Press.

    I think someone senior at the DoD should have been charged with contempt of court, for non compliance, because it took the DoD 18 months to publish the indices to the documents.

    The DoD did not meet the 6pm deadline. A (armed) DoD courier delivered a DVDROM later that evening. It is very unfortunate that AP didn’t have a staffer waiting to immediately make a copy of that original DVDROM. Another (armed) DoD courier returned later that evening with a different DVDROM, and demanded the return of the original DVDROM.

    Over the next couple of weeks the DoD silently replaced the files with revised versions. One of the most notable changes was on the last page of the last of the 53 files that (mainly) contained transcripts from the captives’ CSR Tribunals. Here is a transcription of the original classified document Here is a transcription of the replacement

    I believe this is the only classified page within these documents. The DoD didn’t mean to publish classified documents. Some lowly clerk was tired, when they got to the very last page, and mistakenly included an instance of a classified summary of the basis of a Tribunal’s decision — a document we knew existed.

    The 179 dossiers published on that site, assembled when captives had habeas corpus petitions submitted on their behalf, contained the complementary UNclassified summary. Those unclassified summaries with only one exception, said the information presented during the unclassified portion of the Tribunal — ie the portion where the captive was allowed to be present — was insufficient for them to make a decision. 178 of the 179 unclassified summaries said the Tribunal relied on classified information in making their decision.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Fascinating. Thanks, arcticredriver. I recall that day well, as it was when my work really began!
    I guess the reason I think transcribing and trying make sense of the documents released by WikiLeaks is so important is because it touches on so much of the previously hidden classified information, as well exposing other shocking aspects of the detention and interrogation process — the reasons for transfer to Guantanamo that were grafted on after the prisoners’ transfer, and the disproportionate risk assessments, for example — that I’m looking forward to analyzing when the series is complete.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I’m digging this now, Andy. And like one of the above writers, I am avoiding the tear-jerker moments. Here in Sweden they have been omnipresent for more than two days, while the EU has enough problems that require quick attention. And BTW, I have heard not one word on the morning news about the other 11 Sept event, the coup against S. Allende’s government, his death, and the subsequent horrors of the Pinochet dictatorship.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, George. Ah yes, that other September 11, with America’s disgraceful backing, which involved such slaughter, and led to the backing of so many other tyrants and killers in South and Central America. You’re absolutely right, of course, although it wasn’t an event of much interest to the mainstream before Sept. 11, 2001 either, what with it allegedly involving the saving of the world from socialists bent on the destruction of the American way of life.

  23. arcticredriver says...

    That 99.4 percent of the Tribunal summaries said they had to turn to classified “evidence” — “evidence” withheld from the captives, really exposes how unreliable the Tribunals were.

    When the Supreme Court directed the DoD to hold Tribunals it was clearly their intention that the captive have a meaningful opportunity to try to refute the allegations that were being used to justify their detention. It seems to me that holding Tribunals where practically every captive was held based on evidence they couldn’t review and try to refute showed contempt of the Supreme Court, and the officials responsible (Rumsfeld, England?) should have been charged with contempt of court.

    The decision to design procedures that did not allow captives to effectively review and try to refute the justifications for their detention was unfair. Unfortunately, it appears that this unfairness does not really concern much of the journalist community, and much of the general public. But they should be very concerned that continuing to hold innocent men has made the public less safe.

    The interrogations at Guantanamo of men who didn’t know anything can only produce wild goose chases — trigger the waste of resources.

    One of the deeply unpleasant facts about the OARDEC proceedings is that the officers were authorized to recommend continued detention of innocent men. Men who are seen as important witnesses in other captives’ military commissions have been held even though they had no tie to terrorism.

    In addition, however, it is clear from some of the transcripts that the officers in some of the annual review hearings were prepared to recommend the continued detention of men who they recognized had been innocent civilian bystanders when captured if they couldn’t explain why years of unjust detention and association with radicals within the camp hadn’t radicalized them.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. You spell out clearly how, through the tribunals, the Bush administration treated the Supreme Court with contempt, which is important, especially — as you also mention — because so few journalists have been bothered to understand that.

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    FogBelter Sfo wrote:

    Excellent Andy.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, FogBelter. Good to hear from you.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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