Mary Jo White, Tough on Torture Victims

Mary Jo White

Mary Jo White found a visit to Guantanamo “enormously satisfying” (cc photo: SEC)

In a new piece, Time magazine (4/3/14) is trying to show that Securities & Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White will be tough on crooked bankers. But the example that the piece leads off with as evidence of this is downright bizarre: White supports force-feeding Guantanamo prisoners.

Time reporter Massimo Calabresi cheers White for being tough but not partisan–he notes that “she has also lifted barriers on businesses, to the dismay of some liberals.” But it’s the opening paragraph that really stands out. 

Calabresi writes:

There is a room at the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay where hunger-striking Al-Qaeda suspects are strapped to chairs and force-fed through tubes in their noses. Mary Jo White is one of the few outsiders to have seen this in operation, watching as more than a dozen inmates had their meals administered to them. White went to the prison at the behest of President Barack Obama in 2009 to report on conditions there. Rather than confirm allegations of torture from human-rights groups and the UN, she concluded that the force-feedings were humane. And what was her general impression of Gitmo? Sitting in her sprawling, light-filled office overlooking the US Capitol, White sounds like a prosecutor. “It was enormously satisfying to see how well run the facility was,” she says.

So while human rights groups and international observers all condemn the force-feeding of prisoners–many of whom are being held in legal limbo without charge or trial–White says things are just fine. 

Guantanamo prisoners (cc photo: Shane T. McCoy/US Navy)

White says it’s “humane” to force-feed Guantanamo prisoners like these; the UN calls it “torture” (cc photo: Shane T. McCoy/US Navy)

This is evidence of…what, exactly? That this shows she’ll make a good government regulator?  More plausibly, it shows that she is ready and willing to adopt the official line–which is certainly not that big banks need to be held accountable when they commit crimes (Extra!, 1/14).

White also once wrote that she didn’t think waterboarding was illegal. (Read a refutation from Human Rights First–11/15/07.) Would that also bolster her get-tough credentials?

The piece closes by coming back to Guantanamo, asking White about what it’s going to take to be a good SEC chair:

When asked that very question, White says she wants to be able to say she “did a good job and was a strong leader of a strong agency.” You get the idea that anyone looking for more on what that means can start with the inmates at Guantanamo Bay.

Mary Jo White says our torture prison is well-run, and that, for Time, is a sign she’ll do a good job.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.