NPR Defends Torture-Based Reporting

But network's ombud agrees with critics

Noting that an October 26 report based on torture-based confessions "generated a lot of response," on November 1 NPR's Morning Edition attempted to address the concerns voiced by FAIR activists and others. The explanation offered by reporter Anne Garrels and anchor Steve Inskeep dodged the main issues raised in FAIR's October 30 Action Alert. But NPR's new ombud Alicia Shepard agreed with the main criticisms made by FAIR activists, writing in an email response to listeners that "evidence obtained through torture is not credible, nor is it good journalistic practice." Garrels and Inskeep raised several points irrelevant to the issue--stressing […]


NPR Gives Torture Credibility

Report treats torture-based confessions as news

Good journalists don't base their stories on highly dubious "facts." And they try to avoid reports that will encourage violence. Unfortunately, a recent segment on NPR's Morning Edition (10/26/07) violated both rules. NPR Iraq correspondent Anne Garrels' report was based around the accounts of three men who were being held prisoner by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's militia. The captives were supposedly "renegade" members of Sadr's militia who said "they were trained in roadside bombs and car bombings in attack Americans and sow suspicion and violence between Shiites and Sunnis." The details of the prisoners' accounts made up much of […]


David Cole on torture 'ban,' Dean Baker on economic myths


Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: the White House is hailing George W. Bush's latest executive order as a strong statement against torture, but the claims have been met by a remarkably skeptical press corps. We'll talk to Georgetown law professor and author David Cole about the president's supposed torture ban and the press reaction to it. Also on the program: The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit 14,000 recently and if you’re not excited well you’re just not paying attention—at least that’s corporate media’s line, and they’re sticking to it. We’ll talk to Dean Baker of the Center for Economic […]


Alfred McCoy on Torture, Ali Abunimah on Rice's Mideast Trip


Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: The depiction of torture on primetime TV has reportedly increased since 2001; this is particularly so in scenes where supposed "good guys" are the torturers. But as TV dramas and policy discussions portraying torture in a positive light are on the rise, so too are myths about torture's effectiveness and regrettable necessity. We'll talk to University of Wisconsin history Professor Alfred McCoy, the author of A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror. Also on the show: Was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent trip to the […]


From Official Claims to Media Reality

Editor's Note

The Washington Post website early on December 9 featured three headlines that committed the same journalistic error: They treated as fact things that were revealed in the articles that they linked to as disputed claims. In each case, the effect was to treat assertions made by U.S. government officials as undisputed reality. One headline was “Officials Not Liable for Detainee Torture.” When you clicked on it, you found the more accurate headline “U.S. Denies Liability in Torture Case: Attorney Urges Dismissal of Detainee Suit Against Officials.” In other words, officials said they don’t want to be liable for detainee torture. […]


Naomi Klein on torture, Eric Boehlert on Sami al-Arian

Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to Europe last week to talk about torture—but it was hard for the press to parse exactly what she was saying. Writer Naomi Klein will join us to talk about something else that's missing from the current discussion of torture—namely, the history of US support for the practice around the world. Also this week: The Bush Justice Department was embarrassed when a Florida jury acquitted Palestinian activist and academic Sami Al Arian of many key terrorism-related crimes, and deadlocked on remaining charges. But media figures who were invested […]


Norman Solomon on Iraq withdrawal, Onnesha Roychoudhuri on the Wall Street Journal & torture

Download MP3 A Democratic Congressman and combat veteran called for a timetable to pull troops out of Iraq, and suddenly media are talking about a "tipping point" in debate on the war. How real a shift has there been, and is withdrawal from Iraq, an idea that garners major support from the public, really something the pundit class is ready to take seriously? We'll talk with author and media critic Norman Solomon about getting out of Iraq. Also on the show: While evidence that the White House has officially sanctioned torture has been mounting, the Wall Street Journal editorial page […]


Torture and the 'Controversial' Arc of Injustice

Several decades ago, “controversial” subjects in news media included many issues that are now well beyond controversy. During the first half of the 1960s, fierce arguments raged in print and on the airwaves about questions like: Does a black person (a “Negro,” in the language of the day) have the right to sit at a lunch counter, or stay at a hotel, the same way that a white person does? Should the federal government insist on upholding such rights all over the country? Some agonizing disputes, in the media and on the ground, came to a climax with passage of […]