The only “official” American reaction to Danner’s disclosure came from an anonymous “U.S. official familiar with the ICRC report” who “noted that the claims of abuse were made by the alleged terrorists themselves.” That is true, of course, but the report points out that many prisoners described identical experiences, even though all of them have been kept in solitary confinement, and none of them has had a chance to check their stories with each other. That is one reason to believe their accounts are credible.
Danner’s piece got plenty of coverage from The Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, the Cuban, IslamOnline, and the Australian and Xinhua (Chinese) press agencies–but no mention on any of the evening network news broadcasts, or in the news pages of The New York Times.
Deputy Washington bureau chief Douglas Jehl explained the news judgement of the Times to FCP this way:
We did look closely at the Mark Danner material, both what first appeared in the Times op-ed on Sunday and what appeared in the New York Review of Books. Our judgment was that it didn’t merit an additional news story, and that the op-ed sufficed for our readers. Based on the disclosure in Jane Mayer’s book, we had already reported in the times last July that ICRS investigators had[said that] the treatment of high-value detainees amounted to torture, based on interviews with those detainees. That New York Times article, published on July 11, 2008, also included specific details of their treatment as described in Ms. Mayer’s book.
What Mr. Danner wrote included some new details but not enough to merit an additional news story, in our careful consideration.
Jehl’s position is understandable. But by not writing any story, at the very least, the Times missed the fact that Danner’s scoop had substantially increased the pressure on Congress to pursue the kind of truth commission that Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy has been championing.
The same day Danner’s excerpted piece appeared in The New York Times, former vice president Cheney was giving yet another despicable performance on CNN. In an interview with John King, Cheney asserted that the Obama administration was making the country more vulnerable to attack, by announcing its intention to close Guantánamo, and by banning the lovely interrogation techniques described above.
In a short news story about Cheney’s appearance, the Times once again credulously repeated the former vice president’s claim that “those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11”–and once again failed to point out that no less an authority than F.B.I. director Robert Mueller has said that there is no evidence that torture has prevented any attacks on America.
And as Scott Horton noted in a Harper’s piece, “In the view of the Washington press corps…the controversy about the Cheney interview stemmed not from the pathetic performance that King put in, but from events of the following day.”
When White House spokesman Robert Gibbs ridiculed Cheney’s remarks, this was the echoed reaction of network news correspondents at the White House: “Can I ask you, when you referred to the former vice president, that was a really hard-hitting, kind of sarcastic response you had,” said Chip Reid of CBS. “This is a former Vice President of the United States. Is that the attitude–is that the sanctioned tone toward the former vice president off the United States from this White House now?”
But let’s give President Obama the last word on Cheney’s outrageous claim. This is what the president said about the torture/terror issue on 60 Minutes yesterday:
I fundamentally disagree with Dick Cheney. Not surprisingly. You know, I think that Vice President Cheney has been at the head of a movement whose notion is somehow that we can’t reconcile our core values, our Constitution, our belief that we don’t torture, with our national security interests. I think he’s drawing the wrong lesson from history.
The don’t facts bear him out. I think he is, that attitude, that philosophy has done incredible damage to our image and position in the world. I mean, the fact of the matter is after all these years how many convictions actually came out of Guantánamo? How many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney? It hasn’t made us safer. What it has been is a great advertisement for anti-American sentiment. Which means that there is constant effective recruitment of Arab fighters and Muslim fighters against U.S. interests all around the world.
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