The following article from civil liberties advocate and reporter Glenn Greenwald can be read in full on his blog, but I have posted certain excerpts that I found most relevant to the larger conversation of subservient journalism by the MSM.
Glenn’s commentary is in response to the way in which intrepid investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill’s most recent article on CIA black sites used for interrogation in Somalia has been both distorted, as well as largely ignored by the MSM. Glenn has a long track-record of calling out “journalists” who are really just PR mouthpieces for the establishment.
And just a quick note on Jeremy Scahill. Anyone not familiar with Mr. Scahill’s work needs to start by reading his pioneering book on the new private military establishment (Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army). I read this book when it first came out in 2007, and it completely changed my understanding of the military industrial complex and the new mercenary contract force. It took a lot of guts for Jeremy to write this book. It is a must-read, and I do not say this about many books.
Now for Glenn’s article:
While the establishment media has been largely ignoring Scahill’s revelations, a few particularly government-pleasing journalists have been dutifully following the CIA’s script in order to undermine the credibility of Scahill’s story. CNN’s long-time Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr — one of the most reliable DoD stenographers in the nation (she actually announced that the real Abu Ghraib scandal was the unauthorized release of the photographs, not the abuse they depicted) – has been predictably tapped by the CIA to take the lead in this effort. Earlier this week, Starr filed a truly incredibly report – based exclusively on a “U.S. official” to whom she naturally granted anonymity — that had no purpose other than to refute Scahill’s report even though Starr never once mentioned that report:
Starr pretended that this was a headline-making scoop for CNN — that a CIA official had bravely revealed some sort of unauthorized secret to her: that the CIA ”helps” interrogate a “very small” number of Terrorism suspects in Somalia in a “support” role — when it was plainly nothing more than an effort to undermine Scahill’s report by claiming that the CIA’s role was extremely limited (nothing more than a little help given to the Somalis) and that it was Somalia that controlled, ran and maintained responsibility for the prison. Not only did Starr never mention the key facts — that this prison is kept secret from the ICRC and imprisons detainees without due process who are rendered from other nations at the behest of the U.S. and that the CIA pays the agents there — but she also helpfully wrote down that “the CIA gets assurances from the [Somali government] that detainees will not be mistreated” and that the real significance of the story is that it “underscores the growing U.S. concern about the rise of terrorist networks in the region.”
In sum, Starr was handed a CIA press release that falsely denied the key elements of Scahill’s story, which she then disguised as an anonymous unauthorized leak that she uncovered. She slothfully and obediently disseminated CIA claims designed to minimize its role in this prison without lifting a finger to resolve the differences between those denials and the numerous facts Scahill uncovered which proved how extensive the CIA’s control of the prison (and the rendition program that fills it) actually is.
It’s not just lazy but deceitful: uncritically printing anonymous government denials while dressing it up as her own discovery (once Nation representatives complained to CNN, she tacked on this sentence at the end: “Parts of the story initially appeared in the magazine The Nation on Tuesday”). Whether it was Starr who contacted the CIA to obtain this “story” (unlikely) or the CIA which tapped Starr on the head and directed her to print this and she then dutifully complied (far more likely), this was a joint effort by the U.S. Government and its CNN servant to undermine Scahill and his story while appearing not to do so.
Serving the same purpose was this ABC News report by Luis Martinez, which at least has the virtue of being more honest than Starr’s report: ABC doesn’t pretend to do anything other than serve as obedient stenographer to the CIA by uncritically writing down and passing on the statements of an anonymous CIA official in denying Scahill’s report. Leaving aside the slovenly practice of granting anonymity to government officials to do nothing other than issue official government claims — so common a tactic of journalistic malpractice as to not merit comment at this point — the article does nothing other than print the same CIA claims without expending a molecule of energy to determine if the claims are true.
Worse, ABC allows the CIA to depict Scahill’s report as false by uncritically printing the blatant strawmen against which the CIA rails (“CIA Doesn’t Run Secret Prison in Somalia” . . . CIA ”refutes a report that the agency runs a secret prison in that unstable country” . . . “A story published in The Nation said that the CIA was running a secret prison to house and interrogate terror suspects”). The whole point of Scahill’s article is that while the Somalis exercise nominal control over the prison, that’s merely a “plausible deniability” ruse to allow the U.S. to use it at will, as evidenced by the fact that the CIA pays those agents and is continuously present. The “denials” uncritically printed by ABC confirm and bolster Scahill’s story, not “refute” it.
Worse still, the ABC report justifies the CIA program by quoting the anonymous CIA official as describing the program as “the logical and prudent thing to do.” ABC then helpfully adds that “senior U.S. officials have expressed concern that al Shabab may be trying to expand its terror operations beyond Somalia” and that ” U.S. government officials worry that those lawless regions might become a safe haven for al Shabab and other terror groups.” There is no discussion — zero — of the illegal aspects of maintaining a secret prison, the dangers of allowing unchecked renditions of prisoners to Somalia hidden from international human rights monitoring, or the likely violations of Obama’s own Executive Orders. Like Starr’s CNN report, this article is nothing more than a CIA Press Release masquerading as an ABC News “news article,” the by-product of a joint effort by the CIA and another establishment news outlet to make Scahill’s report look erroneous, sloppy and irrelevant.
Just consider what happened here. Scahill uncovered this secret prison because he went to Mogadishu — dangerously unembedded, as very few journalists are willing to do — and spent 9 days there aggressively digging around. By contrast, Starr published her report by being handed a CIA script which she blindly read from without any other work, and ABC‘s Martinez then did the same. But it’s CNN and ABC that are considered — by themselves and establishment D.C. mavens — to be the Serious Journalists, while Scahill’s report is heard only on Democracy Now and Al Jazeera. That’s because “Serious Journalism” in Washington means writing down what government officials tell you to say, and granting them anonymity to ensure they have no accountability.
Through this method, the U.S. Government need not directly attack real journalists. They simply activate their journalistic servants to do it for them, and those servants then dutifully comply, this ensuring that they will be continue to be chosen as vessels for future official messages.