(click here for graphic source)
For a long time NPR news has minimized (June 2006), dismissed (February 2007), ignored (April 2007), covered over (October 2007), and collaborated with (December 2007) the use of torture by agencies and agents of the US government. You can search NPR news in vain for any original investigative work on exposing torture or on any serious elucidation of the laws and conventions that prohibit the US from committing torture and require prosecution for violators.
Yesterday and today feature NPR continuing its function of justifying and sanitizing the US torture regime. On Monday's ATC, Alex Spielgel provides a long and sympathetic venue to torture psychologist and apologist Bryce Lefever. I posted this brief critique on NPR's website:
Norris says Spiegel is letting Lefever offer a "different view"? Different from what? When has NPR offered a thorough investigative critique of the war crimes committed by Lefever and his cohorts? NPR can barely even use the word torture when it covers these crimes. Norris also sees no irony in mentioning that Lefever went to work at Bagram in 2002 (that was a pleasant time there!).Then on Tuesday morning Dina Temple-Raston is on to critique what Steve Inskeep describes as "the strongest argument for torture...the ticking time bomb scenario...." This is interesting, to say the least, since NPR has been a promoter of this argument before. As it turns out the report is not much of a critique.
It doesn't surprise me that liars and sadists like Lefever did what they did. What is disgusting is how NPR and other "news" outlets aided and abetted these torturers through refusing to report, cover and investigate the torture story that was breaking as early as 2002. And now NPR insults us by offering a "different view"? What a sad excuse for journalism...uggghhh.
Temple-Raston's strongest critic is CIA-award-winning terrorism scholar Bruce Hoffman who states that "I've personally been told that they happen...but I have to admit...I've become increasingly skeptical...." To his credit he notes that the ticking time bomb scenario "becomes a default assumption, which in turn...becomes a legitimization or justification for torture...I've yet to see an actual documented case independently of what I was told."
Not a bad start, but in the ever shifting world of NPR moral relativism we have to get the "other side" on this one. Who better than a former member of the torture organization itself, former CIA agent Michael Scheuer, who we get to hear claim, "I happen to know at least through 2004 these activities were very productive, broke up plots aimed at our allies, and aimed against the domestic United States." Finally we are told that Michael Hayden claims torture produced good intelligence, while the FBI claims that's not true.
One of the most striking features of NPR's coverage of the torture issue is how rarely the featured "experts" are human rights or international law advocates or experts. Instead they are usually members or former members of various US government agencies - frequently of the very ones implicated in formulating and carrying out torture. Why is the flimsy "ticking time bomb" given a place of prominence and treated as worthy of debate? Why isn't the role of torture as an assault on the rule of law considered, or the way in which US torture is typical of all occupiers and imperialists, or the fact that most tortured detainees are innocent? Who decided that the only legitimate questions are whether torture "works" or what situations make it okay. NPR's framing of the "debate" gives legitimacy to torture and decontextualizes its historic role as a repulsive and pornographic tool of state terror which always falls most heavily on those who have done nothing but resist the repressive actions of the torture state.