Sunday, December 16, 2007

Spoof News - Better Late Than Never, Sort of

I have to comment on Friday's ATC report on the ACLU lawsuit against Jeppesen Dataplan company. This story is striking for NPR news in that it actually sheds some light on the US torture and abuse of detainees in the so called war on terror, but it was troubling for several reasons.

If often strikes me how NPR is so unbelievably late to covering such stories, and only follows once the path has been cleared and well trod. According to the Sourcewatch entry on Jeppesen, the foreign press (Spain and Portugal) first implicated the company in CIA torture flights back in the summer of 2005. But as early as October 2006 The New Yorker was reporting on the Jeppesen involvement in torture flights. However, if you search NPR, you'll only find a mention of Jeppesen on Morning Edition back in May 2007 when the ACLU filed the suit, and then on this past Friday's show. You get a sense that NPR waits until the evidence is practically handed to it before daring to do investigative reporting. Siegel opens up the piece by stating "there is now a sworn court declaration lending weight to allegation that the CIA flew terror suspects to secret locations for interrogation." Allegation? Guess what Siegel? There was a September 2006 report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (go to page 84 in PDF) confirming the CIA "rendition" of suspect Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi to Egypt where he was tortured into falsely claiming an al-Qaeda connection to Iraq (his confession was the "hard evidence" Powell presented at the UN before the US invasion of Iraq).

Another problem with this report is how NPR often minimizes the atrocities committed by the US or its allies. In describing a detainee's description of his time in the hell of US detention prisons in Afghanistan, Shapiro tells us "there's some familiar details here, sleep deprivation, loud music. He says he tried to commit suicide three times, once by trying to hang himself, once with pills and once through slashing his wrists." Sleep deprivation, loud about down playing the real horrors of the US secret prisons. Shapiro also closes the description on an upbeat tone noting, "toward the end when his treatment improved...even describes a movie library that include European soccer films and Jackie Chan movies."

I think the most revolting aspect of the piece was the cavalier chuckling of Robert Siegel during the interview with Shapiro. You'd never know that the information they are discussing involves the most barbarous treatment of human beings imaginable and the official participation of our government in it. Shapiro is describing the sworn testimony of an employee of Jeppesen and there is this sickening interaction:
"he later described an instructor of his saying we do spook flights, and this is a quote: 'I specifically asked him whether he had said spoof flights [Siegel chuckles lightly] or spook flights [Siegel chuckles heartily] and he replied spook flights.'"
(graphic is from Jeppesen's website)


Porter Melmoth said...

Yeah, I heard the same report, and I didn't even bother to get mad, especially at the chuckling. True to form in every respect. Those two guys talk about issues like they're gods on Mt Olympus having tea and crumpets while fiddling with a petri dish. Sometimes they sound like mock-sophisticated villains in the old 'Man From U.N.C.L.E.' TV series. (Where are Napoleon and Ilya when we need them!)

I think that NPR follows up on stories like this when it's safe because they don't want to injure the sensitivities of their predominately delicate audience. If those higher-educated middle/upper class folks get too many 'scary' concepts coming at them, they'll switch to Sirius or somewhere else, and those conscientious checks'll stop coming.
Plus, they have their Neocon/corporate interests to obey, which they cheerfully do. The mandate's come down time and again: go soft on controversies, unless it's the 'right' controversy. The timidity of NPR has long ago invalidated it as a cutting edge news source.

Just for curiosity, I wanted a bio of Ari Shapiro that wasn't the NPR version, so I turned to good old Wikipedia, and yes, there's a substantial entry. There was even a link to his commitment ceremony pictures! Family stuff!
Egads, I felt like a sleazy voyeur or something, lurking behind the bushes at that posh Napa pad. Everybody was having a terrific time, I must say. (No, I WON'T provide a link!) Hey, with the internet, why make such a big deal out of a few wiretappings here and there?

Anonymous said...

Awww, how cwute. Cheekle's quite the chuckly ol' elf, and always game for a little clever wordplay (no matter the portent of those words). Also caught that stinky segment as described, and it sure did smell funny in my car. But heck, we must consider the source.

Swear, if they ever arrange a double bill of Cheekle & Scotty together in the studio - two of the most mamby-pamby male personalities Network Prestige Receding ever wrought on their unfortunate listeners - I will sledgehammer my radio receiver without remorse.