Friday, January 01, 2010

Civilians, Terrorists, and Cold-blooded Killers

(Image by - click here for original)

I guess it's a challenge for a CIA-friendly news organization like NPR to decide how to report on an attack on a military base that kills CIA operatives. When the story broke in the evening on Dec. 30th the first reports out of Afghanistan referred to civilians being killed on a military base (which did seem odd). By Thursday morning, the BBC was already reporting that the dead were not "civilians" but CIA operatives. Given the CIA's history of murder and assassination, and its current role in military operations and extrajudicial killings in Af-Pak, you might expect that they would be referred to as paramilitary or irregular forces or simply CIA agent/operatives.

On Thursday morning, NPR's mouthpiece in Afghanistan, Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson still hadn't figured out that no civilians were killed in the attack on the military base in Khost. She told Steve Inskeep that the suicide bomber
"ended up killing eight American civilians here, killing one Afghan and wounding up to a half dozen more."
As the day wore on NPR's top-of-the hour (TOTH) news bulletins had stopped calling the dead civilians - but now the lethal suicide-attack inside a heavily fortified military base housing CIA operatives was transformed into...a terrorist attack! Newsreader Lakshmi Singh, at midday was stating,
"The CIA says 7 of its employees were killed and six others wounded in a terrorist attack yesterday in Afghanistan. The officers were working in a base in the southeastern province of Khost."
By Thursday afternoon (Dec. 31), the reporting on the attack had morphed into a somber tribute to the noble CIA and all that sacrifices if has made to keep the world safe. Mary Louise Kelly was given the assignment for ATC and she talked to Robert Siegel about it.
Siegel: "And what kind of work were they doing in Khost province?"

Kelly: "Well, the agency is not confirming any specifics....But it's safe to assume that they were doing what CIA types do in remote areas of the world, which is help identify enemy targets, also help recruit locals who can serve as CIA agents, perhaps what was they were trying to do here." [Silly me, I thought they tortured and killed people, propped up dictators, and helped overthrow democratically elected governments.]

Kelly later goes on to note that seven is a very high number of fatalities for the CIA to have in one day:

"...And it's interesting, you know, you walk into CIA headquarters today, walk into the original headquarters building and on the big wall on the left, as you enter, is a wall of stars. Each star representing one of the CIA officers who gave their life in service - was killed in action. Now on that wall there are 90 stars. Remarkable really when you think about how dangerous that line of work is and how long..." [I'm just guessing that Kelly is very familiar with the inside of CIA headquarters.]
Siegel interrupts, "It's a very small number for all these years."

Kelly responds, "Exactly. They've been doing it for six decades now. So, that helps, I think, give some perspective on how devastating it is to have lost seven in one day." They definitely have been doing it...and if there were one star for every poor soul killed as a result of CIA "service" there wouldn't be a wall big enough to put them all on.


gopinator said...

John Stockwell is unusually revealing about the Agency. Do you think he'll be getting a spot on TOTN?

Nate Bowman said...

In addition to everything else you do MM, thanks for the wordle link.

am said...

I've frequently been disturbed by MLK's solemnly reverential "reports" about the CIA, which resemble publicity pieces far more than they do journalism. Surely it is possible to be respectful about the CIA's grievous recent losses without straying into the kind of sentimental boosterism in which she frequently engages; surely it is also possible to maintain a competent journalist's basic level of critical detachment about the aims and objectives of an agency with such a dark, unpleasant history. Her interview with National Counterterrorism Center Director Mike Leiter on Saturday was marked by the same obsequiousness and eagerness to make powerful figures who deserve our intelligent skepticism seem as likable and admirable as possible. Thanks as usual for the sanity and sense, MM.

Anonymous said...

I think it was this report or a previous one after the suicide bombing that stated that inside the CIA people were thinking of how avenge the deaths of the fellow CIA workers. That sounds like strange language from the CIA. Or not so strange. An eye for an eye anyone?