They Don’t Walk the Walk

Todayís has an interesting post by Harold Hutchinson. (Post dated March 7, 2006.) The post discusses a recent decision by a Federal judge which forced the release of the names of more than 500 detainees currently being held at Gitmo. The court case was brought by the Associated Press in order to force the DoD to comply with a Freedom of Information request that they had filed.

Hutchinson says that the decision is a great victory for our terrorist enemy in the Global War on Terror, and compares it to the Axis powers in WWII learning that their codes had been broken by the Allies.

I donít know enough about the intelligence gathered through interrogations at Gitmo to know if Hutchinsonís assessment of the damage to our efforts is hyperbole or not, but it is certain that one point he made in his short essay is correct. The release of this information will put the lives of those who cooperated in the capture of the detainees at risk. Not only that but, knowing something about the feud mentality of most terrorists, the lives of their families will also be in jeopardy.

Letís be very clear about this. Innocent people will probably die.

Most of the major US news organizations recently refused to print the Danish cartoons lampooning Mohammed which had sparked riots across the world. The reason given for withholding information vital to a full understanding of current events was a concern for showing the proper respect to Islam. Many pundits, myself included, rejected that claim and speculated that the people who made this decision were motivated out of fear. They simply didnít want to become the target of retaliation.

The concern for safety goes out the window when the lives at risk are of faceless foreigners living far away. So an entire family might be dragged from their house and shot to death in the street? Maybe the AP can get some pictures!

A free press is absolutely necessary for a free society. People who seek to make journalism a career usually claim that they are motivated by the highest of ideals. Their rhetoric isnít supported by their actions.

9 thoughts on “They Don’t Walk the Walk”

  1. Most of the major US news organizations recently refused to print the Dutch cartoons lampooning Mohammed which had sparked riots across the world.

    It is Danish cartoons, no?


  2. As of this timestamp, the USA Today article linked goes to a different FOIA controversy brought by EPIC over the warrantless surveillance program.

  3. The magnitude of this counter-intelligence coup is staggering considering some of the high-level al Qaeda personnel the United States is known to have in custody. The revelations forced by the Associated Press’s FOIA request could be compared with the Japanese knowing about American code breaking efforts in 1942.

    I think that’s overplaying it a wee bit. Saying ‘This is who we’ve captured.’ is a long way from saying ‘This is all we’ve found out and this is how we found it out.’

    I also see/understand both viewpoints here. From the DOD’s/CIA’s point of view, keeping AQ from even knowing who’s been captured has value in and of itself. On the other hand, apparently the judge found a basis in law for ruling that the names must released and the AP (much as I generally loathe them) is simply holding them to the law. You might have qualms with the law, but that’s not the AP’s fault. If the DOD/DOJ feel they do have a right to withold the names, they are free to appeal the decision. That’s the appropriate course of action.

    I’m also sceptical of the government’s position on the related surveillance issue. Power tranferred away from citizens to our political and police overlords has a way of staying with them for ever more. Better to go very, very carefully down that path and with clear cut rules. I think people have right and a clear responsibility to say, in essence, ‘no carte blanche’ on surveillance. Police states begin that way. And yes, it can happen here. It can happen anywhere the citizens are either actively willing to hand their liberties away or to sleepy to notice when they’re being taken away – usually for “their own good” or “their own protection”. Sing me a song of tyranny and I’ll point to each note in the original score where the citizens participated in their own enslavement.

  4. The game that is being played is one of intimidation of our enemies. A player in AQ drops off the net. They could have lost their nerve, converted to catholicism, gotten hit by a bus, been converted to a smear on the pavement by a hellfire missile, or been snatched, interrogated, and broken in Gitmo. Only the last requires the drastic measures of breaking up cells, abandoning plans, and reformulating codes, keys, and methods that the guy knew about.

    The more uncertainty created in AQs mind, the more they will fall into one of two errors. They will either continue to use codes and keys that are compromised or they will abandon same even though they remain secure and regroup unnecessarily.

    By clarifying who dropped off the net and ended up in Gitmo, this game has been called in favor of AQ. That’s the real coup for the other side.

  5. As of this timestamp, the USA Today article linked goes to a different FOIA controversy brought by EPIC over the warrantless surveillance program.

    Yeah, Yahoo also shifts the stories around like that. Write a post and link to a news story, and a few hours later the link leads to something completely different. That’s why I like to use the BBC and Fox News if I can. They generally don’t play games like that.

    I’ve linked to the story on the AP’s own website. Hopefully it will stay put.


  6. Michael Hiteshew,

    Police states begin that way.

    Actually, they don’t.

    The very common idea that police states arise from the gradual accumulation of police powers has no basis in reality. It remains an hypothesis. It could happen but it never actually has.

    All actual real-world police states have in fact arisen when the previous more liberal state failed to maintain basic civil order. The transition from a liberal order to an authoritarian one tends to be sudden and abrupt follow a period of increasing disorder.

    History suggest that if you want to prevent the rise of a police state focus on maintaining basic civil and economic order.

  7. Michael Hiteshew,

    You’ve really cheered me up today. But I suspect Shannon’s right on this. At least that’ss how lit looks: Creon becomes a good deal more reasonable choice if his brother-in-law is the kimd of guy who flies off the handle & kills his father & then brings disaster on the city/state by marrying his own mother; then, Creon becomes more attractive if the brothers that lead the country fight over power & start a civil war that, again, destroys the city/state. Those people weren’t relaxed enough to have an open marketplace of ideas – such bad ones had surfaced. And Hitler looks a lot better if a country’s inflation rate is phenomenal and is in chaos.

    If the internal checks don’t work well — or become atrophied, then the external ones need to be militarized. That is what we need to fear in Iraq – and perhaps Europe.

  8. I wonder about the release of these names myself. The AP wire version I remember putting in the paper I work at (I’m a copy/layout editor at a smaller daily) did mention that some names were still concealed. But I don’t have my copy of that paper with me.
    Anyways, I’m not so sure this is such a bad thing. I’m also not so sure that the retaliation thing is going to be a problem with many of them. Many probably stumbled into capture, and many have been missing for so long that those who knew them could safely assume they were dead or captured.
    And I’m way oversimplifying, but retaliation is technically a worry all the time, right? What makes this more special? Compared to other terrorist/war-crimes apprehensions, I mean.

    Per the Danish cartoons, I know a lot of journalists (and some editors) who had no qualms about publishing them, or if not, had reasoning besides fear of retaliation or a bizarre form of tolerance. Of course, almost none of them were on editorial boards, and those that were weren’t at large-enough papers for anyone to care.

    I may be underestimating the impact of this release. But, for once, I’m also reluctant to blame the AP.

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