warprompts

What’s Worth 72 Words in the Washington Post?

Listen to Andy Worthington on Counterspin discuss press coverage of the people released with Sami-al-Haj:

Sami al-Haj, the Al Jazeera cameraman recently released after six years in the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo, is back in his native Sudan. As the only journalist believed held in Guantamo, Al Haj’s story has become well known around the world. It is less well-known in the US-al-Haj’s May 1st release merited just a 72 word squib in the Washington Post, and a short report on page 14 of the New York Times.

Still less attention has been paid to the other Guantanamo detainees who were released with Al Haj. Journalist Andy Worthington will join us to tell their stories. He is the author of “The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison.”

Read the fascinating piece, Why the Police Wouldn’t Tase Me, by a journalist who asked to be tasered:

At lunch break, Cpl. Gillis shows up and says the lawyers got cold feet about the plan to zap me. “As you learned this morning, there’s risk of injury,” says the 43-year-old RCMP expert in taser training who has been exposed more than 20 times during training and compares its effects to the muscle burn of a gym workout. “You could potentially tear a muscle and we would be on the hook for your medical expenses and loss of income. You could come after us for pain and discomfort.”

I had been questioning my sanity for days, particularly after seeing a video of La Toya Jackson voluntarily zapped (in the back). But now I feel like a dinner guest promised a full meal that never materializes. Why can’t I sign my life away with a waiver? Gillis says he’ll make another call during lunch. “My school of thought is that if we’re saying this is safe for use on the public, why not?” offers Gillis.

Back in the classroom, Tarasoff hands us each a loaded X-26 Taser and then goes over recent policy and protocol changes. Example: even if they draw a Taser on a subject, they will have to file a report by the end of shift, not within 15 days, “because people haven’t been completing the forms.” Officers are now also allowed to remove the barbed darts from the subject instead of waiting for a medical officer, unless they’ve hit “sensitive areas” like eyes and genitals.

‘Excited delirium’ situations

“Remember that if the situation dictates, you can use multiple applications,” Tarasoff says once again. “If the subject is in the grips of a mental health crisis or has excited delirium (ED), they’ll need medical assistance ASAP. In order for EHS to intervene, they first have to be restrained and under control. It falls on us to do that. With ED, the use of a taser in probe deployment mode may be the most effective response to establish control.”

This is another surprising recommendation. The American Civil Liberties Union says Taser International uses the diagnosis to “whitewash” in-custody deaths and the Canadian government report specifically called for restricting use with ED subjects. “Right now [the report author] is putting out off-the-cuff comments if you will,” Gillis responds. “Where’s the meat and potatoes? We have to go on science and the leading medical expert in this country Christine Hall [a BC ER physician] is still saying, ‘Look this is better than fighting with these people and traditional methods.’ So as a result we’re going to continue to use it in ED cases.”

Background — another post on tasers:

The Ethics of Selling Tasers to Governments Who Torture

June 1, 2008 Posted by | Media Criticism, Torture News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lexis Hits on Sami al-Haj’s Release

Let’s play the Glenn Greenwald game and see how much the mainstream media covered al-Haj’s release:

Lexis hits, 05/01/08-05/05/08

Sami al-Haj:

US Newspapers and Wires — 20 hits

Transcripts of News programs — 8 hits, not one from a network or cable newscast

Federal News Service — 4

CQ Transcriptions — 2

Global Broadcast Database — 2

Jeremiah Wright

US Newspapers and Wires — 695

Transcripts of News Programs — 245

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Media Criticism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sami al-Haj’s Release from Guantanamo Bay

Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj was finally released from Guantanamo. He arrived in his native Sudan on the evening of May 1, 2008.

Alternet reported:

After four and a half months of inexplicable inertia, the U.S. administration has finally seen fit to release another group of prisoners from Guantánamo, including the Sudanese al-Jazeera cameraman and journalist Sami al-Haj. Despite claims from within the administration that it was hoping to scale down the operation at Guantánamo, no prisoners have been released since December 2007, when two other Sudanese prisoners, 13 Afghans, ten Saudis and three British residents were released…

The most celebrated Guantánamo prisoner — at least in the Middle East — Sami, whose story was reported at AlterNet just a few weeks ago, was seized by Pakistani forces on December 15, 2001, apparently at the behest of the U.S. authorities, who suspected that he had conducted an interview with Osama bin Laden. As with much of their supposed intelligence, this turned out to be false, but as his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, the Director of the legal action charity Reprieve (which represents Sami and 34 other Guantánamo prisoners), explained last year, “name me a journalist who would turn down a bin Laden scoop.

The same author also wrote a powerful piece on the other prisoners released with Sami al-Haj:

On the cargo plane containing Sami al-Haj that landed in Khartoum in the early hours of May 2 were Amir Yacoub al-Amir and Walid Ali, who, like Sami, were bound like beasts for their journey despite finally being transported to freedom. Both had also been held for over six years without charge or trial, but unlike Sami, whose plight was widely publicized by al-Jazeera, by his lawyers at the legal action charity Reprieve, and by groups campaigning for the rights of journalists, including the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Sans Frontières, both of these men had barely registered on the media’s radar.

And here’s some other coverage of his release:

The U.S. War on Journalists by Amy Goodman

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 10 journalists have been held for extended periods by the U.S. military and then released without charge. Just weeks ago in Iraq, the U.S. military released Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein after holding him without charge for two years. The military had once accused Hussein of being a “terrorist media operative who infiltrated the AP.”

Andy Worthington reported just weeks before al-Haj’s release

As the years wore on, however, the irrepressible spirit recalled by all those who had met Sami before his imprisonment, and which also impressed Stafford Smith, was ground down by a particular despair that is perhaps unknowable to those who are not imprisoned without charge, without trial, with no contact with family or friends, and with no way of knowing when, if ever, this regime of almost total isolation will come to an end.

On January 7, 2007, the fifth anniversary of his detention without trial by the US, Sami embarked on a hunger strike, which continues to this day. In common with the small number of other persistent hunger strikers, he is strapped into a restraint chair twice a day and force-fed against his will. Clive Stafford Smith explained the brutality of the procedure, the reason the authorities are doing it, and also why it is illegal to do so, in an article last October.

Listen/Read the 2007 Democracy Now! program on al-Haj and fellow imprisoned journalist, Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein.

The release of BBC reporter Alan Johnston earlier this month after 114 days in captivity in Gaza made headlines around the world and was hailed internationally as a victory for press freedom.

During Johnston’s nearly four months in captivity, calls for his release came from world leaders and human rights organizations alike. Over 200,000 people signed an online petition calling for him to be freed.

But perhaps the most poignant of Johnston’s supporters came from deep within the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Sami al-Haj, an Al Jazeera cameraman who had been jailed without charge at Guantanamo for the past five-and-a-half years, sent a letter via his lawyer calling for Johnston’s release. He wrote, “While the United States has kidnapped me and held me for years on end, this is not a lesson that Muslims should copy.”

In comparison to journalist Alan Johnston, Sami al-Haj’s story of abduction has been largely ignored by the corporate media, kept out of the global spotlight.

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Torture News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment