Friday, 20 May 2011

Demanding the Evidence on Abbottabad: Even the Media Establishment Is Wary

Since the Navy SEAL raid in Abbottabad, we’ve been raising questions (here and here) about the stories we were told—and what we were not told.

It seems we have company in feeling that the government is not leveling with us.

The Associated Press is the establishment, and so they tend to be quite cautious. Yet look at this, as reported by Atlanticwire:

President Obama’s decision to withhold the visual evidence of Osama bin Laden’s death has created a fundamental disagreement between the White House and one of the largest journalism organizations in the world. “This information is important for the historical record,” said Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor at The Associated Press. “That’s our view.”

It’s worth pointing out that “important for the historical record” is a tactful way of dressing up the issue. The United States is supposed to be a democracy, but for a very long time the citizens have had good reason not to trust what they are told about what is done in their name, and why. (Gulf of Tonkin, Iran Contra, Weapons of Mass Destruction, on and on—name your favorite deception.)

Last Monday, the AP filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the photographic and video evidence taken during the raid on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The organization’s FOIA request included a reminder of the president’s campaign pledge and a plea to be more transparent than his predecessor. ”The Obama White House ‘pledged to be the most transparent government in U.S. history,” wrote the AP, “and to comply much more closely with the Freedom of Information Act than the Bush administration did.’”

Again, what AP presumably really meant was that there’s a staggering gap between Obama’s promise to open up government and what he has actually done. For more on this, see this recent example from the publication Secrecy News, just one of hundreds. (In this case, a report on corruption in the Afghan Central Bank was removed from the USAID website after the agency reclassified some of its contents.)

Back to the AP story:

Two days later, the president told60 Minutes he would not release any of the footage related to the raid, including video of bin Laden’s deep sea burial and photographs of his slain corpse. Though Oreskes voices his disagreement diplomatically, there’s no way around it: The AP believes the president is wrong to maintain exclusive ownership of the evidence. ”We’re asking to see it,” said Oreskes in an interview with The Atlantic Wire. “It’s about us saying we would like to make our own news judgements about news worthy material.”

Diplomatic as ever. But the difference between what members of the corporate-funded media write and what they say in private over drinks could, well, fill a newspaper. Basically, by now, even the most clueless establishment reporter is starting to get a clear sense that something ain’t right in Washington, and that it doesn’t really matter who is president or what party he calls his own. Not when powerful international interests—and hugely valuable natural resources—are at stake.


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