A Fine Reporter's Fine Confession
Raymond Bonner of The New York Times is one of the best journalists in the country when it comes to covering the Bush Administration's war on terrorism. So when he offers a mea culpa about the reportage on those efforts, people all over the country, especially all you fellow journalists out there, ought to listen.
Writing in the most recent edition of the New York Review of Books, Bonner offered a piece called "The CIA's Secret Torture" (the full piece is not available online) in which he reviewed two new books about the government's efforts at "extraordinary rendition." That's the procedure where our military officials "outsource" interrogation methods to governments which are not as squeamish about torture as we are. The books offer in great detail the litany of lies the Administration has offered by way of explanation and defense for its dark efforts.
I have likewise covered this aspect of the war on terrorism for five years and what struck me most about Bonner's excellent work was the following confession he made: "Far too many reporters, including this one, have published allegations of terrorism, or of 'links to al-Qaeda' based on assertions from officials who would not be named, but who turned out to be wrong." I highlight this passage not to embarrass Bonner-- he's a better reporter than I will ever be-- but to praise his public candor about an issue-- the willingness of reporters all too often to simply regurgitate to the public what is offered to them by sources. I have seen this dynamic at play for years and years in covering the war on terrorism and while it has gotten marginally better over the past few years it still isn't good enough.
Go and find Bonner's review. It is powerful. And if you are still interested go and read the books he reviewed. It's astonishing to learn, or be reminded, of what the feds are doing in our name.
Oh, and Happy New Year.
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