Accuracy in Media

A July 29 story in the Washington Post was headlined, “End of Secret Detention Urged” and was based on a United Nations report which “demanded the immediate closure of any secret U.S. detention facilities” for terrorists. Notice how the “secret prisons” allegedly maintained by the U.S., which had been “exposed” by the Washington Post in a Pulitzer Prize-winning story, had suddenly disappeared. They had become secret “detention” facilities that may or may not exist. The Post put this AP wire service story back on page 14.

We saw references to this report in newspapers around the world, in such places as the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Taiwan and Barbados.

Here are some of the headlines, as reported by Google:

  • UN: US Must Close Secret Prisons

  • US Should Close All Secret Prisons

  • UN Panel to US: Close Secret Prisons

  • US Under Fire for Secret Prisons

  • US Slammed Over Secret Prisons

Please note that the report never mentioned “secret prisons.”

In a news release, the ACLU said that the U.N. report had “called for the immediate end to secret detention and closure of all secret detention facilities?” In fact, the report cited “credible and uncontested information” that the U.S. had been “detaining people secretly and in secret places?” But it did not cite that information.

We assume, of course, that the U.N. is referring to the Dana Priest story in the Post about the “secret prisons.” But we have torn that article to pieces in several columns.

Meanwhile, Dana Priest makes an appearance in the August issue of Playboy magazine, not in a photo spread, but as a contributor on the subject of “Why Are We in Iraq?” Another contributor is Ted Chapman, Overdrive 2005 Trucker of the Year. Among other insights, Priest the peacenik insists that:

  • It’s “not a good thing” that “it’s hard to get critical stories on the front page” about the U.S. going to war.

  • It’s “easier to go to war than it should be, because government bureaucracy has created a dominant military force.”

  • “Alternatives to fighting don’t look realistic, because we haven’t made realistic alternatives.”

  • “When you fashion the government so that the military is the only effective tool to get something done, you’re always going to choose a military option.”

Finally, Priest complains that “The right’s argument against the media is that we’ve committed treason and should be locked up.”

Our position is that the New York Times story on the classified NSA terrorist surveillance story was a violation of the law and that the paper should be prosecuted. But the Dana Priest story on “secret prisons” cannot necessitate the prosecution of her paper because there is no proof that it was true.

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