Friday, May 07, 2010

The meaning of TMI

Too Much Information -- that's apparently what journalists gave out from Guantanamo this week. Omar Khadr, the Canadian-Afghan teenager who is charged with throwing a grenade at alien invaders (that's U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan), is going through a preliminary hearing at our Caribbean gulag. He's been locked up there since 2002.

A witness who the court called "Interrogator #1" testified:

"I told him a fictitious story we had invented when we were there," Interrogator #1 said. It was something "three or four" interrogators at Bagram came up with after learning that Afghans were "terrified of getting raped and general homosexuality, things of that nature."

The story went like this: Interrogator #1 would tell the detainee, "I know you’re lying about something." And so, for an instruction about the consequences of lying, Khadr learned that lying "not so seriously" wouldn’t land him in a place like "Cuba" -- meaning, presumably, Guantanamo Bay-- but in an American prison instead. And this one time, a "poor little 20-year-old kid" sent from Afghanistan ended up in an American prison for lying to an American. "A bunch of big black guys and big Nazis noticed the little Afghan didn’t speak their language, and prayed five times a day -- he's Muslim," Interrogator #1 said. Although the fictitious inmates were criminals, "they’re still patriotic," and the guards "can't be everywhere at once."

"So this one unfortunate time, he's in the shower by himself, and these four big black guys show up -- and it's terrible something would happen -- but they caught him in the shower and raped him. And it's terrible that these things happen, the kid got hurt and ended up dying," Interrogator #1 said. "It’s all a fictitious story."

Spencer Ackerman, The Washington Independent

Very sophisticated interrogation that, threatening the kid with rape -- by scary Black guys. Wonder whose nightmares these Keystone Cops were repeating?

Anyway, Mr. "Interrogator #1" turns out to be a Sgt. Joshua Claus who eventually pled guilty to assault and prisoner abuse at Bagram in Afghanistan. His name had been widely reported previously, especially in Canada where there is great interest in the Khadr case. Several reporters -- among them Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg, Toronto Star's Michelle Shepherd, Globe and Mail's Paul Koring, and Canwest's Steven Edwards -- used Claus' real name in reporting the rape threats revealed at the current hearing since they had already used it in previous reporting on detainees. In retaliation, the military has banned the four from further reporting visits to Guantanamo.

There's no secret here -- what was hidden came out a long time ago. The military kangaroo court system is simply protecting itself from the reporters who are most knowledgeable about the case and about the history of prisoner mistreatment. TMI consists of what makes the jailers uncomfortable.

UPDATE, July 10, 2010: The military has revoked its ban on the four reporters. McClatchy News is still contesting the principle of excessive military censorship (mostly ass-covering, IMnotsoHO.)

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