Saturday, April 23, 2005

Ashcroft going to court, abuses alleged in Afgahnistan, Portland concerned over FBI & Patriot Act, and White House booking torture jet?

Let's start with David Johnston's "Rice Ordered Release of German Sent to Afghan Prison in Error." Ignore the valentine to Condi and focus on the facts (they're buried deep in the article):

By then, Mr. [Khaled el-]Masri, 41, a car salesman who lives in Ulm, Germany, had been flown on a C.I.A.-chartered plane to the prison under a secret American program of transferring terror suspects from country to country for interrogation, officials said. At the prison in Kabul, Mr. Masri said, he was shackled, beaten, photographed nude and injected with drugs by interrogators who pressed him to reveal ties to Al Qaeda.
[. . .]
The disclosure of the decision to free Mr. Masri shed new light on the transfer of suspected Qaeda operatives around the world. Until now, it was believed that the transfers were carried out by the C.I.A. under presidential directives issued after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Ms. Rice's involvement suggests that the White House may have played a more hands-on role than was previously known. The officials who discussed the matter on Friday suggested that she had intervened as needed, but would not describe the extent to which national security officials at the White House were in charge.
In January, Mr. Masri's account of his ordeal was the subject of an article in The New York Times. At the time, officials at the C.I.A. and F.B.I. would not confirm or deny the details of his case, although they acknowledged that they had been contacted by the German authorities investigating his allegations of mistreatment.

Whether the way the story's assembled is the fault of David Johnston or "David Johnston" (implying others rewrote Johnston) doesn't matter. The lead isn't that sweet Condi ordered a man released -- the man had been tortured. The lead is that the NSA and, apparently, the White House were hands on involved in the use of the torture jet. That's the big news. A little less focus on Condi's belated actions and a little more focus on the news would have been appreciated in that article. It also would have been great if the Times could have gotten to the point -- to why this story matters beyond one circumstance -- before the last three paragraphs.

Eddie notes Sarah Kershaw's "In Portland, Ore., a Bid to Pull Out of Terror Task Force:"

While Mr. Potter focused heavily in his announcement yesterday on the security clearance sticking points, he indicated he was also concerned about how the F.B.I., which last year wrongly arrested and detained a Muslim resident of a Portland suburb, Brandon Mayfield, and then apologized, was handling the protection of civil rights for area citizens in their antiterrorism efforts.
City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who drafted the resolution that would remove the officers from the task force, was more blunt about his concerns about the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act and how the F.B.I. was enforcing it, including its tactics in the high-profile Mayfield case.
"It would be disingenuous to say I have not been influenced by this kind of national sense - international, really - that we have taken this hard swing to the right in terms of guaranteeing personal freedoms of the citizens of this country," Mr. Leonard said.
Referring to the F.B.I., Mr. Leonard, a former Portland fire department lieutenant, added, "We as a city are not ceding over our police officers to them."

A city commissioner cites concerns over the Patriot Act, so naturally the Times puts that at
. . . the end of the story.

Note Carlotta Gall's "U.N. Monitor of Afghan Rights Accuses U.S. on Detentions:"

A United Nations human rights monitor has accused American military forces and contractors in Afghanistan of acting above the law "by engaging in arbitrary arrests and detentions and committing abusive practices, including torture." In a report released Thursday, the Afghan police and security forces were also criticized for similar actions.
[. . .]
In particular, he raised concern about the cases of eight prisoners who died while in American custody in Afghanistan, and said the cases should be immediately investigated.
[. . .]
The reported violations included arrest and detentions of nationals and foreigners without legal authority or judicial review, and a list of abusive acts on detainees from forced nudity, hooding and sensory deprivation, to "sexual abuse, beatings, torture and use of force resulting in death."

Kara e-mails to note Raymond Bonner and Norimitsu Onishi's "Japan's Chief Apologizes for War Misdeeds:"

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Friday offered the most public apology in a decade over Japan's wartime aggression in Asia, apparently in a move to press China's top leader to meet him and to counter accusations that Japan has been whitewashing its past militarism.
[. . .]
The apology did not include anything that Mr. Koizumi's predecessors or he himself had not said before. But it came on the heels of violent anti-Japanese demonstrations in China and was made by a prime minister who has antagonized China by praying annually at Yasukuni Shrine, seen by many Asians as a symbol of unrepentant militarism, and by many Japanese simply as a place to revere the dead. The apology was also made in a public forum before world leaders, in contrast to more recent apologies, which have been issued in Japan.
Asians here, who have long accused the Japanese of lip service on the matter, greeted the apology skeptically. Those doubts deepened later Friday when a member of Mr. Koizumi's cabinet and 80 other lawmakers prayed in a spring ritual at Yasukuni Shrine, where Class A war criminals are among those enshrined.

Those are among the most powerful stories in the paper and guess what? Not a one of them made the front page.

But take a look at what Rob e-mails to highlight:

Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, left, the former Army bioterrorism expert who is suing the Justice Department for publicly naming him as a "person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax attacks, won the right in federal court to demand answers in the case from former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Judge Reggie B. Walton of Federal District Court rejected government requests to stay the deposition. The suit argues that illegal leaks to the press and public comments by Mr. Ashcroft destroyed Dr. Hatfill's repuation.

That is reduced to one paragraph in national briefing (page A11; Eric Lipton is the author of the paragraph).

But you know what? The Times can't let go of Popearama fever. They've got another front page photo and another front page story. And inside the paper two pages are turned over to Poperama where you find the front page story continued as well as four more stories offered.

Elected municipal officials are complaining about the Patriot Act, J-Ass will have to answer for his actions in court, evidence suggests the White House was more involved with torture jet than was known publicly prior, Japan offers a sort-of apology, and a UN monitor accuses the US of abuses in Afghanistan. But hey, keep covering popearama. It's easy to do. You just speak to "aides" who tell you what you want to hear, you print it as though it were relevant, do a fluff story on the Pope and e-mail, etc. It's a funny kind of approach to "news," but the Times just can't let go of Popearama.

(John F. Burns has a story that attempts to correct the mistaken impressions left by yesterday's reporting re: helicopter shot down. He too is buried inside the paper.)
E-mail address for this site is