Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Most media still equate “killed by a drone strike” and “militant,” even when victims are unknown

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The government exercises considerable control over the media, even beyond the sort of direct intervention that kept the NY Times from publishing what they had learned about a massive and highly illegal warrantless wiretapping program inaugurated by the Bush Administration (and, of course, expanded by the Obama Administration). The Obama Administration stated point blank that anyone killed by a drone strike would be considered a “militant” unless and until proved otherwise. Since the strikes are often in remote and hostile areas, such proof is generally unavailable—but our lapdog media follows along, doing whatever is asked.

Glenn Greenwald reports on the practice in The Intercept:

It has been more than two years since The New York Times revealed that “Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties” of his drone strikes which “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants . . . . unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” The paper noted that “this counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths,” and even quoted CIA officials as deeply “troubled” by this decision: “One called it ‘guilt by association’ that has led to ‘deceptive’ estimates of civilian casualties. ‘It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants. They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.’”

But what bothered even some intelligence officials with the agency carrying out the strikes seemed of no concern whatsoever to most major media outlets. As I documented days after the Times article, most large western media outlets continued to describe completely unknown victims of U.S. drone attacks as “militants” – even though they (a) had no idea who those victims were or what they had done and (b) were well-aware by that point that the term had been “re-defined” by the Obama administration intoAlice in Wonderland-level nonsense.

Like the U.S. drone program itself, this deceitful media practice continues unabated. “Drone strike kills at least four suspected militants in northwest Pakistan,” a Reuters headline asserted last week. The headline chosen by ABC News, publishing an AP report, was even more definitive: “US Drone in Northwest Pakistan Kills 6 Militants.” In July, The Wall Street Journal‘sheadline claimed: “U.S. Drone Strike Kills Five Militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan.” Sometimes they will turn over their headlines to “officials,” asthis AP report from July did: “Officials: US drone kills 7 militants in Pakistan.”

Since its 2012 report, the Times itself has tended to avoid the “militant” language in its headlines, but often lends credence to dubious official claims, as when it said this about a horrific U.S. drone strike last December on a Yemeni wedding party, killing the bride: “Most of the dead appeared to be people suspected of being militants linked to Al Qaeda, according to tribal leaders in the area, but there were also reports that several civilians had been killed.” Other U.S. media accounts of that strike were just as bad, if not worse. The controversies over the definition of “militant” are almost never mentioned in any of these reports.

A new article in The New Yorker by Steve Coll underscores how deceptive this journalistic practice is. Among other things, he notes that

the U.S. government itself – let alone the media outlets calling them “militants” – often has no idea who the people are who are killed by drone strikes in Pakistan. That’s because, in 2008, George Bush and his CIA chief, Gen. Michael Hayden, implemented “signature strikes,” whereby “the new rules allowed drone operators to fire at armed military-aged males engaged in or associated with suspicious activity even if their identities were unknown.” The Intercept previously reported that targeting decisions can even be made by nothing more than metadata analysis and SIM card use.

The journalist Daniel Klaidman has noted that within the CIA, they “sometimes call it crowd killing. . . .  If you don’t have positive ID on the people you’re targeting with these drone strikes.” The tactic of drone-killing first responders and rescuers who come to the scene of drone attacks or even mourners at funerals of drone victims – used by the Obama administration and designated “terror groups” alike – are classic examples. Nobody has any real idea who the dead are, but they are nonetheless routinely called “militants” by the American government and media. As international law professor Kevin Jon Heller documented in 2012, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 November 2014 at 11:33 am

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