Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Journalism Grade Card:

Associated Press Gets A Big "F" for "Abusing" Their Readers' Intelligence

This morning, sitting down at my computer and preparing to work, I opened a browser and what did I see?

AP: Videos Show Guantanamo Prisoner Abuse

I know, why would I bother looking at an AP (associated pinheads) press release? Of course, I am wondering what sort of "abuse" occured this time, so I read it.

It was garbage of course. The article not only contradicted itself within the main body, but also contradicted the title. I'll point it out to you if you can't see it, but I wanted to talk about something else. Mainly, the things that they claim are "abuse". Read and be enlightened. .

Or better yet, let me start you out with this paragraph:

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Videotapes of riot squads subduing troublesome terror suspects at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay show the guards punching some detainees, tying one to a gurney for questioning and forcing a dozen to strip from the waist down, according to a secret report. One squad was all-female, traumatizing some Muslim prisoners.

Now you see it, now you don't. The title screams about abuse and then proceeds to tell you about riot squads, typical in every American prison system as well as those all around the world, being used to *gasp* subdue "troublesome" prisoners.

I know that most of my readers are intelligent enough to know that nothing they have listed so far is actually "abuse". Let's break this down:

Videotapes of riot squads subduing troublesome terror suspects

"Troublesome". They make these people sound like five year olds throwing a fit. As a daughter of a police officer and relative of numerous other law enforcement folks, including correction officers that must deal with prisoners all day, having to use "riot squads" is not what you want to have to do. Particularly in a small confined space. No matter how many people you use, it is dangerous. Not only to the inmate, but to the officers. It also means that you have lost control of the prisoner and prison is all about control. An uncontrollable prisoner is contagious. If you compare prisoners to animals in a zoo, you can understand that once one animal starts bouncing off the walls, the rest of them will too. Then you have completely lost control and danger is multiplied 100 times.

Of course, this article would have you believe that they are just normal people who occasionally get out of sorts.

If the riot unit is called in, it's generally because the prisoner refuses to come out of their cell and dares the correction officers to come in and get him. He does this because he knows, in a small cell, he has just as much advantage as two officers, which is generally the number of officers assigned to escort prisoners. If you look at the photos that accompany this article, you note that that is the number of officers that are assigned to these men as well. (By the way, I do have a serious problem with people being allowed to take pictures of our prison facilities and techniques, as open as we are trying to be, as it gives intelligence to those that would seek to escape one day).

Now, the other thing that prisoners do, besides generally refusing to leave their cells, they will barricade themselves inside using their mattresses, blankets (prayer rugs) anything that is handy to create an obstacle or shield. They may also take the most innocuous things and create a "shiv". My cousin, who worked at the county jail before becoming a patrolman, indicates that prisoners will take toothbrushes and heat them, using matches or other heating source, until they are maleable and can be made into a point. If a heating source is not available, they will rub the toothbrush handle against a rough surface until they have honed it into a sharp object. They can and will do this with any object. They will also take the blades from a disposable razor, imbed them in the toothbrush or other handle like item they created and secure the blades with rubber bands or a string, razor side out. The string or rubber bands wrapped around the blade a sufficient amount of times will not be cut, but hold the blade in place by sheer density of the securing thread.

Prisoners can and will barricade themselves in their rooms to lure the officers in and then use such devices to stab them. Even "riot" officers in full gear with flak jackets, batons and helmets are endagered. The neck of these jackets and the helmet do not quite meet. Two years ago, a prison guard with a riot unit in our local prison was stabbed in the neck. The prisoner stabbed him in the jugular. He died several hours later from loss of blood.

I am more than positive that "riot" squads are not being used on a regular basis and that, when they are used, it is for a damned good reason.

We can add to this by extrapolating the types of prisoners that remain at Guantanamo after many releases. These are not your average joe just caught up in a raid. These men would be akin to sociopaths with high recidivism that we often see in our prisons. They are dangerous and do not care who it is that they would harm because these types do not have anything left to lose.

show the guards punching some detainees

What is missing here, as usual, is context. They tell you in the first half of the sentence that riot squads are being used and then they tell you that the video shows these "guards" "punching" the prisoners. Later in the story, they raise questions (way down the story line and no where near the part where they are talking about "riot squads"):

One such clip the investigators flagged was from Feb. 17, 2004. It showed "one or more" team members punching a detainee "on an area of his body that seemingly would be inconsistent with striking a pressure point," which is a sanctioned tactic for subduing prisoners.

In five other clips showing detainees who appeared to have been punched by team members, the investigators said: "The punching was in line with accepted law enforcement practice of striking the pressure point on the back of the thigh to temporarily distract the detainee."

Now, let's talk about this in context, since they refuse to give the reader any. As I mentioned and, as any reasonable person can figure out, if they are sending in the riot squad and this is what they are video taping, this is not the usual custom to escort prisoners from a cell. I'll say it again: prisons do NOT like to do this because it means they have lost control. If prisoners get the idea that the much smaller body of guards has lost control, the situation will spread like the plague and, eventually, an all out riot that is very dangerous for the guards and the prisoners would occur. The true context of the situation is that the prisoner is not just standing inside his cell like Martin Luther King, Jr and peacefully protesting his incarceration by refusing to leave it. The prisoner is usually ready to do violence and resist PHYSICALLY.

If you have ever seen an "extraction", the squad of about five to six men (and/or women) gather in a formation with the lead officer usually carrying a shield or a flak jacket. The shield or flak jacket is used to throw around the prisoner and bring them to the ground, holding their arms down and their body still while protecting the officer. Believe me when I tell you that the officer on the shield or flak jacket has guts. Nothing about the extraction says that the prisoner is going to go down quietly, particularly if the riot squad is being used in the first place. It is very likely that the prisoner resists by throwing their OWN punches, kicking, screaming, biting, sptitting and generally moving around while the five officers try to use their body weight to hold the prisoner down and finally immobilize him with hand cuffs, shackles, maybe a belly chain or belt (they attach handcuffs or shackles to the belt to restric movement), possibley even a device that resembles a strait jacket.

This is for the officers protection AND the prisoner. But, as I point out, the prisoner is generally not cooperative. The officers do use stun blows and pressure points that can immobilize a prisoner. However, unlike a Steven Segal movie or Mr. Spock or some other brilliant spy movie where the guy does one pressure point thumb to the jugular or whack to the back of the neck and the guy goes down without a peep, it is not that simple to perform. Even well trained officers who have used these techniques before know that there is no perfection. The blows or pressure points may have to be repeated because, as I note, the prisoner is RESISTING. They are moving and movement does tend to make it difficult to apply these measures as effective as say James Bond in a movie. It doesn't work like that. It is also the reason that some of the video may show:

It showed "one or more" team members punching a detainee "on an area of his body that seemingly would be inconsistent with striking a pressure point,"

Not having seen the video, I cannot say with 100% confidence that, during the extraction, an officer did not deal unnecessary blows for personal satisfaction. Particularly as the heat of the moment and their own injury may cause an officer to become angry. They are humans after all. I must tell you that, despite the claims of some of the guards at Abu Graihb about the lack of training, these officers are trained, know the rules and probably adhere to them 99.9% of the time. Not seeing the video, I cannot tell you with 100% certainty that an officer did not administer blows AFTER the detainee was restrained. However, since there are video cameras at each of thes sessions (for analysis of extraction technique as well as legal issues), it is unlikely that any large number of officers participated in such an activity.

What I can tell you is, opposite of what the journalist does, I will admit to you that I have not seen the video and cannot verify this information.

Prisoners that bite may be muzzled. If they spit, a medical face shield, often used by doctros to keep blood and body fluides OFF of their faces, may be placed on the face of the prisoner. He can spit all day, but it will be the prisoner that wears it. This is for the protection of the officers as these prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, just like in the general prison population, have been treated for a variety of STDs up to and including AIDs. It is reported that there are prisoners in Guantanamo who may have been intravenous drug users (like heroin, which we know to be used by many of the mujihadeen in Afghanistan and Iraq) and may have accounted for the spread of the disease besides other deviant sexual habits. It is important to note that very few of the Middle Eastern, predominantly Muslim countries have recognized AIDS and put out educational materials on the subject. It's taboo.

Even in a civilian prison setting, the safety of the officers come before the safety of a prisoner.

Let's look at some of the other issues:

In other "questionable" cases, reviewers said a video showed a guard kneeing a detainee in the head,

Again, lacking context, you might be led to believe that the officer used his knee to "strike" the prisoner in the head either during a struggle or just because he felt like it. In the extraction scenario, I noted that the prisoners who resist often bite and may even try to use their head to headbutt the officers doing the extraction. Once the prisoner is on the ground, the struggle is not over. To subdue the prisoner, several of the officers will lay their bodies over the prisoners extremities and body to hold the prisoner still until the other officers place the restraints on him. If the prisoner is intent on struggling, the officer will place his or her knee on the back of the prisoners neck or on their head directly to hold their head still and protect their fellow officers.

You have to wonder if they are using the quote marks around "questionable" to tell you that they are quoting the reviewer or priming you to believe that the word "questionable" is, well, questionable and that there is no reason in their eyes to use such a technique.

This is, of course, part of the activist journalism that we have come to expect these days. No one will give you the story straight out with context and let you decide whether it was or was not questionable. They are telling you what to believe.

while another showed a team securing a detainee to a gurney for an interrogation.

This is in the same sentence with the first phrase "questionable". You are to question the need for securing a detainee to a gurney. In the extraction scenario we have discussed, even after being subdued, in order to protect the officers and the prisoner further from harm during the removal, the prisoner is often either placed in a wheelchair or on a gurney and restrained before being moved to wherever they will be going, whether that is interrogation or another cell block or lockdown. This is the general practice in ALL prison systems, here in the United States as well as abroad when dealing with "troublesome" prisoners. This is not solely the practice undertaken in Guantanamo Bay for these specific prisoners because they are terrorists or because it is a military intelligence operation.

The facts and context continue to be missing from this piece. It is beyond bad journalism and heading straight into bad propaganda.

A separate clip captured a platoon leader taunting a detainee with pepper spray and repeatedly spraying him before letting the reaction team enter the cell, reviewers wrote.

"Taunting" and "repeatedly". Here they want you to believe that the poor prisoner is standing, again, peaceful as Martin Luther King, Jr in the Birmingham jail and being sprayed "repeatedly" while locked behind his jail cell and ostensibly not a threat to the officers, as a form of persecution.

Again, the extraction team has been called in. The prisoner is most likely, not only refusing to leave his cell, but refusing to move away from the door. All prisoners are instructed to move back from the door so the officers can enter, whether that is just a general entry by two regular guards or by the extraction team. This is for the officers safety once again. If the prisoner refuses to obey the command, pepper spray can and will be used until the prisoner moves back or falls back far enough to allow the team to enter. The "taunting" may go so far as the officer calling the prisoner some names while he's spraying, but, in the case of this report, it is most likely the officer repeatedly telling the prisoner to move back and repeatedly spraying him until he does so.

Again, this is standard procedure in ALL prisons. Prisoners do not do what you ask because you say "please" or "pretty please" or simply because they are behind bars. They can and will cause trouble. Prisoners from combat, particularly our Guantanamo Bay prisoners, are very likely to believe themselves still at war with the guards and take every opportunity to resist. Their fanaticism probably plays a part in this, but it is not a-typical to these types of prisoners. It happens in ALL prison systems.

Once the prisoner moves back or falls back, the extraction team will enter the cell. But, not until then. Let us keep in mind that pepper spray is annoying and painful, but not fatal and does not have lasting harmful effect unless the prisoner ingests a large amount. Even then, they are more likely to have a stomach ache and a severe case of diarrhea than permanent medical damage.

Investigators also noted about a dozen cases where detainees were stripped from the waist down and taken to the "Romeo block," of the camp. No female guards were involved, they said.

Romeo block is a camp section where prisoners were often left naked for days, according to two former detainees, Britons Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal, who were released last year.

Disregarding the "female guards" issue for a moment, let's take a look about what they are saying. Prisoners were stripped down to the waist in the video before being sent to "Romeo" block. Others say they were naked before being sent there. Again, no context. They want you to believe that ALL of the prisoners are regularly stripped naked and rotated to this prison block as a general technique. I'd bet a hundred bucks right now that "Romeo block" is the "hole" as it is affectionately known in civilian prisons. The "hole" is where prisoners are sent when they: a) assault another prisoner - shocking I know, but violent criminals do attack each other; don't mistake these men as all one big happy group of soldiers who are loyal to each other to the end with one shared ideology; they are from different tribes for one and they are vying for power and position amongst themselves; it happens in every prison setting and we are probably using the technique to insure they don't join together and to use one side against the other in collecting information; b) assaulting an officer; c) possessing contraband (razors, drugs, pencils, lighters, whatever they can sneak in that is prohibited in cells because of the danger to the officers or the other prisoners); d) have attempted to harm themselves in a non-lethal manner (ie, cut themselves, beat their heads on the wall, mild self strangulation, all of the things that prisoners do in order to get sent to the infirmary or get attention).

Prisoners are made to strip, often all of their clothes, to insure that they are not hiding any more contraband and cannot use their clothes or some hidden weapon to attack officers or actually harm themselves. The "hole" is punishment and protection at the same time. In this case, it may be used as an isolation technique to get information from recalcitrant prisoners, but it is just as likely used in the traditional sense of ALL prison systems around the world. In any case, not only are the prisoner's clothes taken, but he has no bedding and no mattress to sleep on. These can be torn, used as shields or weapons and the removal of that ability is the purpose of the "hole" in the first place.

Now for the best part of this "abuse":

Although no female guards were videotaped in any of the stripping cases, investigators cautioned the U.S. government about using the all-female team to handle disruptive detainees, citing religious and cultural issues. Many of the prisoners are Muslim men and under strict interpretations of Islam view contact with other women other than their wives as taboo.

"Several detainees express displeasure about female MPs either escorting them, or touching them as members of an IRF team," the report says. "Because some have questioned our sensitivity to the detainees' religion and culture, we believe that talking points are appropriate to address incorporation of female soldiers into the guard force."

In one video clip of the reaction teams, the memo says, "A detainee appears to be genuinely traumatized by a female escort securing the detainee's leg irons. In another video, inexplicably an all-female IRF team forcibly extracts a detainee from his cell."

Are you crying for the prisoners yet? Did you care that the "detainee" expressed displeasure? Do you car about the "sensitivity" of the prisoner's religion or culture or that one was "genuinely traumatized"?

At most, this may be an issue of the safety of the OFFICERS if the prisoner is moved to resist due to this "violation" of his beliefs. In which case, he will most likely get a hard lesson in civil liberties and equality of the sexes.

The phrase "inexplicably an all female IRF (immediate response force) team forcibly extracts a dentainee" is interesting as well. What is inexplicable? The extraction? They don't know why an extraction team was used? Or, is the "inexplicable" part the fact that it was all women?

There is no great conspiracy or purpose to inficting damage on these prisoners' beliefs. Female MPs have to be able to operate the same as their male counterparts. They must train and be prepared just like the rest of the platoon. They operate together as women only for two reasons: a) they may find themselves "inexplicably" in a situation where there are only women on hand and they must be able to handle themselves; b) in female prison facitlities, the IRFs are ALL women. This unit may rotate out at some point and the women may be assigned to a women's prison either within the miltary justice system for their own members or in a setting, such as Iraq, where there are female prisoners that they must guard and handle. They probably practice long hours on the techniques, but there is nothing better than actually performing a live extraction to determine a teams viability.

The extraction was most likely necessary and presented an opportunity for this team to get some "live fire" practice.

There is nothing "inexplicable" about it.

Of course, they want you to think there is something wrong with it and that the government recognizes it and is trying to cover it up when they take this little snippet out of the "memo" they obtained from an annonymous, super secret source:

The memo suggests that military "personnel showing the IRF videos outside of (Defense Department) channels should be prepared with talking points to refute or diminish the charge that we use women (against) the detainees' culture or religion."

Considering that this news article is exactly what is happening with the information, I would say that, instead of a "cover up" attempt, the person that wrote the memo was more than aware of the "inexplicable extraction" techniques of the media and was attempting to prepare for the onslaught, not cover it up. If they were going to "cover it up" they would not have talked about "personnel showing the IRF videos outside of the DOD channels". They were obviously meant for release in the first place. Somebody in the ACLU or International Red Cross just wanted to score their points first.

The military released this statement in response to the "inexplicably" shoddy, activist, tabloid journalist's questions about the use of women in IRF:

The U.S. military wouldn't comment on whether there's a specific strategy involved in using an all-female response force but said female guards — who serve on mixed reaction teams as well — comprise about 20 percent of the guard force

Let me interpret that for you. The Military probably laughed and asked the reporter if they were seriously asking such a stupid question. That would go under "no comment" when the journalist didn't want the laughter part to ruin their story. Of course, law enforcement officers around the world are getting a good laugh after reading this piece of donkey dung.

As a matter of policy, we do not discuss specific Immediate Response Force composition or methods, but they are consistent with those used in the corrections profession and are always carried out with the security and safety of detainees and troopers in mind," said Lt. Col. James Marshall, a spokesman at U.S. Southern Command.

You can read the entire article. They do not show you many pictures and they do not give you the memo to review nor do they give you any information about actual USUAL techniques used in prison settings. I give them to you because I know. I did not have to see any documentation or policies from the military or government.

As a matter of fact, any person with cable access to The Learning Channel, Discovery or A&E could have watched any number of programs specifically about prison in the United States. Three months ago, the Discovery Channel actually aired an hour long program about Maximum Security Prisons and dealing with sociopathic, violent repeat offenders. At least fifteen minutes of the program was dedicated to looking at IRF forces in prisons, why they are used and their techniques. Further, in this same segment, five minutes focused on ALL FEMALE IRFs, how they practice together and what they are used for.

It is not hard to take this same information and apply logical thinking and analysis to determine what an ALL FEMALE IRF Military Police unit would be doing "inexplicably" extracting a prisoner, regardless of his sex, religion or ethnicity. Simply put, the women didn't give a damn who they were extracting as long as they were able to put their abilities to practical use and keep them well honed for the future.

All of this serious explanation aside, I find the situation a bit laughable considering there are over 1 million American men in prison today and I would hazard a quess that at least 950k would like to volunteer to go to Guantanamo to be "extracted" by an all Female IRF. Can you hear them now?

"I'm a jihadist. Take me. Take me! I'll tell you anything you want to know. Osama has a beard. What else? Please send me to Guantanamo Bay, where the girls are fine and the sun does shine...Guantanamo Bay..." (singing last part)

Don't forget that a rather industrious former SGT Saar has written a "manuscript" outlining other terrible abuses in the prison:

A former Army linguist who served at Guantanamo as an Arabic translator from December 2002 to June 2003 wrote in a draft manuscript that female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear and in one case smearing a Saudi man's face with fake menstrual blood. The draft written by former Army Sgt. Erik R. Saar was obtained by AP, which reported on its contents last week.

If you don't know already by reading the description of one of the instances being noted, this manuscript is a piece of fiction. It reads like a bad "B" paperback with all the thrilling trappings of sex, bondage and espionage. If you thought the AP getting duped with fake Jihadist pictures and statements threatening to cut off GI Joe's head was bad, wait until you get a load of this. And they will try to say that it is "mostly true" because they have this "abuse" videos of the IRFs and this memo by annonymous "reviewers". Who were these "reviewers" anyway? They didn't want to tell you because then you would know their source and you would know their agenda.

Let's close with the purpose of this article as if you didn't already know:

"The obvious problem with our armed forces is their inability to comply with international law," said Arsalan T. Iftikhar, national legal director for the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. "Many of us thought that the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq (news - web sites) was going to shake us into awakening but it seems like the things we keep learning about Guantanamo indicate there was, in fact, systematic abuse."

You got it. There is "systematic" abuse and violations of some none existant "international law" and the United States "armed forces" are a bunch of sociopaths that enjoy harming and humiliating prisoners for their own pleasure and should be considered criminals under this non-existent law.

Don't forget that all of these 545 men still in Guantanamo Bay are innocent lambs that were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and are being held for no reason, are charged with no "crime" and deserve something more than your average Joe Schmoe American Criminal in prison.

Except, the AP, in the interest of enjoining SOME journalistic credibility, does see fit at the bottom of their article to write this little disclaimer:

About 545 prisoners from some 40 countries are being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, most accused of links to Afghanistan (news - web sites)'s ousted Taliban regime or al-Qaida terror network.


For this piece of Enquirer inspired trash, the AP gets a BIG FAT F-.

The author of this dung heep, Paisley Dodds (who calls their kid "Paisley" for the love of all things normal? I know, hippies. The name says it all), you should go back to journalism school. Try taking courses in "investigative journalism" and "ethics". You need them. You have committed a crime against good journalism and should be punished with forty lashes of your own pen while typing "I will read the materials, watch the video and research information myself and actually try to present some real investigative journalism in my next story" 10, 000 times using only your left index finger because even my fourth grade nephew could have written this lame excuse for journalism.

What am I saying? You would have to be a journalist to know the difference. Instead, Paisley Dodd, you have become the willing transcriber of a propaganda hit piece that is attempting to "inflame" the "Arab street" once again and recruit wannabe jihadists from all over the world in order to kill American Soldiers and Iraqi citizens in the name of avenging some non-existent abuse and humiliation on their "Muslim" brothers.

I take back the "forty lashes". Instead, we have a lovely suite for you at the Goebbels and Reifenstahl Re-education Camp. At the end of your one year tenure in obscurity, you will be ushered into the dust bin of history.

Enjoy your stay.


The Sandmonkey said...

"female interrogators tried to break Muslim detainees by sexual touching, wearing a miniskirt and thong underwear"

I wish we had this kind of "abuse" in egyptian prisons, then maybe i wouldn't mind Mubarak's goons knocking on my door one day, ya know?

All joking aside ,You are right, this is a total fluff piece. Raed Jarrar will probably citing it as irefutible evidence of how the "vicious and barbaric americans" treat the innocent iraqis. and some poeple will believe it too. Grrr. just the thought of that makes me all kinds of mad. anyway..

Great post as usual hun.

Kender said...

I have a great idea. Let's hire strippers to "soften the target" for interrogations. In other words we get a "dancer" and send them in to a well secured and guarded detainee and let them give a lap dance.

Threaten them with repeats of this performance everyday until they give it up.

If they are devout it may work. However it may also make them toss their religion out the window.

Hell, if they do that I may want to go to Gitmo.

MichaelH121 said...

Hey Kat you better watch it. With every post on this subject you are sounding more and more like a conservative. :o) Nay even a republican maybe. ;o)

The thing is you keep getting it right. While the liberals keep on being on the wrong side.

Seems the PEOPLE of America didn't think the prison abuse was so bad and that the Army handled it by arresting and trying those involved. And they keep trying to say it was policy when no evidence of that exists.

They said Reagan was gonna cause WWIII. Seems he had the right idea about ending the Cold War. Seems Bush had the right idea with things so far. Go after and fight them where they are do not sit back and let them come to us.

Robert said...

You nailed it again Kat! More excellent blogging. Not that I haven't come to expect that from you.

Come on Kat. Join the conservative Republican club. It's nice over here. You know you want to. ;)


Donal said...

Part of the problem is that there is a developing trend of news networks depending increasingly on the AP for their reporting thus stifling compition and driving down quality. A free, healthy press is good for democracy- we've got the free part but its been looking a bit sick lately. Now some have suggested that blogs are the answer to sometimes shoddy reporting. Catching bad stories helps the symptoms but not the cause. Prehaps blogs will be the answer (although they would have to be held to higher standards than currently- theres alot of crap out there in blog land). I'm not sure what the solution should be. (Your blog is the polar opposite of crap keep up the great work.)

Tom said...

"The obvious problem with our armed forces is their inability to comply with international law,"