A blogger breaks news on waterboarding

Pondering the rise of new media and the decline of the traditional newsroom, skeptics still tend to cling to either-or thinking: You’ve either got shrill partisan hacks or experienced professional reporters, and never the twain shall meet. The failure of imagination involved is pretty obvious. Digital media has unlocked great potential for nontraditional approaches to the gathering and analysis of information — a vast middle ground of additional possibilities.

Let’s say the government releases a bunch of documents related to a controversial, secretive activity. Now anybody with a computer, an Internet connection and a little motivation can dig in. (Of course, this has already been going on for quite a while.)

whatiswaterboardingpgToday brings a fresh example of how reporting by bloggers can contribute to, or even lead, a major news cycle. In a front-page story today, the New York Times announces that the CIA used waterboarding, a torture technique provoking fear of death by drowning, hundreds of times on two Al Qaeda suspects — far more than was previously known. It’s newsworthy information on several levels, including for how it punches holes in past testimonials from U.S. officials about covert interrogations conducted by the Bush government.

This was not a scoop from the nation’s largest newsroom. The information underpinning the Times report came via blogger Marcy Wheeler, who discovered over the weekend that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month when she examined the fine print in a newly declassified Bush administration memo from 2005. Wheeler also used the memo to look at a telling clash between the FBI and CIA over the interrogation program and to examine the key question of whether waterboarding actually is effective, as has been claimed by Dick Cheney et al.

The Times report underscores that this story remains far from over (also see Mark Danner for an in-depth political discussion of the unresolved torture issue) — and the public has an enterprising blogger to thank for pushing it ahead.

2 comments so far

  1. reaganiterepublican on

    Waterboarding?
    -
    If the tables were turned, this 7th-century savage would have been chopping our heads off while making a video of it.
    -
    Water boarding is not a near-drowning technique. The subject is never in danger of drowning. And water boarding is not torture… no physical harm to the subject.
    -
    Kahlid Sheikh Mohammed is a bad guy, and US interrigators obtained valuable info from him using this technique- who cares how many times it took? It was up to him how long before he decided to cooperate, didn’t have to be this way necessarily- apparently he clung stubbornly to a bad decision, sounds like something he’d do.
    -

    http://reaganiterepublicanresistance.blogspot.com

  2. [...] spread of citizen journalism, from highlighting poor school meals to breaking news stories of State methods of interrogation confuses the bureaucratic machinery of State, leaving it vulnerable and exposed – and they [...]


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