Administration Again Attempts to Keep News of Its Drone Damages Out of the Country

Nieman Watchdog asked Scott Shane recently why he had granted Administration officials anonymity so they could insinuate that those who report on civilian drone deaths were terrorist sympathizers. Shane defended violating the NYT’s prohibition on letting sources attack others under cover of anonymity because of the importance of getting two sides to the story. He also claimed that Administration sources were referring to ISI propagandists, not the journalists reporting on civilian deaths, when they suggested such reports amounted to support for terrorism.

Shane, in written responses to a number of questions that Nieman Watchdog posed to him about the two articles, said he believes this particular quote was not necessarily directed at BIJ, calling it “ambiguous, and I wish I had been able to clarify it.” He added: “Based on all my reporting over the last couple of years, I believe U.S. government officials have in mind not BIJ or other journalists as sympathizers of Al Qaeda but militants and perhaps ISI officers who supply what they consider disinformation on strikes to journalists.”

There’s a problem with that, though: The Administration’s repeated reluctance (and at times outright refusal) to let Pakistani drone critics into this country.

The latest example is Pakistani student filmmaker Muhammad Danish Qasim, who was denied a visa so he can accept an award for his film on how terrorists are capitalizing on drone strikes at a film festival in Seattle. As Glenn Greenwald explains,

In particular, “the film identifies the problems faced by families who have become victims of drone missiles, and it unearths the line of action which terrorist groups adopt to use victimised families for their vested interests.” In other words, it depicts the tragedy of civilian deaths, and documents how those deaths are then successfully exploited by actual Terrorists for recruitment purposes.

We can’t have the U.S. public learning about any of that. In April, Qasim was selected as the winner of the Audience Award for Best International Film at the 2012 National Film Festival For Talented Youth, held annually in Seattle, Washington. Qasim, however, along with his co-producers, were prevented from traveling to the U.S. to accept their award and showcase their film because their request for a visa to travel to the U.S. was denied. The Tribune reported: “Despite being chosen for the award, the filmmakers were unable to attend the award ceremony as their visa applications were rejected twice.

In the same way that The Bureau of Independent Journalism’s reporting on drones rebutted some of the claims made by militants, it appears that Qasim’s film shows how terrorists exploit the victims of drone strikes. It is not al Qaeda propaganda, no matter what anonymous cowards in the Administration might think.

Never the less, the Administration appears determined to keep even nuanced critiques of its drone program out of the country.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

2 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Shane is being disingenuous, at best, in arguing that he violated the anonymity rule because it was important to present two or both sides of an argument. He makes a valid point about the necessity of public debate. But granting anonymity undercuts it completely. We don’t know who his anonymous speakers are, what seniority they have, how representative they are, or the evidence they adduce in support of their claims.

    Shane simply gives us a variant on he said-she said. He knows that, human thinking being what it is, the government gets the benefit of the doubt, even when it speaks anonymously. One would have thought the government’s serial lies about its wars in SE Asia would have put paid to that nonsense.

  2. MadDog says:

    Shorter Shane on whether journalists were the target of the Administration’s criticism: “Moi? They couldn’t be referring to me!”

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