- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 18, 2005

MANILA, Philippines.

My FOX News producers and I have just returned from documenting an atrocity. While we were at the scene of the crime interviewing eyewitnesses, a copy of this week’s Time magazine was placed in my hotel room.

Our day was devoted to detailing the horrific treatment of more than 75,000 Allied prisoners of war in the Philippines between 1942 and 1945. The day ended with an American “news” magazine’s “sometimes shocking” classified account of how captured terrorists are treated at Guantanamo. The day began with the Bataan Death March, ending with a death wish.

Since we have been in Manila, 14 Filipinos have died at the hands of Abu Sayyaf Islamic terrorists. The murders hardly made the news in the United States. In that same time, five American soldiers and more than two dozen civilians were killed by terrorists in Iraq.

In much of our media, the Iraqi butchery was offered as further proof that bringing democracy to Baghdad is a futile endeavor. Absent from U.S. reporting about the atrocities in Iraq and the Philippines is the fact the attacks’ architects cared neither about how many noncombatants were killed nor whether the perpetrators themselves survived. Yet, according to “experts” interviewed by Time magazine, the techniques used by the U.S. military to interrogate terrorists detained at Guantanamo are an “outrage on personal dignity.”

The real outrage isn’t the affront to the “dignity” of suicide terrorists being interrogated and kept alive against their will by our military at Guantanamo; the greater offense is our mainstream media’s lack of context for what transpires there — and the apparent disregard for the consequences of such revelations during a time of war.

The right of the American media to publish classified military information — such as that in Time magazine’s “exclusive” Guantanamo account — is well established. During World War II, the Chicago Tribune divulged that the Battle of Midway was won thanks to the code-breakers at Station Hypo in Hawaii. Though Americans fighting for their lives in the Pacific theater died because the Japanese immediately changed their JN-25 naval code, no one was prosecuted for revealing the secret.

Nor will anyone at Time magazine be arrested for publishing classified data on U.S. military interrogation techniques at Guantanamo. But there should be no doubt the material detailed in the periodical is being incorporated in the next editions of training manuals to indoctrinate members of the Taliban, al Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, et al. That begs a broader question about the controversy surrounding the Guantanamo detention facility: Does our so-called mainstream media have a “death wish?”

Much of the information in this week’s Time magazine was apparently extrapolated from a classified “interrogation log” prepared by those observing and questioning “Detainee 063” — Mohammed al-Kahtani — a Saudi member of Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization. Though the report’s authors quote an unnamed Pentagon source saying the illegally disclosed document was “never meant to leave Gitmo,” they don’t say why, or clarify the rationale for its “secret” classification. The reason for these omissions is simple: The publication reveals interrogation techniques our enemies will now use against us, making it more difficult to extract valuable intelligence from terrorists in the future. In substance and consequence, this week’s Time magazine is little different from the 1942 “code-breakers” report in the Chicago Tribune.

Though the right of news organizations to “break” this kind of “news” is well protected by our Constitution’s First Amendment, the motive for doing so is suspect.

A careful reading of this week’s story — now repeated in numerous outlets — reveals “Detainee 063” is subjected to treatment barely harsher than a military boot camp: standing for prolonged periods, isolation, removal of clothing, forced shaving of facial hair, playing on “individual phobias” (such as barking dogs), “mild, noninjurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger and light pushing.”

His interrogation cell has pictures of September 11 victims, American flags and red lights. He has to stand for the playing of the U.S. National Anthem. He is subjected to “Invasion of Space by a Female.” And when he refuses to drink the water he is routinely offered and becomes severely dehydrated, his handlers take him to a hospital where medical personnel administer fluids intravenously.

Time magazine describes all this as a “glimpse into the darker reaches of intelligence gathering.” Darker reaches? The “log” was classified so our well-trained and very dedicated adversaries wouldn’t know how to beat the interrogation “system” when captured.

Time claims its story reveals how U.S. military personnel “specialize in extracting information by almost any means.” But the truth is, the means used are remarkably humane. In response to the furor created by the al-Kahtani story, Rep. Duncan Hunter observed: “The guy … is going to dine tomorrow on lemon fish with two types of vegetables, two types of fruit, and then he will be afforded his taxpayer-funded Koran, taxpayer-funded prayer beads and oil so he can pray, presumably to kill more Americans.”

Though the editors are unlikely to admit it, Time magazine’s much ballyhooed story has far less to do with human rights than with domestic politics. The authors even admit “the case of Detainee 063 is sure to add fire to the debate about the use of American power in the age of terrorism.”

Fire indeed. One should be careful what one wishes for.

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist and the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.


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