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  • Gotcha Journalism

       April 23, 2009

    A friend linked to this article about Condi Rice's role in approving waterboarding. To me, the article represents the worst trend in news: gotcha journalism. The whole news angle of the story is that Rice apparently didn't reveal the full extent of her role in approving interrogation techniques. The most interesting part of the story is buried in the last paragraph:

    Last week, the Obama administration's top intelligence official, Dennis Blair, privately told intelligence employees that "high value information" was obtained through the harsh interrogation techniques. However, on Tuesday, in a written statement, Blair said, "The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means."

    Besides Blair's rather silly statement that the same information may have been obtained through other means (the fact is that it wasn't), this gets to the heart of the issue. If harsh interrogation techniques can get you that kind of information that can really halt terrorists and save lives, is it worth doing? Or, should we not compromise our morals to get that kind of information? I don't know the answer. In fact, I don't really have a firm opinion on the question. That's what makes it fascinating and that's what makes it something that the media should explore more.

    The media seems overly focused on the question of whether people in the Bush administration lied and they want to turn everything into another Watergate because every journalist wants to be the next Woodward or Bernstein. This is about the media serving their own interests rather than their readers' interests. I suspect that their readers would be very interested in learning about things like:

    • How much and what kind of information has been obtained through harsh techniques
    • What are viable alternatives to things like waterboarding?
    • What do people within the CIA think? Aren't there more "Deep Throats" they can talk to to get more of the inside scoop?
    • What do other countries do?
    • Do harsh interrogation techniques really hurt our standing in the world? Do they make enemy combatants less likely to easily surrender?

    The internet is killing newspapers, but boring gotcha journalism is a self-inflicted wound.


    Posted by at April 23, 2009 09:27 AM

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