In a particularly disgusting piece of disinformation by Scott Shane in today's New York Times, the headline reads: Ex-Convicts From U.S. Said to Join Yemen Radicals. The source for this headline is a Senate Report, recently released by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and written by the committee's Democratic staff (we'll come back to this point later...). The article claims:
The report, from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says that as many as 36 American Muslims who were prisoners have moved to Yemen in recent months, ostensibly to study Arabic, and that several of them have “dropped off the radar” and may have connected to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
The report warns that Americans recruited in Yemen or Somalia may pose a particular threat, since they can operate freely inside the United States.
The very next paragraph, however, caught my eye:
American intelligence and counterterrorism officials, though, said they thought the report’s claim about former prisoners was exaggerated. A law enforcement official confirmed that some of them had traveled to Yemen — perhaps one or two dozen over the past several years — intending to study Arabic or Islam. The official said the former convicts did not appear to be part of any organized recruitment effort, however, and few are known to have connections with extremists.
So the Times uses a misleading headline, Ex-Convicts From U.S. Said to Join Yemen Radicals, to hype up an easily discreditable government source. This type of disinformation doesn't surprise me coming from Scott Shane's past reporting.
What really makes this piece scary is that it completely curtails to the government's line without any critical analysis or challenging of fact. It is essentially uncritical stenography, simply hyping up irrational fears in an effort to scare and mislead the general public. This type of media hype about "terrorist threats" has been a mainstay in the mainstream press at least since 9/11, and has completely warped the debate and historical narrative in this country, particularly relating to the George W. Bush administration, but generally since WWII.
During the Cold War, the main threat pushed by the U.S. establishment was world-wide Communism. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the phantasmagoric "threats" to the U.S. has morphed into a combination of foreign threats including: drug cartels, illegal immigrants and foreigners generally, and, the most recognizable, international Islamic terrorist organizations. What is undeniable is that since 9/11 the government's mission, on a bipartisan basis, has been to hype foreign threats in order to erode civil liberties, shift attention away from illegal U.S. policies, cover-up blatant war crimes, and please the military/Homeland Security/police state/Wall St crowd.
Back to the Times piece...
As we have seen time and time again, especially relating to war mongering and irrational foreign threats, the media has passed along and hyped up the government line, while downplaying and burying the actual truth. One can easily imagine Scott Shane being called into a high-level Senator's office, given the report and briefing by a staffer in which Shane asks no critical questions, and then proceeds to write an uncritical, Pravda-esque piece for the Times.
Another important point to highlight-- this Senate report was written by Democratic staffers, under a Democratic President with a Democratic majority in both chambers of Congress. One would expect this sort of behavior from the Republicans and the Bush administration. This is just another example the essential truth of the American political system-- the two corporate owned political parties are dedicated to expanding war and American empire. Maybe we should stop voting for these guys...