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Guantanamo Files Show Media Priorities

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As I perused the latest WikiLeaks releases this morning, a retweet from their Twitter feed caught my eye:

“Gitmo: Compare the first paragraph of these two stories about the same thing.” One was a link to the BBC and one was CNN.

At the BBC, the title is “Wikileaks: Many at Guantanamo 'Not dangerous'” and the first graf points out that the US believed many were innocent or only low-level operatives.

CNN's piece, by contrast, says that the released documents “reveal extraordinary details about the alleged terrorist activities of Al Qaeda operatives” at Gitmo.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post starts off with an ominous September 11 reference, and goes on to intimately describe Al-Qaeda higher-ups planning for a long war from one city in Pakistan.

A blogger at Balloon Juice also noted the unwillingness of US media outlets to call torture torture. McClatchy, they note, uses the T-word, as well as the UK Guardian, but the New York Times, one recipient of the actual leaks, and NPR both use the cop-out term “harsh interrogation techniques” instead.

Why does this matter, when WikiLeaks makes the info available to all? Remember that WikiLeaks simply posts the data, in this case nearly 800 assessments of Gitmo detainees, and media outlets are free to interpret. Because most people don't have time to read 800 dossiers, they will read an article or listen to a broadcast and form their opinion of the story that way.

So the takeaway in the US will remain “dangerous terrorists!” and Guantanamo will most likely remain open three years after the President vowed to close it, while overseas the rest of the world will continue to wonder why the country that claims to love freedom so much is continuing to imprison and torture innocent people.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and be our friend on