Thursday, March 10, 2005

Wartime Prisoner Abuse

Senators questioned the author of a report on wartime prisoner abuse, Vice Admiral Church. Fox and CNN ran different AP stories covering the review of the report. The articles show some clear biases and differences in perspective with CNN being stronger against the report and Fox being more favorable to the military. The table below shows several specific examples. In addition to those examples, Fox’s article concluded with this,

"If approved interrogation policy did not cause detainee abuse, the question remains: What did?" he [Church] wrote in the summary. He offered three contributing factors:

Fox’s article then lists the three reasons from the report why the blame for the abuse was probably at lower levels. These reasons were not in CNN’s article.

This is one of those cases where reading both articles gives you a more balanced picture than just reading one.




Fox’s headline “clears” military leaders. CNN’s headline says pressure by top leaders was not excessive but there was pressure.

Probe: Pressure on interrogators not excessive

[sub-headline: Senate Democrats question military's ability to investigate abuse]

Probe: Leaders Didn't Order Prison Abuse

CNN’s first sentence starts with the issues with the report. Fox’s indicates the issue but after noting that blame for abuse belonged to low and mid-level soldiers.

Senators on Thursday questioned whether a senior military official in the chain of command could objectively investigate any culpability of top defense leaders for the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A military review concluding that blame for wartime prisoner abuse lay mostly with low- and midlevel soldiers has failed to quiet critics who say Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other senior leaders should be held to account.

CNN devotes more to Amnesty Int’l reaction (82 words to Fox’s 48 words). Fox does not use nearly as strong a quote as CNN does.

Amnesty International, … called this an "unacceptable excuse" …. "Senior administration officials repeatedly sought to dehumanize prisoners and label uncharged and unconvicted detainees as 'killers and terrorists,'"…. "To eliminate the conditions that permit abuses to occur, senior officials need to be held to account, not placed beyond the reach of investigation."

The human rights group Amnesty International USA criticized Church's report as being too easy on top officials.

"The Church report should be published in full, and the record of senior officials thoroughly examined by an independent commission of inquiry," ….

CNN gives a strong quote from a Democrat in its third sentence. Fox, however, provides a little more context for the same quote (additional quote highlighted) noting that the report’s author did not “focus on senior official accountability because that had been assessed in earlier investigations.”

"I can only conclude that the Defense Department is not able to assess accountability at senior levels," said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on Senate Armed Services Committee, ….

"So there's been no assessment of accountability of any senior officials, either within or outside of the Department of Defense, for policies that may have contributed to abuses of prisoners," said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee's top Democrat.

"I can only conclude that the Defense Department is not able to assess accountability at senior levels, …”

Links to today’s articles:,2933,149976,00.html

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