Information Warfare: Distorting Guantanamo Bay


November 30, 2005: The prison camps at Guantanamo Bay have been the subject of controversy for over three years. The latest flap involves photos used by the media when reporting on the detainee camps. This has become the latest bone of contention between the military and the media. The images most commonly used are of Camp X-Ray, a temporary camp that was replaced by Camp Delta in April, 2002. The newer camps are going to be on the level of the latest correctional institutions anywhere in the world.

This has not been the first time this sort of media deception has been used. Earlier in 2005, there were questions raised about the treatment of the detainees. In July, Senator Richard Durbin compared the treatment of the detainees to Nazi concentration camps. This is despite the fact that out of over 24,000 interrogations, incidents of abuse were rare (32 involving interrogations - 6 of which were corrected on the spot, with the rest dealt with through normal channels). Of the 10,000 troops at Guantanamo Bay, only ten have been disciplined for not meeting standards - and in many of those cases, the disciplined soldiers had been provoked by the detainees.

One of the other bones of contention was the release of an interrogation diary involving a high-value detainee. The methods used during the detainee's interrogations were portrayed as routine. They were not - the techniques had been authorized as part of a special protocol. Naturally, human rights groups have been complaining about this, and their concerns are amplified by sympathetic news reports - which generates heat from politicians, who will rush to impose new rules.

That said, there is more than one way to distort things. Slanting facts, as has been done in the case of Mohammed al-Khatani, is one way. Another, more effective, means of distortion is to omit facts altogether. At least a dozen detainees that have been released have gone back to fighting with al-Qaeda. What also is not revealed is the intelligence gained. In many cases, this intelligence has given the United States information on how al-Qaeda is organized, where some al-Qaeda cells are, and on future operations. The media has also neglected to point out that al-Qaeda manuals instruct members to make false claims of being tortured if they are captured.

This latest incident is going to make relations between the military and media even worse than they already are. Already reporters are perceived as not telling the full story with regards to Iraq (a justified perception). Now, the use of outdated photos of Guantanamo Bay will only add to the perception that the media is undermining their efforts to defeat al-Qaeda. - Harold C. Hutchison (


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