AP Headline Tells Readers DOJ Lawyers Approved Torture; Article Content Differs

Well if you can't win the propaganda war by twisting the content of something you don't like, you can at least plant a presumptive seed in the heads of those who will only see a story's headline.

That seems to be the logic behind an unbylined Associated Press report this morning. Its headline ("Report: No sanctions for lawyers who OK'd torture") would tend cause anyone not reading further to believe that what was under review is indisputably considered "torture." But that is not the case, and the underlying article itself proves it.

What follows is a graphic capture of the first few paragraphs of the AP report:

APonDOJsocalledTorture013010

Note that the second paragraph refers to "so-called torture memos." The word "torture" does not appear anywhere else in the report.

There is widespread disagreement as to whether waterboarding fits the legal definition of torture. The AP report also fails, as so many other reports relating to the controversy have, to note three important points the linked Newsmax article makes:

Only three terrorists have been subjected to waterboarding, and the technique has not been employed since 2003.

.... In fact, U.S. special forces are subjected to waterboarding as part of their training in case they are captured and experience the procedure.

.... The three terrorists who were subjected too waterboarding are Abu Zubaydah, Osama bin Laden’s chief of operations; Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the mastermind of the bombing of the USS Cole; and Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

In these cases waterboarding and other coercive techniques, such as forcing prisoners to stand for hours, succeeded in extracting intelligence that led to the capture of key al-Qaida operative planning terrorist attack against Americans.

.... “Waterboarding was employed on only three terrorists who were not cooperating, and the information they ultimately provided helped stave off attacks that could have resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people.”

In a later sentence, the AP writes (hopes?) that "The finding is likely to unsettle interest groups who contended there should be sanctions for Bush administration lawyers who paved the way for tough interrogations, warrantless wiretapping and other coercive tactics."

An honestly headlined report would at least have put quotes around the word "torture." A more accurate headline would have replaced the T-word with "enhanced interrogations," either with or without quotes. But excuse me for questioning whether honesty or accuracy was the headline's goal.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.