Never Trust the Times

Heather MacDonald reviews the flap over the Justice Department’s Inspector General’s report on the supposed abuse of persons detained under the Patriot Act following 9/11:
“Driven by a precipitate lust to discredit the Bush administration, The New York Times has misread a recent Justice Department report on alleged government abuse of terror suspects. More important, the front-page smear job set off a chain reaction of imitation news articles across the country, parroting the Times’ error. Thus has the war on the war on terror been waged – with misrepresentation, group thinking and blinding biases.”
The Times’ central error–almost certainly not inadvertent–was to claim that the report said there were 34 “credible” cases of abuse, when in fact the report said there were 34 cases that were “credible on their face,” meaning that they at least alleged an issue that involved the Patriot Act. Whether the claims were true was another matter entirely. The Department has opened investigations into only six of the 34 claims; so far two have been closed, with findings that the allegations made by the detainees were false. Only two claims have been identified for which “substantiating evidence” has been found. Both involved verbal taunts by prison officials which had nothing to do with the unique features of the Patriot Act.
A spokesman for the Justice Department bemoans the inaccurate coverage of the report: “What they should be doing is reading the report.” Instead, reporters for other newspapers merely read and parroted the Times’s erroneous account. The only accurate story on the Inspector General’s report was in the Washington Post. Which raises the question: How can a reporter–let alone hundreds of reporters–write a story on the Justice Department report without bothering to read it? Is there any other occupation in which such laziness would be tolerated?
Power Line, by the way, was on this story several weeks ago. If more people read blogs and fewer read newspapers, the world would be a better-informed place.

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