Until recently few people had heard of “extraordinary rendition”, the practice of seizing terrorist suspects in foreign cities and spiriting them away to other countries to be interrogated. Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, will have wished that knowledge of the practice had remained confined to the intelligence community.The Sunday Times starts an otherwise perfectly sensible comment piece by claiming that public knowledge of extraordinary rendition is a recent development. Perhaps a more accurate opening sentence would read something like this:
- Sunday Times, 11/12/05
Until recently few mainstream media outlets had seen fit to report on “extraordinary rendition”, the practice of seizing terrorist suspects in foreign cities and spiriting them away to other countries to be interrogated.As most bloggers will probably know, 'knowledge of the practice' actually escaped the narrow confines of the intelligence community some considerable time ago.
The Sunday Times, even when saying something I agree with, finds the time to imply that knowledge is only of value if it has been provided by the large media organisations; a fact is only a fact once they've told us that it is a fact. We can't have people thinking for themselves, after all. I mean, people like that are really very difficult to control... Where would it end?
There's a potentially interesting post in that concerning the power of the MSM to legitimise knowledge and the ways in which that power can be used and abused. It's a subject which is almost certainly of great interest to Rupert Murdoch, the enormously influential
So, extraordinary rendition is now "public knowledge". What happened to Maher Arar is no longer part of an America hating, loonie leftie conspiracy theory designed to bring down the US government and install an Islamofacist Stalinist junta in its place. The existence of false allegations of links between Saddam and bin Laden can now be explained and understood without resort to tinfoil hattery. The considerable evidence of abuses under the extraordinary rendition process have finally become "official" news. I suggest that's because the evidence was getting rather difficult to ignore.
Now that the US government's initial policy of ignoring these allegations has become unworkable, the Whitehouse is turning to plan B. This plan requires the repeated deployment of very carefully worded denials of certain aspects of the process. These denials are specifically designed to appear to say more than they actually do.
To work properly, this plan depends on the media not asking the awkward questions which might expose these half truths for what they are. Recently, there's some evidence to suggest that the media no longer wants to play ball. For example, the state department's top legal advisor, John Bellinger, recently stressed that the International Committee of the Red Cross had access to "absolutely everybody" held by the US administration at Guantanamo Bay. But:
When asked by journalists if the organisation had access to everybody held in similar circumstances elsewhere, he said: "No". He declined to explain further.Watch the right hand. The right hand is doing the right thing. Do not ask what the left hand is doing.