Fox News host Bill O'Reilly used a recently released State Department report on human rights around the world to argue that the Bush administration is adequately addressing allegations of torture by U.S. interrogators. In fact, the report did not examine alleged human rights violations by the United States.
During his "Talking Points Memo" on the March 1 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly attacked the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for filing a lawsuit against Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld over allegations that he approved illegal interrogation tactics. O'Reilly opined that "violations of military law -- torture, executions, false imprisonment -- are unacceptable and should be vigorously prosecuted, and the Bush administration seems to be doing that." Referring to the State Department report on human rights, released on February 28, he added: "Just today, it [the administration] criticized the interim government in Iraq for some rights violations."
The ACLU's lawsuit charges that Rumsfeld's "policies, patterns, practices, derelictions of duty and command failures caused Plaintiffs' [the detainees'] abuse." The complaint focuses exclusively on detainees held in U.S. military custody. By contrast, the State Department report did not examine the United States, including the actions of U.S. military personnel. In the on-the-record briefing accompanying the release of the report, Michael Kozak, acting assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor, specifically addressed why the report did not examine U.S. human rights practices:
KOZAK: This, by the way, is the report on the human rights situation in a country, what was going on as factually as we can relate it in each country that's a member of the United Nations, save on the United States. And the reason we don't do a report on ourselves is the same reason you wouldn't write investigative reports about your own finances or something; it wouldn't have any credibility. Someone else needs to do that. It's not that we're against being scrutinized, and indeed we are scrutinized by many other organizations -- Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International. The Chinese do a report on us each year, have told us that one is in the mail. But it's not -- it wouldn't make sense for us to do this.
The section of the report about Iraq focuses exclusively on the policies and practices of the Iraqi interim government; it covers only "the human rights record of the Interim government from June 28 to December 31" of 2004.