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Terrorism

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  • Fox News repeatedly claims information obtained by torture led to Osama bin Laden’s death. It didn't.

    The 2014 Senate torture report revealed that the US collected key intelligence on bin Laden’s location without torture

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    In the coverage leading up to and following CIA acting Director Gina Haspel’s confirmation hearing to become director, multiple Fox News personalities and guests have asserted that torture helped lead to the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. However, the Senate’s 2014 investigation of the CIA torture program indicates that there is no evidence for this claim. 

    In recent days, Fox figures and guests have made bold claims that torturing detainees at secret CIA prisons known as “black sites” resulted in valuable intelligence that helped track down the former leader of Al Qaeda:

    • On his May 7 Fox show, Sean Hannity cited an earlier guest to claim that if there had been “no waterboarding we wouldn't have found Osama bin Laden's courier and we wouldn't have gotten bin Laden.” Hannity made the same claim the following night. 
    • In an May 8 appearance on Fox’s The Story with Martha MacCallum, former Vice President Dick Cheney said that the torture program “gave us clues that led directly to helping identify the location of Osama Bin Laden.” Cheney repeated the claim two days later on Fox Business. 
    • On the May 9 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle asserted that “the water boarding led them to Osama Bin Laden's house.”
    • On May 10, all three co-hosts of Fox & Friends agreed that “you don’t get bin Laden” without torture.
    • On the May 11 edition of Fox & Friends, Geraldo Rivera commented that “torture in retrospect may seem regrettable, but there’s no denying that it did lead to the courier that did lead us to the terror mastermind” Osama bin Laden.

    In 2014, the Senate investigated the CIA’s torture program. According to a Vox summary of the 525-page document, the Senate report reveals that the CIA extracted “key intelligence” on bin Laden courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti -- “‘including information the CIA would later cite as pivotal’ in finding Bin Laden” -- by 2002. However, “the CIA didn't acquire any intelligence on al-Kuwaiti via torture until 2003. The CIA had begun trying to find and identify al-Kuwaiti well before any of that information was in.”

    In 2004, the CIA torture program did capture a man named Hassan Guhl who told the U.S. government that al-Kuwaiti was a bin Laden assistant and that the Al Qaeda leader "likely lived in a house with a family somewhere in Pakistan," according to Vox. However, “Ghul told the CIA all of that before they decided to torture him.” The Senate report explains that “during and after the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques, Ghul provided no other information of substance on al-Kuwaiti." From the Senate’s report on CIA torture, via NPR:

  • Fox News uses Nuremberg defense to cover for Gina Haspel’s torture record

    Network figures say Haspel was “simply following orders” 

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Gina Haspel’s March 13 nomination as CIA director is reviving the debate about torture, and Fox News is defending her role in the agency’s George W. Bush-era program by insisting that she was “simply following orders” and should not be held responsible for her contributions to the torturing of detainees.

    Haspel, who became the agency’s acting director on April 26 after a long tenure there, oversaw a secret CIA prison in Thailand where suspected terrorists were detained and tortured, including one man who was waterboarded three times. Haspel was also “a strong advocate” for destroying tapes of CIA torture sessions, The New York Times reported, a stance Haspel herself reiterated in her confirmation hearing. 

    As debate swirled about Haspel’s involvement in torture leading up to her confirmation hearing, Fox News took the lead in providing media cover for her. Several Fox personalities have zeroed in on some variation of the argument that “she was just following orders” -- a defense made infamous by multiple high-ranking Nazi officials who attempted to defend themselves during the Nuremberg trials.

    In addition to insisting that Haspel was merely following orders, Fox personalities have defended her nomination by suggesting that being tortured is similar to having a difficult job, and that Haspel would make a good TV “hero” for running a secret CIA prison as a woman. Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade even suggested Haspel refuse to “apologize for the Americans who are alive today and were not burned alive or had their heads cut off” thanks to torture.

    Haspel’s apparent predilection to follow orders is especially worrisome given that Trump has repeatedly threatened to bring back torture. In Trump’s first days in office, a White House draft order called for a review and possible reopening of CIA “black site” prisons. In his first presidential TV interview, Trump said of waterboarding, "Absolutely I feel it works," adding that America has to "fight fire with fire." During the campaign, Trump infamously called for America to kill the families of terrorists, which would violate the Geneva Conventions. Trump said he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding," and also called for America to “broaden” the laws prohibiting torture in order to “beat the savages.” And while some, like former CIA Director Michael Hayden, are saying that Haspel will stand up to Trump, her record shows otherwise

    Video by Miles Le

  • These are the right-wing conspiracy theories and hoaxes floating around about the Austin bomber

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE & NATALIE MARTINEZ

    In the early morning of March 21, a man suspected of killing and injuring several people in a string of bombings in Austin, TX, killed himself as police closed in on his location. Prior to authorities identifying him as 24-year-old Mark Anthony Coditt, right-wing internet trolls disseminated a number of reckless conspiracy theories about the suspect, and they continued to make irresponsible claims about the perpetrator even after he was identified. These are some of the hoaxes and false claims about the Austin bomber.

  • Video: The real story about ICE agents is that they're terrorizing people across the country

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    Officials of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are rounding up immigrants and immigrant rights activists, and terrorizing communities across America. None of this should be considered normal.

    Here are just a handful of these nightmarish stories:

    • A 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was on her way to a hospital in an ambulance to receive emergency gallbladder surgery when ICE officials apprehended her. (Her deportation proceedings are "ongoing.")

    • Immigrant rights activist Ravidath Ragbir was being taken into custody by ICE in New York City when he fainted. His wife accompanied Ragbir as he was taken the hospital. ICE officials took the couple to one hospital, ditched Ragbir’s wife there alone, and sped off with her husband to another hospital. Ragbir was then taken to two different detention centers before finally ending up at Krome Detention Center in Florida the same day to await deportation. (A federal judge recently granted Ragbir a stay.)

    • The father of a sick young boy was detained by ICE. The boy can’t verbalize his anxieties and couldn’t understand why his own father wasn’t at his birthday party.

    • Syed Ahmed Jamal, a chemistry teacher who has lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years, was getting ready to take his daughter to school outside his house when ICE agents detained him and led him away in handcuffs. (He has since been granted temporary stay.)

    • Jesus Berrones, an undocumented man from Mexico scheduled to be deported soon, has a 5-year-old son battling leukemia. (He was recently granted a one-year stay.)

    • Lukasz Niec, a doctor, was brought to the United States when he was just 5 years old by his parents from Poland. He had a renewed green card and has lived in the country for nearly 40 years. ICE officials detained him and he is awaiting possible deportation. (He is currently in deportation proceedings.)

    • ICE agents are reportedly stopping worshippers as they go to church and interrogating them about their immigration status.

    • Ninety-two Somali people "were shackled with chains on their wrists, waists, and legs for more than 40 hours; forced to urinate in bottles or on themselves" on an ICE-chartered flight to Somalia. The Intercept reported that "ICE officers beat and threatened some passengers," which ICE has denied. The 92 were flown back and are now being held at the Krome Detention Center and the Glades County Detention Center in Florida, as their lawyers are fighting their deportion orders.

    During the George W. Bush administration, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 set the wheels in motion for creation of ICE in 2003. Bush’s approach to immigration “tended to reflect the philosophy that all unauthorized immigrants in America ought to feel that deportation was a possibility at any given time.” Over 10 million people were deported during his tenure. When Obama took office, he “used a strategy called ‘prosecutorial discretion’ to prioritize the deportation of certain types of immigrants (especially those convicted of crimes) and discourage deporting others (like parents of US citizen children).” But still over 5 million people were deported when he was president.

    Though both Bush and Obama administrations set the precedents for President Donald Trump to follow, the Trump administration seems to have adopted the Bush-era policies as the stories above show. In fact, as The Washington Post reported, the “agency made 37,734 ‘noncriminal’ arrests in the government’s 2017 fiscal year, more than twice the number in the previous year. And its reach is only expanding, as the ICE officials look into the possibility of joining the intelligence community.

    When right-wing media, most notably Fox News, talk about ICE, they treat ICE’s actions as normal and even worthy of praise. It's no coincidence that Trump, who relies on Fox News, invited an ICE agent to the State of the Union and called him “brave.”

    What ICE is doing across the country is nothing short of dehumanizing. That’s the real story. 

    Video edited by John Kerr and Miles Le

  • Fox News pays contributor Kevin Jackson to push blatant lies and conspiracy theories

    In addition to speculating about an FBI plot to kill the president, Jackson has falsely claimed that Colin Kaepernick supports terrorism and Trump released his tax returns

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Fox News contributor and radio talk show host Kevin Jackson has pushed several outright lies and conspiracy theories in just a few weeks:

    December 19: Cited “social media” to float the possibility that the FBI plotted to assassinate President Donald Trump. 

    FACT: There is absolutely nothing to confirm that the FBI -- or any domestic law enforcement agency -- plotted to assassinate the president of the United States, other than Infowars

    December 5: Falsely claimed Trump released his tax returns.

    FACT: He has not

    December 1: Falsely accused former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick of material support for terrorism, claiming he “gives money to terrorists.”

    FACT: Claiming Colin Kaepernick “gives money to terrorists” is a lie, unless you have a particularly suspicious view of his donations to groups like "Meals on Wheels; DREAM, a Harlem charter school; the Coalition for the Homeless, an organization offering assistance to homeless people in New York City; and Justice League NYC, an organization opposing child incarceration." 

    November 4: Parroted Trump’s false claim that the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap resulted in the five released detainees becoming “re-engaged” in terrorism.

    FACT: PolitiFact wrote in 2015 that the five Taliban prisoners exchanged for Bergdahl by then-President Barack Obama “are known to be in Qatar, where they have been since their release over a year ago. Qatar is considered neutral ground -- not a battlefield -- and they are not allowed to leave the country.” A 2016 follow-up piece reported that the five men were still in Qatar and a 2017 report pointed out that exaggerated and incorrect claims about released Guantanamo prisoners "became a Republican talking point." 

    November 3: Falsely claimed Obama funded the Steele dossier.

    FACT: Organizing for Action, a non-profit that is not Barack Obama but supports his policies, made payments to a law firm which also paid Fusion GPS for the dossier that former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele compiled on Trump’s potential ties to Russia.