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Monday, November 24, 2008

Barbara Starr, Pentagon mouthpiece and mole in the journalism profession

I've just witnessed one of the most atrocious journalistic performances in recent memory. In a breaking news segment about the Bush administration's decision to send Salim Ahmed Hamdan to Yemen to serve out the remaining weeks of his 66 month sentence, Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr declared that Americans would be "dumbfounded" at this development.

Hamdan, supposedly Osama bin Laden's driver and bodyguard, was sentenced by a military jury, which took into account the 61 months he had already served in Guantanamo. The sentence was widely seen as a slap in the face to the Bush administration--and this by military men, mind you--for prosecuting such a low-level player and trying to make him out to be a major terrorist. Indeed, the conviction of Hamdan is pretty much all the Bush administration has to show for its promise to bring Al Qaeda terrorists to justice.

So what business does Starr have telling us that Americans would be or should be "dumbfounded" when Hamdan is close to serving his full sentence, the one handed down by the military court that the Bush administration created? And especially when Barack Obama has asserted clearly that he intends to close Guantanamo anyway?

Starr has a long, long reputation as a Pentagon mouthpiece (I put it more strongly in an earlier draft of this post but professional courtesy requires that I tone it down.) This is just another example. She is a disgrace to the journalism profession.

Photo: CNN (until they yank it away, that is.)

Update (Nov 25): It took some time for other news media to report this story (possibly because they required more confirmation and details before doing so, unlike the scoop-hungry Starr who clearly did not even understand the legal basis for the decision), but the New York Times has it this morning along with some needed context. Indeed, Starr's "dumbfounded" remark reflected either a total ignorance of the case and its history, a desire to pander to the ignorance of some CNN watchers, or both. It also seems likely that the Bush administration, which was apparently poised to argue that it could continue to detain Hamdan despite his sentence being almost over, thought the better of it once Obama made it clear again last week that he intends to close Guantanamo. Indeed, the Washington Post story on Hamdan's transfer to Yemen reflects some of the Bush administration thinking on this.

Psychologists say no to John Brennan for CIA chief. Read about it at this link. With thanks to PG.

Second guessing Obama. Marc Cooper says don't. At least not yet.

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