Reckless Media Complicity With Government Requests for Secrecy

This week it was revealed for the first time that the CIA has a secret airbase in Saudi Arabia from which it has been launching drone strikes for targeted killings in Yemen for at least the past two years. The news media is reporting, and reiterating for emphasis, that they knew about this secret drone base in Saudi Arabia, but did not disclose it because of an “informal arrangement among several news organizations” not to publish it at the request of senior US officials.

In other words, the Obama administration didn’t want them to report it, so the news media meekly obeyed their masters, and didn’t report it.

To hear the news media explain their reasoning almost makes it sound justifiable. Here’s the Associated Press:

The Associated Press in 2011 agreed to withhold the location of a secret U.S.-run drone base located inside Saudi Arabia after U.S. officials contended that revealing the location would make the base a target of extremists, endangering people directly, and would badly endanger counterterror efforts.

And the Washington Post:

The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network’s most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.

But the importance of having a drone base in Saudi Arabia really necessitated some public discussion about it – scrutiny which can only be generated if the press does its job and publishes dangerous government actions. Indeed, the existence of US military bases on Saudi Arabian territory has threatened the security of American lives in the past. As Conor Friedersdorf writes:

Osama bin Laden began his jihad against the United States largely because he was incensed that American troops were stationed in his homeland, Saudi Arabia, proximate to Islamic holy sites. The U.S. troop presence began during the Gulf War, when Americans led a coalition to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. “Bin Laden — like many Muslims — considers the continued presence of these armed infidels in Saudi Arabia the greatest possible desecration of the holy land,” David Plotz explained in a Slate article published on September 14, 2001. “That is why he sponsored bombings of the American military facilities in Saudi Arabia, why he has tried to destabilize the Saudi government, and why the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed on August 7, 1998 — eight years to the day after the first American troops were dispatched to Saudi Arabia.”

In 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, the United States announced that it would pull its troops out of Saudi Arabia, though some remain there. In a January 2009 Gallup poll, 60 percent of Egyptians said their opinion of the United States would significantly improve if it moved all military bases out of Saudi Arabia. Forty percent of Syrians, 39 percent of Jordanians, 52 percent of Saudis, 40 percent of Palestinians, 55 percent of Tunisians, 40 percent of Lebanese people, and 30 percent of Algerians agreed. How many millions of people is that?

It would’ve been nice to publicly debate whether the strategic value of a drone base in Saudi Arabia outweighs the potential for blowback.

It sure would have. But the media’s reluctance to report anything the government doesn’t want prevented such a public debate. By asking the media to keep it secret, the US government wasn’t looking out for American citizens. If it were doing that, the lessons of the past would have led them to decide against putting military bases in such a sensitive territory. Instead, the US government was looking out for itself, and for the Saudi dictatorship.

As Peter Hart at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting writes, this incident is “reminiscent of another decision by the Post to withhold news. In 2005, the paper delivered an explosive story about ‘black sites’ where CIA was interrogating suspects–places where, in many cases, the agency could reasonably expect the prisoners to be tortured. The Post‘s valuable expose was undercut by its decision not to name the countries involved.”

Now that the drone base has been made public, there will be some scrutiny for the Obama administration’s decision. But now it may be too late. Hundreds of “terrorist” “suspects” and scores of civilians have been killed in America’s secret, unaccountable, extra-legal drone war. The ground has been laid for blowback from that alone for years. Now what will the reaction be?

17 thoughts on “Reckless Media Complicity With Government Requests for Secrecy”

  1. The corporate US media has coddled the malignancy known as the Obama administration knowing the true fragility of his hold on power. But most importantly, they did it because he's black. And it looks bad when a black guy is personally ordering hits on scores of dark skinned people by remote control. His treachery needs to be kept secret as he tracks down alleged Al Queda get that get uppity and go off his false flag CIA plantation.

  2. This is a global class war, the fact of the cynical placement of a man of ‘colour’ in the most powerful seat of influence in the world, just to keep his own people fooled, has been promoted as revolutionary by the Yellow Mass Media. The corporate takeover of the world continues with the collusion of the ruling classes from EVERY so-called ‘Nation’. The present incumbents of the seats of power in the global media are, most definitely, the most consciously evil people in the world.

  3. Here are some things some people are taught to fear:

    1. Being accused of being a conspiracist.

    2. Being accused of being unpatriotic.

    This list is hardly exhaustive; you may extend it yourself. All such things are at least 2: a) IF untrue THEN ad hominem = fallacious attacks, and b) designed to exclude the target from some group. Recall ‘IF you’re not with us, THEN … ‘ = the ‘better to be inside the tent …’ strategy.

    @Jim Bovard: “Whose side are you on…?”

    A: Anyone attempting to please both sides risks offending all.

    @paytick: “The present incumbents of the seats of power in the global media are, most definitely, the most consciously evil people in the world.”

    Me: IMHO correct – but not restricted to “the global media” – and best response so far.

    A truth vs. lies analogy: Consider a 3D space; truths may be thought of as dimensionless points, anchored to their underlying facts, let’s ‘colour’ them gold. Lies are not points but fuzzy grey, unanchored blobs. Now add a 4th dimension (time), and the truth-dots trace perfectly parallel lines, whilst the lies form (from the definition) wavy, wandering indistinct traces. This is too revealing, so liars must ‘organise’ their lies into ‘narratives’ in the attempt to disguise their deceptions.

    This is the key; to organise lies into narratives takes communication which in turn implies collusion (even if ‘only’ implicit). We know we are being swamped by lies (only one of a myriad of proofs: New York Times, reporter Judith Miller and Iraq); sadly, this process has been continuous through my life (best = worst example is the portrayal of Israel as ‘Brave David repelling monster-giant Arab/Muslims’ by the MSM and publicly-financed broadcasters = PFBCs like the AusBC = massive, wicked lies).

    The best = worst test is WTC7. The lying press are *not* with us, we the people BUT with the M/I/C/$4a†-plex = military, industrial, Congress (US-speak for parliament); $ = banksters, 4 = 4th estate = MSM + PFBCs, ‘a’ = academia incl. think-tanks, † = the churches, all together ‘responsible’ for the rapacious rapine of the planet, most likely ending up with our world being pushed over the climate-change cliff = flushed down the tor-let.

  4. You guys blaming this on Obama only are pathetic. This type of shit has been going on for as long as there has been a news industry. The government and the corporate media have always been on the same side, and comprising the same people. It's not new just because it's a black guy who's the puppet of the corporate elite.

    1. The Pentagon Papers and Watergate alone show that it hasn't been going on as long as there has been a "news industry", as you claim. And this has nothing to do with Obama's skin color.

  5. another interesting bit of cover up would be, say, the lack of news on Syria? I mean, hello? Nobody is talking about Syria/Assad's response to the Israeli air assault. Syria has MiG23s …and fyi they were deployed and Israel couldn't stop them….

    but shhh. it's an open secret. Just like it's an open secret that Erdogan dreams of an new, totally "modern" Ottoman if he can fool the Turkish people to vote for him as president…

  6. According to figures released by the anti-settler group Peace Now, the construction of 1,708 new homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem began between January and June 2013, compared with 995 in the same period last year.

  7. You guys blaming this on Obama only are pathetic. This type of **** has been going on for as long as there has been a news industry. The government and the corporate media have always been on the same side, and comprising the same people. It's not new just because it's a black guy who's the puppet of the corporate elite.

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