NYT Flip-Flopped On Gitmo Detainees Rejoining Jihad

Eric Boehlert

Commentary
by Eric Boehlert

Justin Elliott at TMP Muckraker highlighted this Times flip-flop, and it deserves the attention. The Times’ lead, upper-right A1 story on Thursday was this [emphasis added]:

1 In 7 Detainees Rejoined Jihad, Pentagon Finds

In it, the Times’ Elizabeth Bumiller claimed the following:

An unreleased Pentagon report provides new details concluding that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has returned to terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials.

The conclusion could strengthen the arguments of critics who have warned against releasing any more prisoners as part of President Obama’s plan to shut down the prison by January 2010.

The Times left little doubt: According to the Pentagon, 1 out of 7 terrorist detained “rejoined jihad.” They “returned to terrorism.” That announcement went off like a firecracker with conservatives seizing upon the revelation as a way to bash the Obama White House for having a flawed strategy to deal with the detainees.

But then appearing on MSNBC later in the day Thursday,Bumiller announced,”There is some debate about whether you should say ‘returned’ because some of them were perhaps not engaged in terrorism, as we know — some of them are being held there on vague charges.”

Really? There was some “debate”? Among whom? Because there was little hint of any debate in the Times’ original article. It’s true,as Elliott noted, that the Times online later adjusted the wording of the article to reflect more ambiguity about the detainees’ activity. But their supposed return to terrorism was the central thrust of the news report.That’s what landed the story on A1. How could the Times not be sure about that before they published the piece?

Media Matters for America