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FoxNews.com Ratchets up Guantanamo Closure Fears with Old News

Reported by Alex - January 28, 2009 -

Tuesday evening’s FoxNews.com front page (see screenshot after the jump, taken Tue 1-27-09 6:40 PM EST) featured a photo montage of a fiery bomb blast, a former Guantanamo detainee, and the words, “Gitmo Detainee Freed, Kills 12 in Iraq Bombing: RETURNED TO TERROR.”

Underneath the photo, the headline reads, “As Obama administration mulls plans to close Guantanamo Bay, one former detainee's martyrdom serves as a cautionary tale.” Under that, there is a link to the feature story, plus another : “Obama Tells Muslims: U.S. Not Your Enemy”. (After the screenshot was taken, the latter headline was changed to “Obama Signals Break with Past, Reaches Out to Muslims”, and this one was added: “Puerto Rico turns its back on Guantanamo Bay Prisoners.")


Troubled by the new violence I clicked through to the feature story – to discover that the bombing happened not today, not yesterday, but in April 2008. That’s right: Fox “News” is dragging up old news about a Gitmo inmate released in 2005 by the Bush administration to remind us that President Barack Obama is doing a bad, bad thing by closing the prison at Guantanamo.

The article says, “An exclusive video of a former Gitmo detainee's martyrdom tape, obtained by FOX News, is a reminder of the concerns that terror suspects — who have been held but released from Guantanamo Bay — are increasingly returning to the fight against the United States and its allies.”

"Increasingly?" The rate of return (if return it is) of former inmates to violent terrorist activities is increasing? No support for this claim is provided (surprise) other than the statement by Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell that “sixty-two detainees released from the U.S. Navy base prison in Cuba are believed to have rejoined the fight... up from 37 as of March 2008”, an increase to 11% in December, up from 7% in March (see here ).

As we reported on Sunday, the stats that have been provided by the DOD are inconclusive, to say the least: of 62 alleged recidivists, only 18 are “confirmed”, and the Pentagon has not informed the public of the criteria used to define “return to terrorism”. The concept of “return” is also questionable: if the Bush administration thought that these individuals were safe to release, then how is it that they can now be considered to have “returned” to terrorist activities? Is it possible that some of them may have carried out such activities for the first time upon release, after being radicalized at Guantanamo by their experience? Or did Bush et. al. screw up and release active terrorists? (Imaginary chyron for this post: “George W. Bush: Siding with Terrorists?”).

Questionable, too, is the timing of the release of the Pentagon recidivism “statistics” and Abdallah Ali al-Ajmi’s martyrdom tape. (The tape was translated by the NEFA Foundation , an anti-terrorist watchdog group set up after 9/11 under the aegis of lobbying and PR firm The Washington Group . Here is their release about the Gitmo detainees who have “returned to the fight” – interesting reading on a few levels.) Newsweek reports that “There have…been concerns that Bush administration holdovers were deliberately playing up the cases in recent weeks in an effort to undercut Obama. One former senior U.S. counter-terrorism official noted to NEWSWEEK that the Pentagon waited until the day after Obama signed his executive order mandating the closure of Guantanamo to confirm [released inmate 35-year old Said Ali al-Shahiri’s] renewed Al Qaeda ties.”

The photo accompanying the article and a related quote contain numerous references to Allah. Given the Fox propensity for making 2+2=5 one has to wonder about this: First, use a visual image of Islamist terror coupled with the suggestion that this is breaking news; underneath, place headlines that tell us that (1) Obama is sweet on Muslims and (2) Puerto Rico won’t take any Gitmo prisoners. Then after the jump emphasize the fact, through another visual, that the terrorist is a Muslim. What might these quick takes add up to for the average Fox fan, whose most read articles on Tuesday included nothing about politics or world affairs but plenty about death (4), sex (4), a combination of both (1), and a multiple birth? For the Fox faithful it probably all adds up to “Obama is soft on terrorism and is going to release a whole bunch of Muslim terrorists from Guantanamo with no place for them to go”? It would be interesting to have figures on the percentage of click-throughs from the headlines to the actual articles, but even then there would be no way to know if readers had gone any further than the opening paragraphs (for example, go here and read the headlines and first two paragraphs.) Interestingly, the first comment to be posted reads (as found), “Shame, that he did not talk to the american people first. What is he afraid off. Mr president let me remind you that you are not the president of the World. He has to understand that we can not negotiate or dialog with our enemies.”

So…is the combination of an emotive photo with suggestive headlines the FoxNews.com version of the well-known Fox TV tactic of combining a discussion, photo, or clip with a suggestive chyron? Or is it just a coincidence? You decide.