The Washington Post confirms what I predicted on April 2 about US media coverage of Sibel Edmonds. She is the former FBI translator who, according to The Independent, claims there were intelligence reports in the spring and summer of 2001 that al Qaeda planned to fly hijacked airplanes into US skyscrapers.
The Independent’s story received respectful, extensive treatment from news sites on every continent, ranging from Cronica de Hoy (in Spanish) in Mexico City to Munich’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung (in German) to the Khaleej Times in the Persian Gulf to the New Zealand Herald in the South Pacific.
Edmonds’s story has been almost uniformly ignored in the U.S. daily press. Her allegations have been detailed in the online magazine Salon and several liberal sites are playing them up. The Independent’s story was mentioned briefly on Monday in Dan Froomkin’s White House Briefing blog on washingtonpost.com. Tim Russert briefly quizzed the Republican and Democratic heads of the 9/11 commission about Edmonds during Sunday’s “Meet the Press” program on NBC. Former Clinton White House aide Paul Begala mentioned it last week on CNN’s “Crossfire.” But the only U.S. newspaper to give Edmonds any extended coverage was the Washington Times. In January, a page-one New York Observer article on Edmonds’s complaints about lax security in the FBI’s translation office did not include the allegations that first appeared in the Independent.
Clearly, what we have here are two different standards of journalism: one American, one nearly global. The question is where does this difference come from?
His possible answers don’t accord with mine. First, I think that unless it’s sex or Americans getting killed (note the coverage of the Americans who died in Fajulla compared to the 40+ Iraqis who died in the mosque shelling this week), it ain’t gonna play. Second, the media demonstrated full well in the work-up to Iraq that it simply is afraid to take a hard look at or challenge the Bush Administration. The media can’t resist sex in the White House. Outright falsehoods regarding national security and issues of war and peace are another thing, particulary when there is an administration in power that has no hesitancy to punish and attack critics.