Other than the announcement by Eric Holder that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and 4 other suspects in the 9/11 attacks will be tried in New York City, the biggest story of the day is the news that White House counsel Gregory Craig will be resigning from his post, to be replaced by long-time Obama advisor Bob Bauer.
The most important element of the Craig story is the fact that no major news outlet who has reported on Craig’s resignation has mentioned Bagram, the prison in Afghanistan that has drawn criticism for many of the same activities that Gitmo has, including torture and denying habeus corpus rights to detainees.
In their initial reporting, the Washington Post, ABCNews, Politico, the New York Times, and HuffingtonPost (both of whom used AP copy) all failed to mention Bagram, Gitmo’s younger, less famous sibling, despite the fact that at least two prisoners’ deaths there have been ruled homicides.
There was no mention of Bagram, but there was no shortage of Gitmo talk.
First paragraph from WaPo:
“White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig is expected to announce his departure as early as Friday, people familiar with the situation said, ending an embattled tenure in which he struggled to lead the closure of the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.” [emphasis added.]
“White House counsel Greg Craig, who’s leaving in early January, has been the subject of repeated questions about his future since late summer. Centered on talk that Obama’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison by January had gone awry under Craig’s leadership, the questions were settled Friday when the White House announced Craig’s departure.” [emphasis added.]
From the 2nd paragraph of Politico:
“Craig fell into disfavor with other top officials over his handling of Obama’s plan to close the Guantanamo Bay prison. The announcement, made in a written statement, came just hours after the president arrived in Japan for a weeklong trip to Asia.” [emphasis added.]
And, finally, from the 5th paragraph of Jake Tapper’s post for ABCNews:
“Craig originally headed up White House efforts to close the detainee center at Guantanamo Bay and was one of the driving forces recommending that President Obama sign the executive order in January ordering it shuttered within a year, a deadline that almost certainly will not be met. Inside and outside of the White House Craig has been criticized for this failure, and for not necessarily meshing well with other White House players.” [emphasis added.]
What this trend tells us first and foremost is that newspapers know their readers want information about Guantanamo Bay, specifically about efforts to shut that criminal enterprise down. Craig’s name has become virtually synonymous with Obama’s pledge to close Gitmo by January, and, as that promise becomes increasingly unlikely, it makes sense for journalists to highlight that element of the story.
The problem arises when it’s possible for a casual observer to read an entire article–or 5–about The Man Who Was To Shut Down Gitmo and not be informed, even in passing, that not only have efforts to shut down Guantanamo been unsuccessful, but also that there is another prison operating in Afghanistan with the same core problems. That kind of institutional blind spot is unacceptable for news organizations. And it’s that error of omission–either through laziness or something more nefarious–that keeps Bagram out of the news, and allows it to continue operating, free from the pressure to close down that originally pressed Obama’s hand on Guantanamo.
Bagram need not have been the focus of any of the articles I quoted above, but the fact that it wasn’t even mentioned once really tells you how absent that prison is from mainstream discourse. The problems of Guantanamo have simply been transferred to another base, yet that new base goes entirely unmentioned in the biggest story about Gitmo in months. Those news outlets who failed to mention Bagram are doing a disservice to their readers, and making it more difficult to bring it into the national consciousness.