Mail Online, which has just overtaken The Huffington Post to become the second most popular newspaper website in the world, reports on a story that the BBC is also running near the top of its news agenda today – but their take on the story could hardly be more different to the BBC’s:
‘We will unleash a nuclear hellstorm if Osama is killed’: Wikileaks releases chilling interrogation files of Guantanamo suspects
Top-secret files detailing the interrogations of more than 700 terror suspects at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp have been obtained by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.
They include claims that Al Qaeda terrorists threatened to unleash a ‘nuclear hellstorm’ if Osama Bin Laden is caught or killed – and that the interrogations uncovered plots to attack Britain.
Thousands of pages of sensitive documents relate to a decade of interviews in which extremists also admit to plotting attacks against America and across the world.
They go on:
The documents detail the background to the capture of each of the 780 people who have passed through the Cuban facility, along with their medical condition and the information they have provided during interrogations.
Around 220 of those detained are assessed to be dangerous international terrorists, while around 380 are judged to be lower-level foot-soldiers.
At least a further 150 people, including innocent Afghans and Pakistanis, were held and assessed at the U.S. camp, but later released due to lack of evidence, according to the files.
The BBC’s take, on its radio news bulletins and online, has a very different focus:
Wikileaks: Many at Guantanamo ‘not dangerous’
Files obtained by the whistleblowing website Wikileaks have revealed that the US believed many of those held at Guantanamo Bay were innocent or only low-level operatives.
The files, published in US and European newspapers, are assessments of all 780 people ever held at the facility.
They show that about 220 were classed as dangerous terrorists, but 150 were innocent Afghans and Pakistanis.
The bulk of the article then concentrates in considerable detail on the innocent rather than on the dangerous ones.
Both the Mail Online and the BBC Online articles are biased in their own way. One, however, is a private newspaper, privately funded. The other is a public corporation funded by a compulsory licence fee and legally bound to be impartial.
An incident bias, which David Preiser has highlighted in the past, is that the BBC was very enthusiastic about Wikileaks when the Guardian were publishing them around the turn of the year. Since ‘Wikileaks’ moved to the Telegraph, however, the BBC has shown a lot less enthusiasm for reporting the leaks. Taking that into account, isn’t it revealing that The Mail report says of the source of its story, “The documents seen by the Washington Post and Daily Telegraph confirm that the Americans have seized more than 100 Al Qaeda terrorists…” while the BBC Online article says “The latest documents have been published on Wikileaks,the Guardian, the New York Times and in other newspapers…”? Hmm.
The Telegraph itself takes a more even-handed approach that either the BBC or the Mail:
WikiLeaks: Guantanamo Bay terrorist secrets revealed
Guantanamo Bay has been used to incarcerate dozens of terrorists who have admitted plotting terrifying attacks against the West – while imprisoning more than 150 totally innocent people, top-secret files disclose.
The Guardian, however, unsurprisingly takes the same line as the BBC:
Guantánamo leaks lift lid on world’s most controversial prison
• Innocent people interrogated for years on slimmest pretexts
• Children, elderly and mentally ill among those wrongfully held
• 172 prisoners remain, some with no prospect of trial or release
By their friends shall ye know them!