Modal close

Dear Democracy Now! visitor,

You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines. Maybe you come for in-depth stories that expose corporate and government abuses of power. Democracy Now! brings you crucial reporting like our coverage from the front lines of the standoff at Standing Rock or news about the movements fighting for peace, racial and economic justice, immigrant rights and LGBTQ equality. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation—all without ads, government funding or corporate sponsorship. How is this possible? Only with your support. If every visitor to this site in December gave just $10 we could cover our basic operating costs for 2017. Pretty exciting, right? So, if you've been waiting to make your contribution to Democracy Now!, today is your day. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in 2017.

Non-commercial news needs your support.

We rely on contributions from you, our viewers and listeners to do our work. If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, now is a great time to make your monthly contribution.

Please do your part today.


Media in Wartime: Military Tribunals and Torture

StoryNovember 30, 2001
Watch iconWatch Full Show

As law enforcement rounds up non-citizens, holds them in secrecy and moves toward implementing the secretive,expedient military tribunals, the US has begun to debate another method of pressing suspected terrorists: torture.

There haven’t yet been any presidential directives or pleas from the attorney general to allow such extreme measures.But some FBI investigators have been itching for heavier tools in their interrogations of alleged 9-11 materialwitnesses. As one experienced FBI agent told the Washington Post, "We are known for humanitarian treatment.So, basically, we are stuck. It could get to that spot where we could go to pressure . . . where we won’t have achoice, and we are probably getting there."

After FBI agents are said to have offered the traditional inducements to the "material witnesses" — reduced prisonsentences, money, relocation to the United States and new IDs for themselves and their families — if they cooperate.

A surprising number of criminal experts say it’s time to talk about letting interrogators inject key recalcitrantwitnesses with "truth serum." Extraditing them to countries where authorities have no qualms about subjectingsuspects to a ruthless third degree is another option.

And while torture likely will remain officially off-limits on U.S. soil, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz — oneof the country’s leading civil libertarians — suggests creating a mechanism where U.S. judges could approve domestic"torture warrants" if they’re convinced such tactics could thwart an imminent attack. In an article in the VillageVoice this week, Dershowitz argues eloquently against military tribunals to try suspected terrorists, but doesn’trule out torture as an option.

Reporting in national newspapers about the previously unthinkable debate about coercive techniques of interrogationoften centers on the reported silence of the men being held as material witnesses — and the country’s fear about newwaves of terrorist attacks.

Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter wrote a piece in the November 5 issue of Newsweek called "Time ToThink About Torture" which begins:

"In this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to... torture. OK, not cattle prods or rubberhoses, at least not here in the United States, but something to jump-start the stalled investigation of the greatestcrime in American history. Right now, four key hijacking suspects aren’t talking at all. Couldn’t we at least subjectthem to psychological torture, like tapes of dying rabbits or high-decibel rap?"


  • Jonathan Alter, columnist for Newsweek.
  • Steve Rendell, senior analyst at FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting).

Related link:

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.

Make a donation