(But there's plenty on a comedian's jokes about Limbaugh and Hannity at the White House Correspondents Dinner)
UPDATED: 24 hours later, WaPo & UPI finally jump in with some decent coverage...
By Brad Friedman on 5/11/2009, 2:06pm PT  

[Ed Note: See bottom of article for several late updates.]

So, it's been about 16 hours since we covered indie journalist/historian/blogger Andy Worthington's detailed report on the the reported suicide of the man who falsely "confessed," during torture, to a false tie between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The forced confession was subsequently used by the Bush Administration (Bush himself, as well as Powell and others) as justification for the war on Iraq. That, despite the fact that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi recanted his story not long thereafter, as long and widely reported.

As of this moment, not a single mainstream U.S. newspaper or broadcast outlet has reported on the story. Is it not notable? Or are our newspapers just dead set on ensuring their irrelevance by continuing to not report on news that actually matters, no matter how widely it's being reported in other parts of the world?

A search of "al-Libi" at Google News, at this moment, lists five stories in all, with The BRAD BLOG's coverage as the top story on the matter. The one, late, mainstream-ish entry is the coverage, finally, from Reuters filed one hour ago. And it's pathetic. Simply pathetic...

Their lede: "A Libyan Islamist whose fabricated testimony about al Qaeda was used by the United States to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq has killed himself in his Libyan jail cell, a Libyan newspaper reported on Monday."

They go on to say that al-Libi, also known as Ali Mohammed Abdelaziz al Fakhiri:

...later made up a story about links between al Qaeda and Iraq to avoid torture while in the custody of a third country, according to a 2006 U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report.

U.S. media have reported that Fakhiri provided the account to interrogators in Egypt, where he was sent by the United States in January 2002.

Egyptian officials were not immediately available for comment.

Egyptian officials were not available for comment? How about U.S. officials, such as Bush and Powell who each used the false tie --- supplied by al-Libi following torture, as it's been well reported, as opposed to "to avoid torture" --- in public speeches to justify the war. Did Reuters bother to try to get comment from them? Or would that be inconvenient in continuing to avoid the well-reported facts that al-Libi's forced "confessions" were made following torture, after the U.S. renditioned him from Guantanamo to Egypt, where they knew he would be tortured?

Reuters continues:

Fakhiri was later returned to U.S. custody and withdrew his accusations about ties between Iraq and al Qaeda in January 2004, the U.S. committee report said.

No doubt, the 2006 U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report, widely regarded as a whitewash for the Bush Administration before the Republicans were booted from the majority, may say that al-Libi merely "withdrew his accusations." But, as Worthington's report explained last night, Newsweek's 2007 coverage, which did note Bush/Powell's use of al-Libi's false information, found that...

"he initially told his interrogators that he 'knew nothing' about ties between Baghdad and Osama bin Laden and he 'had difficulty even coming up with a story' about a relationship between the two." The Newsweek report explained that "his answers displeased his interrogators - who then apparently subjected him to the mock burial. As al-Libi recounted, he was stuffed into a box less than 20 inches high. When the box was opened 17 hours later, al-Libi said he was given one final opportunity to 'tell the truth.' He was knocked to the floor and 'punched for 15 minutes.' It was only then that, al-Libi said, he made up the story about Iraqi weapons training."

Was none of that mainstream reportage, the veracity of which has not been challenged, as far as we know, not worth including in Reuters coverage of this matter? Not the fact that he explained to debriefers that he was essentially buried alive for 17 hours and then punched for 15 minutes before offering the "made up story" about Iraq training al-Qaeda in the use of non-existent WMD?!

Reuters continues its useless coverage:

The committee found that in the run-up to the Iraq war the U.S. intelligence community based assessments about possible Iraqi training of al Qaeda largely on evidence from Fakhiri.

Could any of this possibly be more sugar-coated?

Only the last graf of the report offers anything that might be useful in advancing this story beyond Worthington's far-superior coverage from last night:

The paper [Libya's Oed] said former friends of Fakhiri cast doubt on his reported suicide, arguing that the former mosque preacher from the coastal Ajdabiya town knew suicide is prohibited by Islam.

Want actual coverage of this story (and all the rest of the stories that matter)? Compare the Google News search to the Google Blog search, where you'll find links to Worthington's original coverage, "bmaz" at emptywheel, John Amato's at Crooks & Liars, Nick Baumann at MoJo Blog, and many more.

Or compare it to a Google News search for "Sykes Limbaugh" or "Sykes Hannity" (more than 1000 "news articles" found for each).

Other than that, we just can't understand why the U.S. corporate mainstream media is having such trouble surviving.

UPDATE: The UK's Telegraph jumps in with coverage, noting:

Al-Libi recanted the story in January 2004, although George Tenet, the former director of the CIA, wrote later: "The fact is, we don't know which story is true, and since we don't know, we can assume nothing."

"We can assume nothing"? Since when, George? Seems like you allowed Dubya and Powell to "assume" plenty when they used al-Libi's initial confession, no?

BTW, the Telegraph goes on to report:

Clive Stafford Smith from Reprieve, said: "We are told that al Libi committed suicide in his Libyan prison. If this is true it would be because of his torture and abuse, if false, it may reflect a desire to silence one of the greatest embarrassments of the Bush Administration.

"Reprieve has been exploring tentative contacts with al Libi, and his death may have been a result of the pressure to allow him to speak openly about his torture."

UPDATE 9:52pm PT: Okay, finally some U.S. outlets are jumping in to tell this story, both quoting from a Human Rights Watch press release issued tonight calling on Libya to investigate the circumstances of al-Libi's death after he was renditioned by the CIA.

UPI posts a squib (second story down at link) appx "two hours ago," according to Google News on the al-Libi death. While short, at least it far exceeds, in quality, the Reuters report. It includes reference to Powell's use of the false material gained from al-Libi under torture, and also notes:

"The death of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi means that the world will never hear his account of the brutal torture he experienced," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said. "So now it is up to Libya and the United States to reveal the full story of what they know, including its impact on his mental health."
HRW called on Libya to disclose what it knows about al-Libi's treatment in U.S. and Egyptian custody.

And, as the first U.S. newspaper to run anything on the reported suicide of al-Libi, Washington Post's Peter Finn filed a not-bad report a few hours ago as well. Finn includes [emphasis ours]:

When President George W. Bush ordered the 2006 transfer to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of high-value detainees previously held in CIA custody, Libi was pointedly missing. Human rights groups had long suspected that Libi was instead transferred to Libya, but the CIA had never confirmed where he was sent.

"I would speculate that he was missing because he was such an embarrassment to the Bush administration," said Tom Malinowski, the head of the Washington office of Human Rights Watch. "He was Exhibit A in the narrative that tortured confessions contributed to the massive intelligence failure that preceded the Iraq war."
Libi angrily rejected speaking to the researchers [from HRW, who found him in Libya's Abu Salim prison on April 27th], saying, "Where were you when I was being tortured in American prisons?" according to [HRC's Heba] Morayef, who described the encounter in a phone interview.
Libi was among dozens of former "ghost prisoners" who were in American custody overseas but whose disposition has never been officially released...

The Obama administration recently announced that it was decommissioning the CIA's global network of secret prisons, which have been mothballed since 2006, but human rights activists say the U.S. government should still provide the ICRC with an accounting of where it sent every prisoner it once held.

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