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“Executives at news organizations, many of whom have protested the policy, said Thursday night that they had not known that the Defense Department was taking photographs of the coffins arriving home, a fact that only came to light when Russ Kick, the operator of the Memory Hole, filed a Freedom of Information Act request.”



Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2004
Showing U.S. war dead


New York Times

The Pentagon's ban on images of dead soldiers' homecomings at all military bases was briefly relaxed Thursday, as hundreds of photographs of flag-draped coffins at Dover Air Force Base were released on the Internet by a Web site dedicated to combating government secrecy.

Earlier this week, the Seattle Times published a similar photo taken by a military contractor, who was later fired for taking photos of coffins of war dead being loaded onto a transport plane in Kuwait.

The Web site, the Memory Hole (, had filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year, seeking any pictures of caskets arriving from Iraq at the Dover base in Delaware.   The Pentagon on Thursday labeled the Air Force Air Mobility Command's decision to grant the request a mistake, but news organizations quickly used a selection of the 361 images taken by Department of Defense photographers.

Tami Silicio's photo of flag-draped caskets appeared on the front page of the Seattle Times on Sunday.   Her husband, a co-worker, also was fired.   The contractor, Maytag Aircraft, said Silicio of Seattle and her husband, David Landry, had ``violated Department of Defense and company policies.''

The firing underscored the stringency with which the Pentagon and the Bush administration have pursued a policy to ban news organizations from taking photographs or news footage of the homecomings of the war dead.   They have argued the policy was put in place during the first war in Iraq, and that it was simply an effort to protect the sensitivities of military families.

Executives at news organizations, many of whom have protested the policy, said Thursday night that they had not known that the Defense Department was taking photographs of the coffins arriving home, a fact that only came to light when Russ Kick, the operator of the Memory Hole, filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Pentagon has cited a policy instituted in 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, as its reason for preventing news organizations from showing images of coffins arriving in the United States.   While President Bush's opponents and anti-war forces have charged that the administration is seeking to keep unwelcome images of the war's human cost away from the American public, the Pentagon has said only individual services at a grave site give proper context to the sacrifice of soldiers and their relatives.

``The president believes that we should always honor and show respect for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedoms,'' Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said Thursday night.

A New York Times/CBS News poll taken in December found that 62 percent of Americans said the public should be allowed to see pictures of the military honor guard receiving caskets of soldiers killed in Iraq as they are returned to the United States.   Twenty-seven percent said the public should not be allowed to see those ceremonies.

Kick, who operates his Web site from Tucson, describes himself as ``an information archaeologist.''   He was responsible for retrieving last year a previously censored Justice Department document criticizing the department for its diversity policies.   He did not respond to phone calls at his home Thursday night.   But in his explanation on his Web site he described filing a request for ``all photographs showing caskets containing the remains of U.S. military personnel at Dover AFB.''

The military had ``very specific concerns'' about Silicio's photo, according to William Silva, president of Maytag Aircraft, the Colorado Springs-based military contractor that employed Silicio.

Silicio, a cargo worker who often loaded coffins on military planes bound for the United States, shot the photo in early April.   As twin uprisings in Iraq led to a spike in U.S. war dead, she snapped a perfectly composed digital photograph of an aircraft packed with caskets.   She told her best friend that her photo of coffins of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq would allow parents of the dead to see that ``their children weren't thrown around like a piece of cargo.''

Losing her well-paid job in Kuwait was something that Silicio had been worried about before the photo was published, according to Barry Fitzsimmons, a photo editor at the Seattle Times.   ``She has a mortgage to pay and she really needs the job,'' said Fitzsimmons, who said he had a dozen phone conversations and exchanged 40 e-mails with Silicio before the photo was published.   He and the newspaper's senior editors wanted to make sure she understood the possible consequences of publication.

``In the end, she felt she would be OK and she would be able to keep her job,'' Fitzsimmons said.   ``I think there is a little bit of being naive about the whole thing.''

Silicio received no payment, but her name appeared under the photo.

Zuma Press, a photo agency, is handling distribution of the photo.   Rights to publish it have been purchased by a weekly news magazine, according to Zuma.   Until it appears in that magazine, the deal specifically prohibits it from appearing in the Washington Post, USA Today or the New York Times.   Proceeds from the sale of the photo will go to a charity selected by Silicio, according to Zuma.

The Washington Post contributed to this report.


Weapons of Mass Deception
Monday 25 April 2005
By Christian Hendersonn
Schechter analysed the US mainstream media for his film
In the prelude to the war, the Bush administration hinted at the existence of a link between Iraq and the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.
However, intelligence investigations commissioned by the White House and Congress have since determined the suggested links were false.
According to Danny Schechter, a media veteran of almost 40 years who nicknamed himself the News Dissector, the 70% figure suggests US media failed their public and led them to believe a baseless claim.
As the invasion played out on television screens around the world, Schechter "self-embedded" in his living room and examined US media coverage of the war.
He turned his conclusions into Weapons of Mass Deception, a documentary film that examines how the media covered the war.
In the post-September 11 nationalistic ardour, the film concludes the US mainstream media failed to challenge Washington over its reasons for going to war, shut out anti-war voices and blurred the lines between commentary and journalism. spoke to Schechter on the sidelines of last week's Aljazeera Television Productions Festival in the Qatari capital, Doha, where Weapons of Mass Deception was shown.  Why did you make this film?
Danny Schechter:  I have been a journalist since the 1960s.  And in some ways, this project grew out of a lifetime of work. I worked in radio; I worked in local television; I worked in cable news; I worked in ABC; I worked in mainstream and I worked in independent [media] so I think I had a wide range of experience.
I have also written six books about media issues, so I have had a chance to think about it more deeply; I think all that uniquely qualified me to take on this project.  What are you trying to do in this film?
Danny Schechter:  I try to offer some fresh insights.  I also try to speak to journalists about what this means in terms of our responsibilities to challenge and what this means in terms of democracy.
In the film, I make the suggestion that the Bush administration practices deception as part of its strategy and military strategy.
WMD accuses the US media of group think 
We know that everything they were saying about WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction)and the link with Usama [bin Laden] were not true and many of us knew it then and we said so, but everyone was saying something different.
Now, with study after study they say it was "group think" in the intelligence community.  That's why they screwed up.
If there was group think in the intelligence community, what about the journalistic community?  There was group think there, too.  Are you influenced by Noam Chomsky and his theory of manufacturing consent?
Danny Schechter:  Noam Chomsky doesn't watch television; he is more of an analyst of the New York Times and elite journalism so I didn't go to him for an interview.
I was more interested in journalists who covered the war and how they were debating it.  So I feel that Chomsky had a brilliant analysis of media, but more of it is oriented toward print.  It doesn't always take into account the techniques of the media.  What do you think of Chomsky's critics who accuse him of overestimating the sophistication of media control, and that - in reality - it is more to do with day-to-day decisions and market forces?
Danny Schechter:  I don't buy the conspiracy theories of media.  I remember a group of Syrians came to our office and they said:  'We agree with you because we really know the Jews run everything.'  This was their analysis.  I said, excuse me, Rupert Murdoch is not Jewish the last time I looked.
You know the problem is corporate media and corporate-controlled media and how they operate within their framework.  What do you mean when you use the term post-journalism era?
Danny Schechter:  Journalism is at a crossroads.  There are many journalists today who still believe in the values of journalism but who are frustrated by the difficulty of practicing it because the companies they work for do not really respect journalistic principles.  What they are there to do is satisfy their bottom line concerns, they have closed bureau after bureau.
The film accuses the media of shutting out anti-war voices
There has been a pattern of dumbing down, and by dumbing it down it means people inside media are dumbing themselves down.  They are not asking good questions, they are not challenging official narratives the way they should be.
If you look at Fox News, there is very little journalism, very little reporting.  Mostly it is talk shows posing as news programmes and [they are] opinion driven, you have three times more pundits on air as opposed to journalists.  That's another sign of the post-journalism era.  Are blogs an alternative to mainstream media sources?
There are now 10 million blogs.  Of those, maybe 10% claim to be journalistic.  Some of the bloggers are very responsible, really challenging and doing investigative digging that mainstream media are not.

Some are motivated just by ideological concerns. Recently, for example, Eason Jordan, the former chief of news at CNN - when he said at Davos 12 journalists had been killed by US soldiers there was a big shock and he was forced to resign.  In that case, a blogger took an off-the-record meeting and just blasted it out there with out having a full record of what was said.
I think a lot of blogging can be very irresponsible and some of it is sponsored by political forces by the Republican party or the Democrat party and the like, so it has a political and ideological not a journalistic function.
But in my blog what I try to do every day is take the top stories and report what is not being reported by comparing and contrasting.  You credit American journalists who helped you make this film.  Do you think many in the US media are sympathetic to your message?
Journalists review copies of the 9/11 Commission report
Danny Schechter:  Whenever I talk to people in the media off the record, including anchormen, people are very supportive, people slip me footage from various networks.  People are very helpful, but a lot of them are living in a lot of fear.  Everybody feels vulnerable, people have mortgages; they have families - it's difficult to be courageous.
Many American media people feel vulnerable and as if they are being bullied, they feel totally insecure.  In the culture of the newsroom, if you put your head up, it will get chopped off.  Everybody is getting along by going along and that's a dangerous kind of conformity.  If the US is involved in another war, how do you think it will be reported in the US media?  Do you think the media have learned from some of the mistakes of the Iraq war.
Danny Schechter:  The institutional practices have not changed.  I feel like the coverage of the elections was very similar to the coverage of the war.  The same templates are being used, the same approach, the lack of political scrutiny, the lack of other voices, the way things are being framed, the lack of investigative checking.
The American media reported the Iraqi elections as a great victory for democracy.  Everyone else reported them and asked Iraqis why they were voting and they said to get the Americans out and to end the occupation.  Their reasons are very different from the way it was presented on American televisions.  So we still have this propaganda system, in effect, but its credibility is starting to be questioned.  And I hope my film will contribute to that.
What I want to see is more journalists taking more responsibility for what they do and showing more solidarity when other journalists are shot and killed.
How many people in the American media protested the killing of Tariq Ayub [Aljazeera's correspondent slain in Baghdad by US fire on 8 April 2003]?  That was blatant, a completely blatant assassination and yet nobody said a word.  We need to challenge that and show more solidarity with other media workers.
          Aljazeera - Features
Unspeakable grief and horror
                        ...and the circus of deception continues...
Most recent Kewe blog   click here
— 2015
— 2014
— 2013
— 2012
— 2011
— 2010
— 2009
— 2008
— 2007
— 2006
— 2005
— 2004
— 2003
Circus of Torture   2003 — now
He says, "You are quite mad, Kewe"
And of course I am.
Why, I don't believe any of it — not the bloody body, not the bloody mind, not even the bloody Universe, or is it bloody multiverse.
"It's all illusion," I say.   "Don't you know, my lad, my lassie.   The game!   The game, me girl, me boy!   Takes on interest, don't you know.   T'is me sport, till doest find a better!"
Pssssst — but all this stuff is happening down here
Let's change it!


       Afghanistan — Western Terror States: Canada, US, UK, France, Germany, Italy       
       Photos of Afghanistan people being killed and injured by NATO     


For archive purposes, this article is being stored on website.
The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.