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Introduction of the Issue
Terrorism often refers to war situations in which combatants unleash indiscriminate violence upon civilians as part of a war strategy to deter further attacks from opponents, with the main characteristic being unleashing terror on innocent civilians. Terrorists use a number of methods to accomplish their mission including kidnapping, inflicting injuries on the victims, and even killing.
In the past, acts of terrorism were random and restricted to warring nations. However, things have changed over time and now acts of terrorism are no longer restricted to war situations and the area of operation has broadened. In the recent past, the vice has raised global concern, as terrorists use the phenomenon as a means of attaining power and territorial dominance.
Somalia depicts a good example of how rogue militants apply the use of terror to cause instability within governments and gain control of an entire nation. The Al-Shabab, a splinter group of the larger Al Qaeda international group, is responsible for instability in Somalia and it has controlled the law and resources in the country for several years, thus weakening the government and leaving civilians at its mercy.
Most major acts of terrorism that have occurred in the past decade are creations of the Islamist extremist group Al Qaeda, either through subsidiary splinter organizations such as Al Shabab or through the main organization. The United States of America is one of the countries that have been on the receiving end mainly due to its efforts to root out the vice and its involvement in violence in Islamic nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
The attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in 2001 that resulted in the deaths of dozens of Americans and destruction of property worth millions of dollars courtesy of the Al Qaeda revealed the seriousness of the terrorism menace. For this reason, the government of the United States has been on the forefront in fighting terrorism internationally.
Contributions of Journalism
International news agencies have made it possible for the world to access information on global occurrences concerning terrorism. Although journalism is vital in providing access to information, journalists are responsible for the nature of information they broadcast and the level of disclosure they deem fit.
Therefore, it is crucial for them to conduct background research and confirm the plausibility of their information without compromising the right of people to access the truth. Most news articles published online regarding terrorism and the American government’s involvement highlight certain key issues.
First, although the American government’s efforts are noble in theory, the practicality of accomplishing the eradication of terrorism has raised some concerns in the international community. The strategic implementation of plans to eradicate terrorist activities by the Al Qaeda is one of the concerns that the international community has raised with acts such as extraordinary rendition raising human rights concerns (Yardley Para.3).
Extraordinary rendition is the act of capturing and extraditing a suspect to a country other than the capturing nation for purposes of obtaining information or conducting a trial. Although international laws on human rights prohibit torture and mistreatment of prisoners of war during the term of their detention or during the process of interrogation, the United States government has in the past taken advantage of nations that have not ratified such conventions and used them for extraordinary rendition.
The reason behind such a move is that it allows the government to bypass the torture prohibitions in the process of interrogation by allowing the local authorities to use such methods instead. The American government thus acquires what it wants without technically breaking the law. Libya is one of the countries that are infamous for being a favorite destination for rendition for the American government.
Secondly, some journal articles express the international community’s concerns regarding the extent of the American government’s jurisdiction internationally. The jurisdictional concern comes from the ability of the American government to order the rendition of suspected terrorists. Sometimes, rendition has the effect of infringing the sovereignty of a country.
A good example of such a scenario is a recent raid in Tripoli, Libya, that led to the arrest of a terrorist suspected to have been behind the 1998 bombings of the U.S embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and plotting an attack on the U.S forces in Saudi Arabia around the year 2000.
A report by The New York Times on October 6, 2013 indicates that the U.S troops, with the help of the F.B.I, captured Abu Anas al-Libi outside his home in Tripoli and took him forcefully as his family watched (Baker and Sanger Para.4). Although some Libya citizens view the act as an abduction carried out by a government, a report by the U.S News and World Report indicates that the capture was legal and that the suspect would undergo a trial.
The report also stated that the U.S Secretary of State, John Kerry, asked people not to sympathize with terror suspects and that the arrest was not an abduction as the suspect was indicted in 2000 of his offences and will have a chance to defend himself. The report adds Kerry insisted that the American justice system prescribes to the rule of innocence until presented with proof of guilt (Lee Para.6).
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An analysis of the above scenario presents two elements in journalism, viz. the application of discretion and the effect of disclosure. Although what the U.S News and World Report article may bear truth, its resultant effect is the creation of doubt regarding the fairness of the suspect’s trial. The inclusion of information on the process of the capture and the statement of Kerry of not sympathizing with terror suspects bring doubt to the government’s presumption of the suspect’s innocence.
Therefore, it is important for journalists to weigh the effect that disclosure of certain information in their articles may have on the audience or readers. However, the use of facts in relaying the information in the creation of the report is commendable as it fosters the disclosure of truth to the readers, thus enabling them to make their own independent opinions.
A separate news report by The New York Times on the same day indicates that the U.S might be holding the suspect on a U.S navy ship outside Libya for questioning (Weiser and Schmitt Para.5). Holding a suspect on a ship outside territorial waters negates the use of a country’s laws and invites the application of international law until such a time when the ship reenters territorial waters. Usually, during a rendition, the laws of the capturing state apply (Yardley Para.7).
In the case of Abu Anas, American laws would apply, thus excluding torture. However, the use of the high seas creates a scenario in which the American government may opt to apply international law instead. The secluded location of the ship may also raise concerns regarding the fairness of the interrogation process.
Unlike the report by the U.S News and World Report, the information in this article is mainly speculative. Although the information makes a good story, the factual element of the report is wanting. Although the article contains some factual details about a similar case that serves as background information, the rest of the information including the army’s expectations and the occurrence of the event are purely speculative.
The report may hold some truth, but it serves to prove that readers have a duty to discern factual details and filter the rest when forming objective opinions about certain matters. For instance, the inclusion of information about a case similar to the speculative case may lead to the conclusion that such renditions normally occur for suspects with apparent links to Al-Qaeda, which may be true or false.
Provision of background information in journal articles allows readers to connect the dots and understand the flow of the entire story, which most news articles regarding the topic of discussion, viz. terrorism and the United State’s involvement, embrace.
The articles in the New York Times mention the reasons for Anas’ arrest as his suspected involvement in plotting against the United States troops in Saudi Arabia, involvement in the attacks on the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, and most crucial of all, involvement with Al Qaeda. Although Anas’ arrest may seem unfounded as an isolated incident, connection with such background information creates a larger picture for the reader.
The main inciting incidents that brought focus on the topic at hand were the attacks on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi on September 21, 2013 allegedly by Al-Shabab militants, resulting in the deaths of dozens of people and the injury of dozens more.
The attack was supposedly retaliation for Kenya’s deployment of troops to Somalia in a bid to root out the militant group and bring peace to Somalia. Although the United States did not feel any significant direct effects of the attack, it had an interest in the attack mainly for purposes of arresting the perpetrators of previous attacks on its embassies in 1998 and possible capture of Al Qaeda operatives.
The news articles indicate that the events raised concerns about the extent of damage that the Al Shabab group is capable of executing if allowed to grow. The concerns formed part of the reason why the U.S raided Somalia in a failed mission carried out earlier in October this year. The main reason for the mission was to conduct the arrest of a suspected Al Qaeda operative in the region.
The Libyan and Somali raids occurred simultaneously. Some of the information that remains unclear is details on what the United States government will do to the suspect, Anas, in the application of justice. Although the United States laws do not allow torture during interrogation of prisoners of war, it is unclear if such interrogation will take place in the U.S (Savage and Weiser Para.7).
The location of the suspect is also sketchy as information regarding the same on a naval ship outside Libya is purely speculative. Although it is understandable why such a location remains a secret due to security concerns, the same creates concerns on his treatment during the detention period. Another matter that remains unclear is the period of detention for the suspect.
Additionally, although the articles indicate concerns on the extent of the United States’ jurisdiction on matters beyond its boundaries following the alleged abduction of Abu Anas, the reports leave the question unanswered, with the closest answer being that the arrest was legal and compliant with the U.S laws.
Objectivity is one of the most important components of proper journalism as it gives the reader the chance to form informed yet independent opinions regarding events happening around him or her and round the world in general. In order to achieve such objectivity, it is important for journalists to present the entire story, devoid of personal prejudices and with a look at all angles.
In the case of terrorism, proper journalism would require journalists to present stories from the views of both the attackers and the victims of such acts. Although this aspect is the rule, it is sometimes impossible to detach personal opinions from a story while reporting. However, good journalists ought to know how to present such opinions as what they truly are and exercise care not to present them as facts.
For instance, the story by The New York Times on the probable location of Abu Anas may cause panic for some readers, especially close family and friends of the suspect due to the possible implications of the story considering past events and their outcomes. The implications sometimes overshadow the fact that the news report was a speculative lead on a possible location sometimes resulting in public reactions such as demonstrations that sometimes graduate to riots.
It may also cause security concerns for American officers on naval ships as it creates a basis for attacks on different ships from the militant group. One of the ways through which journalists can avoid such scenarios is through the confirmation of sources before the publication of articles and ensuring the indication of any personal opinions in the articles as such.
My point of view regarding the topic is that the government of the United States has the right to fight the terrorism menace internationally, and especially the Al Qaeda (The Editorial Board Para.8). The logic behind this stand is that the group emanates from Muslim nations in which the US had involved in battle, thus making it a combatant in every sense.
Secondly, the US has the right to protect its national security, especially after the 9/11 attacks (Baker et al. Para. 6). However, in the process of weeding out the menace, the American government should cooperate with other nations and respect their state sovereignty as per international law.
A report in the New York Times on October 6, 2013 indicates the dissatisfaction of the Libyan government with the manner in which American troops executed the raid (Gall and Kirkpatrick Para.8). Although there was no bloodshed, the capture of Abu Anas outside his home in broad daylight without the knowledge of the Libyan government officials caused questions among Libyan citizens on the sovereignty of their government.
Although the United States’ intention was noble considering the fact that the government in Libya is new and thus weak, the execution of the plan was lacking in some aspects. An editorial piece by the New York Times titled The Fight against Al Shabab also proves the American government’s ability to go beyond its mandate.
The article states that the United States’ involvement in Somalia mainly comprises air attacks on targets where there is suspicion of occupation by leaders of the terror group, provision of training for A.U troops, and provision of aid in terms of food, medical supplies, and financing. Overall, all the articles are informative about the topic, although some lack a certain level of objectivity by including speculative information and personal opinions.
Baker, Peter, and David Sanger. “Raids Show the Limits of U.S Military Strikes.” The New York Times 6 October 2013. Web. <www.nytimes.com/2013/10/07/world/africa/raids-show-the-limits-of-us-military-strikes.html>
Baker, Peter, Helene Cooper, and Mark Mazzetti. “Bin Laden Is Dead, Obama Says.” The New York Times 1 May 2011. Web. <www.nytimes.com/2011/05/02/world/asia/osama-bin-laden-is-killed.html>
Gall, Carlitta, and David Kirkpatrick. “Libya Condemns U.S for Seizing Terror suspect.” The New York Times 6 October 2013. Web. <www.nytimes.com/2013/10/07/world/africa/american-raids-in-africa.html>
Lee, Matthew. “Kerry: Capture of Terror Suspect in Libya Legal.” The U.S News and World Report 6 October 2013. Web. <www.usnews.com/news/politics/articles/2013/10/06/kerry-capture-of-terror-suspect-in-libya-legal>
Savage, Charlie, and Benjamin Weiser. “How the U.S is Interrogating a Qaeda Suspect.” The New York Times 7 October 2013. Web. <www.nytimes.com/2013/10/08/world/africa/q-and-a-on-interrogation-of-libyan-suspect.html>
The Editorial Board. “The Fight against Al Shabab.” The New York Times 6 October 2013. Web. <www.nytimes.com/2013/10/07/opinion/the-fight-against-al-shabab.html>
Weiser, Benjamin, and Eric Schmitt. “U.S Said to Hold Qaeda Suspect on Navy Ship.” The New York Times 6 October 2013. Web. <www.nytimes.com/2013/10/07/world/africa/a-terrorism-suspect-long-known-to-prosecutors.html>
Yardley, Jim. “Italy-Former C.I.A Chief Requests Pardon for 2009 Rendition Conviction.” The New York Times 13 September 2013. Web. <www.nytimes.com/2013/09/14/world/europe/-italy-former-cia-chief-requests-pardon-for-2009-rendition-conviction.html>