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Ten years ago, the United States also justified its detention of al-Jazeera journalists by claiming a “national security threat”. These arrests could not be cloaked as mere collateral damage in a messy war. The US, then as Egypt does now, made leaping connections between the news network and militants, and specifically targeted those whose coverage did not serve the military’s objectives: Dick Cheney warned that al-Jazeera risked being “labeled as ‘Osama’s outlet to the world‘”; Donald Rumsfeld called the network’s coverage of the Iraq war “vicious, inaccurate, inexcusable”.
Over the next several years, US forces arrested and detained al-Jazeera journalists like Sami al Hajj and Salah Hasan Nusaif Jasim al Ejaili. US military forces captured both in separate instances while they were doing their jobs, and tortured them while attempting to establish ties between al-Jazeera and al-Qaida. Neither al Hajj nor al Ejaili received justice for their wrongful detention. After seven years of imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay, the US government released al Hajj to Sudanese authorities, without any reparations. Meanwhile al Ejaili, who was detained at Abu Ghraib, brought a case with other victims against the private military contractor at the prison, alleging it conspired to commit torture and war crimes. But the case was dismissed by the district court. The court perversely ordered al Ejaili and other plaintiffs to pay their alleged torturers for the cost of the suit. The case is pending on appeal.
The reverberations of this misguided War on Terror continue, even if the war has shifted: the Obama administration has famously invoked the Espionage Act more than any other American president, attempting to control press leaks with tactics a report found to be “the most aggressive … since the Nixon administration“.