The Hersh bomb

Who better to tell us about how to break big, compelling news than the grand inquisitor himself, Seymour Hersh? The dean of investigative reporting, and current New Yorker contributor who won a National Magazine Award this year, has been doing quality work all the way back to his Pulitzer Prize-winning days of reporting those deaths at My Lai in 1969.

So, we ventured to his address at the national American Civil Liberties Union conference in San Francisco and came away with a definite hint that more is to come on his latest big story regarding prison torture by American soldiers. We think.

In his rather scattered approach to public speaking (how does he get those lengthy pieces down on paper?), Hersh jumped around from disgruntled generals in the Defense Department to him breaking the Abu Ghraib prison torture story, when he dropped this bomb on the crowd: “Um, I thought about this. Maybe I shouldn’t. You know those notes that the women got out of the prison? The ones that said, ‘Please kill me’? Maybe it was because their sons were getting sodomized in there.”

Whoa. People in the crowd looked at each other, as in “Did you just hear that, too?” Hersh went on to say the screams from the young men inside the prison were on the videotapes, some of which have not been seen, or heard, by the public. He added, “The administration knows this, and they’re hoping it doesn’t come out. It will.” Does this mean that the Arab world will be further inflamed by even more horrific, demeaning scenes of sexual abuse on the videos the Defense Department is holding? After stunning the audience, Hersh would only add that he has “to report it out.”

Another matter of discussion at the conference was the attempt to improve on the USA Patriot Act, or perhaps just rein it in, regarding the feds snooping through libraries and bookstores (see “Partisans over liberties”). Perhaps the administration should look into its own terrorism in Abu Ghraib first.