by Garret Ean
Dec 15 2012
Dave Ridley yesterday uploaded one of his most intriguing camera-ban videos. Aaron Snipe, spokesman for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, on October 9 delivered a speech at the UNH Manchester campus. Snipe is a graduate of Emerson College in Boston and it appears has been going on speaking tours for the federal government for the past few years. Early in the video, we see a poster advertising the event entitled, “US Policy in the Middle East”. At the bottom is printed, “Free and Open to the Public”. Despite this, Ridley is told by an event organizer that he would not be allowed to audio or video record the event, but that he was free to attend and take notes.
The video ends with an ambush interview of Snipe as he walks from the hallway into the venue. Snipe enters with another man in a suit and carrying a satchel, allowing him to keep his hands free. When Ridley asks why recording is banned from the evening’s engagement, Snipe appears confused, and his presumed assistant replies, “Why is he off-the-record? It’s just because that’s the ground rules we set, thank you.”
Ridley walks with them towards the entrance and asks what, if anything, Mr. Snipe has done as a state department official to reduce the use of torture by US forces. He responds by asking, “US forces where?”
“Iraq, Afghanistan primarily.” What he receives is a cookie-cutter response typical of the most seasoned politician.
“Human rights has been at the cornerstone of American foreign policy for decades. And so, whether it’s in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or other parts of the Middle East, or South Asia, or anywhere around the world, advocating for the rights of human dignity is something that is core to American foreign policy.”
When Ridley notes his response and re-asks his question, Snipe seems to deny recent history of US treatment of detainees. Dilawar, the taxi driver who was abducted and tortured to death in 2002 by US forces in Afghanistan is cited, and the video ends with Snipe responding, “That’s not true.”
UNH Manchester published notification of the event to their website on September 26, which notes both that there would be no recording of the event and that it was free and open to the public with advanced registration encouraged. Registration was being coordinated by the World Affairs Council of New Hampshire. The announcement states:
One month after an attack on an American embassy lead to the first death of a US ambassador since 1988, the Deputy Director of the US State Department’s Near Eastern Affairs Bureau will address members of the World Affairs Council of New Hampshire and the public at UNH Manchester on Tuesday, October 9 at 6:00 p.m. in the third floor auditorium.
Aaron Snipe, Spokesperson for the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau, will speak about his work with the Bureau in an off-the-record program. The Bureau is tasked with helping Iraqis build a stable country; renewing progress toward a solution to the Palestine-Israeli conflict; working against terrorists and the spread of weapons of mass destruction; and supporting efforts at economic and political reform in the region. In his capacity as Spokesperson, Snipe speaks extensively to the US, regional, and international press to explain US policy in the Middle East, particularly on Iran, Iraq, the Middle East Peace Process, and Syria.
American Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed on September 11, 2012, along with three other Americans, during an attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Recent protests across the Middle East were sparked by an anti-Muslim video created in America.
Is this oxymoronic off-the-record/public event the product of fear? In the aftermath of the September 11 2012 strike on the US embassy in Benghazi, it seemed there was a myth propagating that almost any obscure media creation would be capable of starting riots throughout the Middle East, akin to the controversy surrounding cartoons published in Denmark depicting the Islamic prophet Muhammad. For this engagement, were the federales of the belief that any recorded comment on the matter was liable to spark another violent uprising? Perhaps the assumption was that text would cause no chaos as an audio or video recording, seen or heard by the right disgruntled minorities might. Whatever the federal government’s motivation was for having an Orwellian closed public reception, let us hope that this is not the beginning of a trend to further conceal official wrongdoings.