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What Waterboarding Bill?

March 10, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

First of all, the “waterboarding bill” that President Bush vetoed over the weekend was H.R. 2082, the 2008 Intelligence Authorization act.

Second, Will Riley at PublicPlease makes a good point about how difficult it is to find out this simple fact of the story if your source for news, like the majority of Americans, is the mainstream media:

>Have you read about a bill in an online news article and wanted to read the bill? Good luck because most online news articles neither name the bill nor hyperlink to it.
>Consider the waterboarding bill that Bush vetoed. According to the Washington Post article Bush Announces Veto of Waterboarding Ban, George W. Bush vetoed a bill which bans waterboarding, a torture technique which involves drowning a detainee in a controlled manner. Dan Eggen, its author, tells us some shocking information about the voting records of some of the presidential candidates. He tells us that John McCain voted against the ban on waterboarding, while having claimed to reject torture based on his experiences as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Also, Hilliary Clinton and Barack Obama failed to vote on the bill.
>As a citizen journalist, I want to read the bill for myself and review the voting records. Unfortunately the Washington Post article does not mention the bill. I searched for ‘waterboarding’ at and, but did not find a bill that had been voted on by the Senate. It may be one of the bills I found, but there is no way to be sure that I picked the correct bill without asking the author of the article, Dan Eggen. So I just emailed him. I’m waiting on his response.

Riley goes on to list articles from nine major news outlets (NYT, WaPo, AFP, BBC, etc.) that he got back from a Google News search for “waterboarding bill,” none of which actually tell him what bill is being discussed. While the waterboarding ban is the most contentious part of the Intellignce Authorization bill, there are many other important ones — the bill has the wide objective of determining intelligence-related activities for 2008 across the entire U.S. government. The articles don’t even give him the option to find that out (in the end that info came to him from a commenter on his blog).

As the Internet becomes more and more the primary place people go to get their news, we hope the big news outlets adopt the online tradition of hyperlinking to a public information source for what they are writing about. We (surprise) would suggest they link to OpenConress when writing about bills in Congress. If they link to us (or at least mention the official name or number of the bill in their article), our aggregator will automatically link back to them on the bill page, increasing the detail and perspective available on our page and leaving it a more valuable public resource than it was when they linked in.

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  • TheRandomTexan 03/10/2008 3:33am

    This problem isn’t new with the web. I’ve often tried to track down the primary source for some science or medical report and found either (a) no useful reference or (b) a press release that had been copied verbatim into the article. Apparently J-school has been streamlined by omitting the lesson on “bibliographies.”

  • Anonymous 03/10/2008 2:13pm

    Can you explain why Pepfar is financing five years for agencies and is considered part of the new budget for the year at Congress? It’s Presidential, but is being considered as a five year budget by Congress for those agencies.

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