*Update 12/31: ABC News has updated their story about the terrorists released from Gitmo that attended an art therapy program in Saudi Arabia. They originally reported that 2 terrorists from the Saudi art therapy program were involved, but have since redacted their statement and are now saying it was just 1 from the program that was involved in the attacks on Christmas Day. We want to make sure we call out ABC for their continued poor reporting. Their statement is below.
ABCNews.com reported Monday in error that former Guantanamo prisoner #333, Muhamad Attik al-Harbi, was one of four leaders of the al Qaeda group that claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing.
Al-Harbi, who now goes by the name Muhamad al-Awfi, turned himself in to the Saudi government in Februrary 2009 and therefore could not have played a direct role in organizing the attempt to bring down Northwest flight 253.
Al-Harbi appeared in a propaganda tape released by the group in January 2009. According to published reports, he surrendered to Saudi security forces one month later in February 2009, well before the August arrival in Yemen of accused underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
We felt it was necessary to address some of the recent press surrounding art therapy and the failed terrorist attack on Christmas Day. It’s been a rough a few days for the art therapy world. Even the American Art Therapy Association has issued a public response, which we’ll let you judge on your own. Our response is more directed at ABC News’ poor coverage of art therapy and the jihad rehab program in Saudi Arabia.
Art Therapy Gets Dragged Through Mud Over Recent Terrorist Attacks
It’s a shame that the art therapy profession is getting dragged through the mud by a variety of sources including, most notably, ABC News. I guess the bright side to this is if you believe that all press is good press.
For a little background about the rehab program that has been getting more press lately, see this video from PBS about art therapy and the rehab program for terrorists in Saudi Arabia as well as this comprehensive CBC News report about the same program.
ABC News Ignorant About Art Therapy
I think that’s pretty obvious when you watch the newscasters in this video, especially when Diane Sawyer says, with disbelief, to Brian Ross:
“I just want to be clear…you said crayons and finger painting?”
The video didn’t really bother me until that point. I guess you could say they’re reporting the news, but they’re not reporting it very accurately. There is an obvious slant and tone to these news stories by ABC. And if they had looked into the program in Saudi Arabia more closely they would see that it involves a lot more than just “art therapy.” It also involves psychological counselling and religious education, which is not mentioned at all in the stories.
Additionally, they were a little vague when referring to U.S. critics. They make it sound like the whole U.S. is skeptical of the program. Besides, there will always be skeptics, so why didn’t they take a look at the numbers a little more closely instead of disregarding them altogether. The numbers certainly suggest the rehab program is working. 700 former al Qaeda terrorists have been reprogrammed according to the Saudi government, with at least 1 (was 2, but ABC reported the news incorrectly) that returned to their old ways. Certainly, it’s not 100% effective, but no therapy program is and no therapy program will guarantee complete success. And let’s not forget that al Qaeda terrorists have most likely endured a significant amount of programming, brainwashing, and who knows what else, that made them who they are.
The focus should NOT be art therapy
I realize that when something like this happens, society likes to point fingers immediately. I get that. What I don’t get is why ABC News isn’t focusing on how Abdulmutallab managed to get on the plane in the first place:
- He’s on a terrorist watch list.
- His dad warned the US embassy that his sone might be dangerous.
- He got onto the plane without a passport.
- He bought a one way ticket with cash.
- He didn’t check any bags on an international flight.
- Oh, and the supposed planners were released from Gitmo and attended a rehabilitation program in Saudi Arabia.
Hey ABC, don’t throw art therapy under the bus just because it’s easy. Stop pointing fingers at art therapy, and start pointing fingers in a direction that makes a little more sense.