by Megan Doyle
On Monday, Petra Bartosiewicz came to speak to our class about the US War on Terror.
Petra is a freelance writer who “got her start in journalism at The New York Observer and later attended the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.” “She has written for numerous publications, including The Nation, Mother Jones, The New York Times, Salon.com and Hustler, and has worked in radio for the weekly program, This American Life.” She has won several awards and fellowships for her writing. She is currently working on a book called “The Best Terrorists We Could Find,” “an investigation of terrorism trials in the U.S. since 9/11,” set to be released in 2015.
Petra has established herself as a niche reporter, covering the one issue in depth. She has become somewhat of an expert on the War on Terror. She referred to herself as a “legal beat reporter without a newspaper,” in that she covers everything on the subject from a legal perspective, but because she remains freelance, she can sell her individual stories to different publications. For instance, she explained how she came to write a few articles for the Associated Press – she was simply present at the right place and time, they were understaffed, and she was knowledgeable on the subject.
Her writing tells a narrative that criticizes the American government for the targeting of marginalized yet criminal people and coercion into fake terrorist plots. However, she was quick to clarify that she did not set out with the agenda to critique the U.S. government. She explained that she uses primarily government documents and facts to build a story, and then she allows the reader to draw their own conclusions about what happened. This is imperative in such a sensitive topic as terrorism, where “ambiguity is the rule” and one may never know the whole truth.
Petra’s body of work covers ethical issues such as the effect of the War on Terror on civil liberties. Her talk with us centered largely around related themes in her work. She discussed what she called a “preventive paradigm,” in which the U.S. government seeks to take preventative action against potential terrorists despite the fact that this goes against everything that is historically upheld in the American justice system, that one is innocent until proven guilty. We further discussed the conflict between the War on Terror and due process, particularly in that due process is being threatened by these preventative counterterrorism actions.
Thank you, Petra, for taking the time to meet with our class! We expanded our knowledge and broadened our minds as a result of our discussion. Your insight was invaluable to our learning.