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NPR's All Things Considered aired on Thursday's program an interview with Daniel Chong on his four days in the windowless DEA hell cell. Audie Cornish was the interviewer.

While it was heartening to hear Chong's voice for the first time (he is obviously a bright young man and seems to be making a good mental recovery) I nevertheless found some aspects of it disturbing, and was, quite simply aghast by two things Cornish said.

NOTE:  If possible, before you read my reactions below, please take the four minutes to listen to the story and interview.  You really need to hear the context and tone of her voice to see why I am so put out here.

The first was what seemed to me to be a stultifyingly clueless question posed after she noted that he was planning to make a claim against the DEA:

"what are you hoping to get out of that action?"
  What!?! ....  

I mean good God Ms. Cornish...  What the hell do you think he wants to get out of it?!  This is known as claiming damages.  He was physically damaged, as well as mentally damaged, and in a multitude of horrific ways already tangibly catalogued, and doubtless in the future there will be PTSD. One can only imagine.  And since there is an identifiable, culpable, guilty party, there can be no question that there must be compensation made.  But... the merest suggestion that this is some kind of opportunistic profiteering!?!? ..... WTF?!?

OK. Maybe I need to calm down.  Perhaps it was just poor word choice, but... enough- let's move on to the second bizarre statement:

"this sounds like a very trying incident for you."
What!?! ....    "for you" ??? This is just Emily Litella clueless.  For it implies that there are people out there for whom this would NOT be a trying incident!

I'm sorry but this is just plain old thoughtless and shows little or no consideration for how unbelievably inhumane and cruel and nightmarish an experience Chong was subjected to!  I must confess: from my own personal perspective, being extremely claustrophobic, that even with food and water I would have a very hard time dealing with such a predicament.  I don't even have to think about it for more than a moment- it would be like my worst nightmare come true!

Now, I must also add that a good part of my visceral reaction here stems from seeing this same lack of recognition for just how barbaric this all was being expressed by far too wide a swath of America.  And I am sure you have seen it too if you have gone to any of the news websites with public comments appended: it basically goes: "well that's what you get for smoking pot/hanging out with bad guys/ being in the wrong place at the wrong time" etc...

NO!!!!!!  No human being deserves this kind of treatment for any reason!!!  
What the hell is wrong with people that they are so utterly lacking in empathy?!

Finally, as if Ms. Cornish had not already gotten me worked up enough, she closes with the fact that he was:

"detained for about 4 days in a windowless cell".
 OMG. "about"?!?!  Did she really have to stick that qualifier on there?  Such saccharine equivocation is completely unwarranted here.  And while I realize journalists are supposed to practice an objective detachment from their stories, the nonchalance was totally inappropriate for this story.  Ms. Cornish came off as an uncompassionate automaton.

Originally posted to NYFM on Fri May 04, 2012 at 06:48 AM PDT.

Also republished by Police Accountability Group.

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