McConnell’s office duped by an Onion-style piece on Gitmo

Is the Obama administration preparing to give prisoners at Guantanamo Bay GI Bill benefits as part of a plan to “completely crush their souls with bureaucracy?” Wired Magazine reports that Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office asked the Pentagon that very question after a constituent sounded the alarm.

The problem? That far-fetched notion came from a story on the satirical site “The Duffel Blog,” a military-focused answer to The Onion. (Wired posted the constituent’s letter and the query from McConnell’s office on its top-notch “Danger Room” blog on national security).

“I am writing on behalf of a constituent who has contacted me regarding Guantanamo Bay prisoners receiving Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits,” McConnell wrote. “I would appreciate your review and response to my constituent’s concerns.”

What triggered the unnamed Kentuckian’s worries? This post.

“By allowing the detainees to use the Department of Veterans Affairs, we hope to completely crush their souls with bureaucracy,” a (fake) Pentagon spokesman says in the piece.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is then quoted as saying: “Because most ‘guests’ at Guantanamo Bay have been there nearly a decade and there is no end in site for their ‘visit,’ the Department of Veterans Affairs is ready to have their claims processed in 12-15 years as per standard operating procedure.”

This is, as Danger Room reporter Spencer Ackerman points out, an attempt “to send up the inadequate, mollasses-slow [sic] benefits the government provides to the nation’s veterans.”

McConnell's office explained the mix-up as vigorous attention to constituent concerns.

"Senator McConnell's office is hyper-vigilant about finding answers to the questions raised by his constituents. If the inquiry is unfamiliar to our staff, we often attempt to find answers from agencies and in this case, that extra effort produced a humorous misunderstanding. And frankly, we were surprised that anyone from the administration would forward a constituent's letter to the press," said McConnell spokesman Don Stewart.

No word on whether any lawmakers have expressed outrage about this Duffel Blog post: “Study: Infantry Battalions Commanded By Females More Likely To Stop For Directions, Arrive Late.” But it only went up Wednesday morning.

McConnell’s office is hardly the first to have a little trouble distinguishing humor sites from actual news sources (though, in their defense…nah, better not). It wasn’t that long ago that a Chinese paper congratulated Kim Jong Un on being named "Sexiest Man Alive" by The Onion.