Appearance Alert!
MRC's Brent Bozell on FNC's The Kelly File, Wednesday 9pm ET/PT

ABC Upset 'Chilling' Memos Reveal Zubaydah 'Tortured with Insect' --4/17/2009


1. ABC Upset 'Chilling' Memos Reveal Zubaydah 'Tortured with Insect'
ABC's Charles Gibson, Jan Crawford Greenburg and George Stephanopoulos all stressed Thursday night how, Bush administration Justice Department memos clarifying what techniques interrogators could use with suspected terrorists, included what Stephanopoulos described as "torture with an insect" -- a method ABC failed to note was not ever employed. "Tonight, secret memos," anchor Charles Gibson teased World News, "new documents reveal in vivid detail just how far the Bush administration went in interrogating terror suspects, using insects, confinement boxes, water-boards and more." Reporter Jan Crawford Greenburg characterized the memos as "chilling in their detail," citing how "they approved prisoners placed in a cramped confinement box with an insect..." Following Greenburg, Stephanopoulos marveled: "Even some congressional officials who had the highest security clearances were surprised by some of the details today, especially that detail about the fact that Zubayda was tortured with an insect in a confinement box." Let that formulation sink in: "Tortured with an insect." The horror!

2. CNN Doubts Tea Party 'Rationality,' Hints They're 'Out of Step'
On Wednesday's Anderson Cooper 360 program, CNN's Christiane Amanpour and Jeffrey Toobin voiced their skepticism about the hundreds of Tea Party protests across the U.S., with Toobin stating how it was "disturbing" that there was a "edge of anger at the government" at the rallies. He continued: "There is a real -- a real hostility that is not just politics as usual among some of these people....I think it's indicative of trying to tap into an anger that's beyond rationality on a part of a small group of these people." Amanpour also asked if the protesters were "really out of step with the majority of Americans."

3. Scarborough Takes on MSNBC? Attacks Those Who Mock Tea Parties
Has Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough had enough of MSNBC's mocking, sexually-laced taunts about "teabagging?" Several anchors on the liberal cable network, including David Shuster and Rachel Maddow, have used crude references and language to deride the tax day protests that occurred on Wednesday. On Thursday, Scarborough complained: "You look at these huge rallies, and I'm not going to mention names of people on networks that made sexual jokes, childish sexual jokes, about tens of thousands of Americans who went out and wanted to get involved in their government." The MSNBC host continued: "I mean, it was really middle school jokes being made. I didn't hear those jokes being made when people on the left protested over the past eight years." Earlier in the 6am EDT hour, he offered criticism that, one might assume, would have to be directed at his own network: "But, if a media outlet wants to expose its bias, they can mock tea parties, if they like."

4. ABC's Sawyer Presses on Guns; Skips Story of Right-Wing Violence
Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer interviewed Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday and skipped any mention of a controversial report by the agency warning of right-wing extremist activity and disgruntled returning war veterans. In separate interviews, both the CBS Early Show and NBC's Today discussed the hot-topic issue with the top government official (see items #5 and #6 below). Instead, Sawyer pressed Napolitano with incorrect numbers about gun violence and Mexico. "95 percent of the guns used were out of the United States. What is the U.S. going to do to stop the guns from getting there," she asked.

5. CBS's Rodriguez Urges Assault Weapons Ban to DHS Chief
While discussing the ongoing drug war in Mexico with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez wondered: "President Obama will meet with the Mexican president today, who has said that the money, the guns, and the appetite for drugs that fuel this war come from our country. My question is, how much blame do we accept?...Is one of the other things we can do reinstate the assault weapons ban in this country? Because President Calderon has said that ever since it expired, violence there has escalated." In an earlier report on the issue, correspondent Bill Plante explained: "Mexican authorities are often out-gunned by the gangs. Military-grade arms, including grenades and machine guns, are easily purchased in the U.S. and smuggled into Mexico. Just as the drugs are easily moved north in response to heavy demand in the U.S...President Obama will promise today to step up efforts to stop the flow of weapons from the U.S. down into Mexico."

6. Matt Lauer and Andrea Mitchell Push for Assault Weapons Ban
NBC's Matt Lauer and Andrea Mitchell, on Thursday's Today show, pressed their guests (Lauer with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Mitchell with Mexican President Felipe Calderon) about reinstituting the assault weapons ban. First up, Mitchell -- who pushed Hillary Clinton last month to bring back the ban -- offered Calderon an open to blame Mexican drug cartel violence on guns imported from the U.S.: "President Obama will not deliver long-promised Blackhawk helicopters, nor a ban on assault weapons smuggled south. He campaigned as a candidate against the assault weapons. Now that he's in office, he's had to back off." Lauer to Napolitano: "When you look at the numbers, that 90 percent of the 12,000 weapons Mexican officials recovered from these drug cartels in the last year or so were made and sold in the United States, and many of those, as we just heard from President Calderon, are assault weapons, how can President Obama, who ran on an issue against assault weapons, how can he not deliver on that?"


ABC Upset 'Chilling' Memos Reveal Zubaydah
'Tortured with Insect'

ABC's Charles Gibson, Jan Crawford Greenburg and George Stephanopoulos all stressed Thursday night how, Bush administration Justice Department memos clarifying what techniques interrogators could use with suspected terrorists, included what Stephanopoulos described as "torture with an insect" -- a method ABC failed to note was not ever employed. "Tonight, secret memos," anchor Charles Gibson teased World News, "new documents reveal in vivid detail just how far the Bush administration went in interrogating terror suspects, using insects, confinement boxes, water-boards and more."

Reporter Jan Crawford Greenburg characterized the memos as "chilling in their detail," citing how "they approved prisoners placed in a cramped confinement box with an insect..." Following Greenburg, Stephanopoulos marveled: "Even some congressional officials who had the highest security clearances were surprised by some of the details today, especially that detail about the fact that Zubayda was tortured with an insect in a confinement box." Let that formulation sink in: "Tortured with an insect." The horror!

Zubaydah, however, was never forced to spend time near a caterpillar, Pete Williams reported on the NBC Nightly News: "In the case of al-Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah, who feared insects, interrogators were given permission to put a harmless one like a caterpillar in a box in which he was confined, but that technique was never used."

On the CBS Evening News, Bob Orr didn't mention the insect revelation.

The New York Times story posted late Thursday afternoon considered the insect information newsworthy enough to put into the second paragraph, but noted "the technique was not used." From the top of the article, dated April 17 so likely how it will appear in the Friday newspaper, "Interrogation Memos Detail Harsh Tactics by the C.I.A.," by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane:

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department made public on Thursday detailed memos describing harsh interrogation techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency, as President Obama said that C.I.A. operatives who carried out the techniques would not be prosecuted.

One technique authorized for use by the C.I.A. beginning in August 2002 was the use of "insects placed in a confinement box," presumably to induce fear on the part of a terror suspect. According to a footnote, the technique was not used....

For the entire New York Times story: www.nytimes.com

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Thursday night, with video, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

From the Thursday, April 16 World News on ABC:

CHARLES GIBSON: They read like a step by step how to manual. How to extract information from high value terror suspects. The Obama Justice Department today released documents that lay out, in stark detail, the interrogation methods used by the Bush administration -- the techniques designed to stay just within what the administration said the law might allow. Today, President Obama called ita "dark and painful chapter" in our history. Here's our legal correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg.
GREENBURG: The memos released from the Justice Department today are chilling in their detail. Pages of legal analysis about specific CIA interrogation techniques used against top al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons around the world. They approved prisoners placed in a cramped confinement box with an insect, the use of shackling to keep the detainee awake for up to one week, and top suspects repeatedly subjected to simulated drowning known as the water-board. The question the CIA asked the Justice Department, were those harsh methods torture? The answer, after pages of legal analysis, no....

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Surprisingly, even some congressional officials who had the highest security clearances were surprised by some of the details today, especially that detail about the fact that Zubayda was tortured with an insect in a confinement box. That was surprising.

CNN Doubts Tea Party 'Rationality,' Hints
They're 'Out of Step'

On Wednesday's Anderson Cooper 360 program, CNN's Christiane Amanpour and Jeffrey Toobin voiced their skepticism about the hundreds of Tea Party protests across the U.S., with Toobin stating how it was "disturbing" that there was a "edge of anger at the government" at the rallies. He continued: "There is a real -- a real hostility that is not just politics as usual among some of these people....I think it's indicative of trying to tap into an anger that's beyond rationality on a part of a small group of these people." Amanpour also asked if the protesters were "really out of step with the majority of Americans."

Amanpour, filing in for host Anderson Cooper, began the segment just after the beginning of the 10 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program. Before turning to Toobin, she brought on the network's senior political analyst David Gergen and asked him a cynical question about the Tea Parties: "David -- is this, David, a grassroots movement, or is it something just whipped up for this moment?" Gergen began with an admission: "Well, Christiane, at first, I must confess, I did not take these very seriously. But they do seem to have gained traction in the last couple of weeks. And they have -- I think they are giving expression to what is a groundswell of a vocal minority, who are increasingly alienated and opposed to what the president is proposing -- is putting forward, the agenda he's advancing."

[This item, by the MRC's Matthew Balan, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The analyst continued with a prediction about the future of the Tea Party movement: "I don't think this is mostly about taxes. I think it's about the general direction of bigger deficits that may lead to more taxes and more government....Could it grow bigger? Of course, it's going -- it is going to grow bigger, because, one day, you know what? The Obama administration is probably going to have to propose higher taxes. It's the only way you can close these deficits."

Amanpour made a more subdued version of her colleague Susan Roesgen's point about the Obama tax reductions to Toobin: "So, David is talking about higher taxes potentially, and that this is probably not all about taxes. But it does come at a time, right now, when President Obama has actually slashed taxes. What are they doing?"

For more on Roesgen's rebuke of Tea Party protesters in Chicago, see the April 16, 2009 CyberAlert item, "CNN Reporter Claims Tea Parties 'Anti-Government' and 'Anti-CNN,'" at: www.mrc.org

The senior legal analyst thought it was "perfectly legitimate" that the majority of the Tea Party protesters were "clearly very angry about bailing out these big companies -- too much regulation, too much Washington." But he then brought in the specter of the "anger that's beyond rationality." As an example, he cited Texas Governor Rick Perry's light crack about secession at an Austin, Texas Tea Party.

TOOBIN: What's disturbing about some of these protests and some of the people at these protests is this edge of anger at the government. There is a real -- a real hostility that is not just politics as usual among some of these people. You have the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, today suggesting that secession might be an option.
AMANPOUR: And how real is that?
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, it's fantasy. We fought a civil war about that. And -- but I think it's indicative of trying to tap into an anger that's beyond rationality on a part of a small group of these people.

Near the end of the segment, the substitute anchor asked Gergen, "Are these protesters really out of step with the majority of Americans? We just saw...that 62 percent of the people here approve of the president's handling of the economy, and that Americans rate taxes, incredibly at, the very bottom of the most important economic issues right now." The analyst was reluctant to write off the protests:

GERGEN: These protesters do represent a minority, but it is not a tiny minority....About a quarter to 30 percent of Republicans approve of what President Obama is doing, which is pretty high in some ways, but, nonetheless, about two-thirds to three-quarters of Republicans don't. So, you're talking about a -- a significant piece of the population that is having -- you know, is -- is in some opposition. I don't think that's a dismissible group.
I -- to go back to Jeff Toobin's point, which I think is right, there -- this is a piece, though, of a lot of anger that's free-flowing in society. Some people are angry at the government. There are a lot of people out there, as Jeffrey knows, who are angry at Wall Street. You know, so, there is -- in this kind of -- these hard times, resentments do grow....So, this is not totally unusual. I think that President Obama is going to have to just sort of -- this is going to be just part of the landscape. That does not mean he does not have a significant majority behind him. He still does. He has well over 60 percent. And, very importantly for him, it's not just the great majority of Democrats who are supporting him. Right now, a significant majority of independents are supporting him, well over 60 percent.

Scarborough Takes on MSNBC? Attacks Those
Who Mock Tea Parties

Has Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough had enough of MSNBC's mocking, sexually-laced taunts about "teabagging?" Several anchors on the liberal cable network, including David Shuster and Rachel Maddow, have used crude references and language to deride the tax day protests that occurred on Wednesday. On Thursday, Scarborough complained: "You look at these huge rallies, and I'm not going to mention names of people on networks that made sexual jokes, childish sexual jokes, about tens of thousands of Americans who went out and wanted to get involved in their government."

The MSNBC host continued: "I mean, it was really middle school jokes being made. I didn't hear those jokes being made when people on the left protested over the past eight years." Earlier in the 6am EDT hour, he offered criticism that, one might assume, would have to be directed at his own network: "But, if a media outlet wants to expose its bias, they can mock tea parties, if they like."

[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Continuing the unnamed critique, Scarborough asserted that he would expect such juvenile actions from liberal bloggers, however, "I would expect more...from news outlets. And it happened on several networks yesterday."

As a reminder of the crudity, on the April 13 Countdown with Keith Olbermann, guest host David Shuster mocked: "But in our fourth story tonight: It's going to be teabagging day for the right-wing and they're going nuts for it. Thousands of them whipped out the festivities early this past weekend, and while the parties are officially toothless, the teabaggers are full-throated about their goals." See an April 14 NewsBusters posting for more: newsbusters.org

A transcript of the conversation, which started at 6:01am EDT, follows:

[Brief clips of tea parties.]
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: All right. Well, that's nice. It was a tea party.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, it was. Very exciting. They had a big day.
BRZEZINSKI: It's always good to have a tea party. Non-violent.
SCARBOROUGH: A lot of- A lot of news outlets mocked these protesters.
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.
SCARBOROUGH: While they allowed people on the left to put on the most outrageous protests over the past eight years. Taking it very seriously. But, if a media outlet wants to expose its bias, they can mock tea parties, if they like.
BRZEZINSKI: They can do that.
SCARBOROUGH: That's their business. They're free corporations. Do whatever they want to do.
BRZEZINSKI: Good morning, everyone.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, how's everybody doing? There's extremism out there, though.
BRZEZINSKI: There is. On both sides.

6:12:
SCARBOROUGH: You look at these huge rallies, and I'm not going to mention names of people on networks that made sexual jokes, childish sexual jokes, about tens of thousands of Americans who went out and wanted to get involved in their government. I mean, it was really middle school jokes being made. I didn't hear those jokes being made when people on the left protested over the past eight years. And I would- I would expect that from bloggers on the left. I would expect more of that, more of that- than that, from news outlets. And it happened on several networks yesterday.
BRZEZINSKI: I would rather see this than apathy this and people who are just disconnected from what's going on.

ABC's Sawyer Presses on Guns; Skips Story
of Right-Wing Violence

Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer interviewed Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday and skipped any mention of a controversial report by the agency warning of right-wing extremist activity and disgruntled returning war veterans. In separate interviews, both the CBS Early Show and NBC's Today discussed the hot-topic issue with the top government official (see items #5 and #6 below). Instead, Sawyer pressed Napolitano with incorrect numbers about gun violence and Mexico. "95 percent of the guns used were out of the United States. What is the U.S. going to do to stop the guns from getting there," she asked.

In fact, the number of guns traced to the U.S. is only about 17 percent. See: www.foxnews.com

Even the Homeland Security Ssecretary seemed to be uncomfortable with the statistic. Before answering the question, Napolitano prefaced, "And I won't quibble about numbers. That's not the point." On the issue of terrorism, the GMA host posed this not-exactly pressing question: "Do you see, in your reports that you're now reading in great detail, do you see an increase in the threat to the U.S. homeland? Or do you have them on the run?"

[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

In fairness, Sawyer did cite conservative criticism by Dick Cheney and ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. She observed, "On the issue of terrorism, as you know, the former Vice President, Dick Cheney, has said that President Obama 'is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack.'" The journalist added, "Is the U.S. less safe now than it was under President Bush? Is it safer?"

A transcript of the April 16 segment, which aired at 7:07am, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: And when President Obama meets with Mexican officials today, the new person in charge of guaranteeing that the U.S. homeland is safe and secure, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, will be at his side. We had a chance to speak with her. And she's been in the line of fire recently, from former administration officials, including the former vice president. On the issue of terrorism, as you know, the former Vice President, Dick Cheney, has said that President Obama "is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack." And Newt Gingrich, former House speaker, said "the U.S. is running greater risks of getting attacked than we were under President Bush." Is the U.S. less safe now than it was under President Bush? Is it safer?
JANET NAPOLITANO (U.S. Homeland Security Secretary): You know, the former vice president is just wrong. And, you know, we don't need Guantanamo, which is really what he's talking about, to be safe as a country, or as safe as we can be, in a world where there's an ever-changing threat environment. Indeed, places like Guantanamo have been used by groups like al Qaeda to recruit other members. And so, the President, the vice president, the cabinet members, such as myself, we spend our waking hours, really working through what is needed to be done to protect the American people.
SAWYER: Do you see, in your reports that you're now reading in great detail, do you see an increase in the threat to the U.S. homeland? Or do you have them on the run?
NAPOLITANO: Terrorism- it's very easy to quantify in that sense. It's not as if you get up and today, you're on a scale of three on a scale of ten or eight out of ten. You have to constantly be preparing against the known, but also trying to conceive of the unknown, to try to get ahead of the terrorists, as it were. And terrorism can take many, many different forms. And so, that's what I meant when I said earlier in this interview, we're constantly thinking and working on what can be done to reduce risks to the American people. We can never eliminate it. Let me be very clear about that. We can never eliminate all risk to terrorism, but what can we do to reduce it and be prepared for it? Excuse me?
SAWYER: But do you see an increase- But do you see an increase in the threat?
NAPOLITANO: Again, that's an impossible question to answer. I think you have to assume it's at least a constant threat.
SAWYER: Want to turn to the visit today, and the news of the day and your trip to Mexico with the President. Two big issues as we know, the violence and also the immigration issue. On the violence issue, 6,500 people were killed in drug violence in 2008 alone. 95 percent of the guns used were out of the United States. What is the U.S. going to do to stop the guns from getting there?
NAPOLITANO: Well, we're doing a number of things. And I won't quibble about numbers. That's not the point. The point is that a number of the weapons going into Mexico are coming from the United States. So, we have moved agents, resources. We actually have dogs that are trained to sniff guns. We've moved them to do southbound checks, as well as continuing and enhancing the northbound work that we're doing. Northbound to protect against illegal drugs, illegal immigrants. Southbound, to check against cash and guns going to fuel this very violent drug war in Mexico.

CBS's Rodriguez Urges Assault Weapons
Ban to DHS Chief

While discussing the ongoing drug war in Mexico with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez wondered: "President Obama will meet with the Mexican president today, who has said that the money, the guns, and the appetite for drugs that fuel this war come from our country. My question is, how much blame do we accept?...Is one of the other things we can do reinstate the assault weapons ban in this country? Because President Calderon has said that ever since it expired, violence there has escalated." In an earlier report on the issue, correspondent Bill Plante explained: "Mexican authorities are often out-gunned by the gangs. Military-grade arms, including grenades and machine guns, are easily purchased in the U.S. and smuggled into Mexico. Just as the drugs are easily moved north in response to heavy demand in the U.S...President Obama will promise today to step up efforts to stop the flow of weapons from the U.S. down into Mexico."

Earlier media reports claimed 90% of guns involved in the Mexican drug war came from the U.S., a statistic which was later proven false by Fox News's William La Jeunesse and Maxim Lott: www.foxnews.com

[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

To her credit, Rodriguez did provide a stiff challenge to Napolitano on the issue of a newly released DHS report that warns of a rise in "right-wing extremism": "I want to also ask you about the report that you put out warning of right-wing extremism in our country. Some Republicans, as I'm sure you're aware, have criticized it as irresponsible. My question is, why put out a report like this that could breed this sort of divisiveness when you admit there's no evidence these right-wing groups are planning anything?" Napolitano replied: "They're not intended to infringe on anyone's constitutional rights by any stretch. They're not accusations, they are assessments based on what's happened in the past, so that people are aware of the possibilities out there."

Rodriguez followed up: "If you had it to do over, given the criticism, would you still put that out report? And if so, would you word it any differently?" Napolitano admitted: "You know, there's a few words in there, given the criticism. I've got to tell you, any time you have the word smiths going after something that's been produced after the fact there's a lot of armchair quarterbacking. So, of course, in light of the criticism, perhaps a few words would be changed."

Here is the full transcript of the April 16 segment:

7:00AM TEASE:
JULIE CHEN: America under threat. President Obama heads to Mexico today, amid growing drug violence that is spilling over the U.S. border. We'll tell you the incredible plan to ensure his safety. Plus we'll talk to the Homeland Security secretary about brand-new threats right here at home.

7:04AM SEGMENT:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: President Obama arrives in Mexico this afternoon. His visit comes just a day after he appointed a drug czar to monitor the U.S./Mexican border. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante is in Mexico City this morning. Good morning, Bill.
BILL PLANTE: Good morning to you, Maggie. This visit comes at a time of all-out war between the Mexican authorities and the drug cartels. It's a war that has claimed more than 10,000 people, 10,000 lives, and violence that has spilled across the border. So that will be topic 'A' when President Obama meets today with Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Violence like this gun battle between Mexican federal police and drug runners along the U.S./Mexico border is so pervasive that American officials are calling it a 'growing security threat.'
ANTHONY PLACIDO: Mexican drug trafficking organizations now control virtually all of the retail distribution networks in the United States. You can find them in large and small cities across the country.
PLANTE: Mexican authorities are often out-gunned by the gangs. Military-grade arms, including grenades and machine guns, are easily purchased in the U.S. and smuggled into Mexico. Just as the drugs are easily moved north in response to heavy demand in the U.S.
JANET NAPOLITANO: The drugs that come across an unsecure border infiltrate our neighborhoods and communities across this country. There's no state of this country that does not have a stake in this border.
PLANTE: President Obama will promise today to step up efforts to stop the flow of weapons from the U.S. down into Mexico. But he also wants to talk to President Calderon about trade and the environment. Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: CBS's Bill Plante. Thank you, Bill. Also in Mexico City this morning, Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. Good morning, Secretary Napolitano.
JANET NAPOLITANO: Good morning.
RODRIGUEZ: President Obama will meet with the Mexican president today, who has said that the money, the guns, and the appetite for drugs that fuel this war come from our country. My question is, how much blame do we accept?
NAPOLITANO: Well, I think it's -- it's mutual, to be quite fair. But, it's also not about pointing fingers, it's about solving a problem. And there are a number of things that we're working on together that President Obama will be meeting with President Calderon about. What can we do to prevent the flow of guns and cash south that fuel these cartels? What can we do to assist the president of Mexico and his administration and they're own law enforcement efforts within the country of Mexico. Those are all topics of conversation today.
RODRIGUEZ: Is one of the other things we can do reinstate the assault weapons ban in this country? Because President Calderon has said that ever since it expired, violence there has escalated.
NAPOLITANO: Well, that simply is not part of the plan that we're talking about here. What we're talking about is increasing southbound checks, both from the United States going to Mexico on the actual U.S. side of our ports, but also on the Mexican side of the ports. And that's with technology, manpower, and quite frankly we have cross-trained dogs now, canines, to be able to sniff guns illegally going into Mexico.
RODRIGUEZ: I want to also ask you about the report that you put out warning of right-wing extremism in our country. Some Republicans, as I'm sure you're aware, have criticized it as irresponsible. My question is, why put out a report like this that could breed this sort of divisiveness when you admit there's no evidence these right-wing groups are planning anything?
[HEADLINE ON SCREEN: RIGHT WING EXTREMISM? NAPOLITANO RESPONDS TO CONTROVERSIAL REPORT]
NAPOLITANO: Well, it's -- these reports are issued periodically through the Intelligence and Analysis Division of the Department of Homeland Security. And what they are intended to do is to give state, local, tribal law enforcement, what we call situational awareness. What's out there. What do they need to be sensitive to? They're not intended to infringe on anyone's constitutional rights by any stretch. They're not accusations, they are assessments based on what's happened in the past, so that people are aware of the possibilities out there. And quite frankly, you have to understand that when I was a United States attorney for Arizona, low these many years ago, I had a fairly significant part in the Timothy McVeigh investigation in Oklahoma City. And so, the contents of that report are not anything that's inconsistent with what we have seen in the past.
RODRIGUEZ: If you had it to do over, given the criticism, would you still put that out report? And if so, would you word it any differently?
NAPOLITANO: You know, there's a few words in there, given the criticism. I've got to tell you, any time you have the word smiths going after something that's been produced after the fact there's a lot of armchair quarterbacking. So, of course, in light of the criticism, perhaps a few words would be changed. But the overall -- the overall impact of the report, and the purpose of the report, which was for state and local law enforcement purposes, that remains the same.
RODRIGUEZ: Secretary Napolitano, thank you for your time this morning.
NAPOLITANO: You're very welcome.

Matt Lauer and Andrea Mitchell Push for
Assault Weapons Ban

NBC's Matt Lauer and Andrea Mitchell, on Thursday's Today show, pressed their guests (Lauer with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Mitchell with Mexican President Felipe Calderon) about reinstituting the assault weapons ban. First up, Mitchell -- who pushed Hillary Clinton last month to bring back the ban -- offered Calderon an open to blame Mexican drug cartel violence on guns imported from the U.S.: "President Obama will not deliver long-promised Blackhawk helicopters, nor a ban on assault weapons smuggled south. He campaigned as a candidate against the assault weapons. Now that he's in office, he's had to back off."

[This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Then Lauer, in his segment with Napolitano, repeated Calderon's inaccurate line that 90 percent of drug cartel weapons came from the U.S.:

MATT LAUER: You know President Calderon wants a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban that was, that expired during the Bush administration. When you look at the numbers, that 90 percent of the 12,000 weapons Mexican officials recovered from these drug cartels in the last year or so were made and sold in the United States, and many of those, as we just heard from President Calderon, are assault weapons, how can President Obama, who ran on an issue against assault weapons, how can he not deliver on that?
JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, let me, let me just say this. First of all, we can't wait for whatever happens in the Congress on something as clearly controversial as an assault weapons ban reinstatement to take on these drug cartels.

However all was not bad in the Lauer segment as he did question Napolitano on the Homeland Security's "right wing extremists," report:

LAUER: In the last several days the Department of Homeland Security released a report warning, among other things, that right wing extremists could use the bad economy and the election of the country's first black president to recruit domestic terrorists to carry out attacks against the homeland. It said that veterans might be attractive recruits because of their experience in combat skills. But, and this is a big "but," no specifics, no plots currently under investigation were mentioned in this. Why not and why release the report without specifics?
NAPOLITANO: Well, these are, these are not intended to be specifics case-by-case. These are intelligence assessments. They are for situational awareness for law enforcement. Indeed, as the, the VFW said yesterday, this is an assessment, not an accusation. And I really do want to stress to the veterans out there watching this today, that report did not, and, and we do not mean to suggest that, veterans as a whole are at risk of becoming violent extremists. However in terms of situational awareness-
LAUER: Well you're saying that because as you know there's been-
NAPOLITANO: -it's just a factor.
LAUER: There's been an uproar over this. Conservatives have said that this is offensive, a blatant propaganda effort designed to characterize conservatives as racist, anti-American, dangerous extremists. And John Boehner in Congress said to characterize men and women returning home after defending our country as potential terrorists is offensive and unacceptable.

The following is a complete transcript the Lauer interview with Napolitano as it was aired on the April 16 Today show:

MATT LAUER: President Obama heads to Mexico today, a nation dealing with a wave of recent drug violence and he'll meet there with Mexican President Felipe Calderon. NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell is in Mexico City this morning. Andrea, good morning to you.

[On screen headline: "Obama Off To Mexico, Challenges South Of The Border"]

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good morning, Matt. Well President Obama will be the first American president to come to Mexico City in 12 years because it is so dangerous. That is exactly the signal of solidarity that he wants to send to Mexico's President Calderon for taking on the drug cartels. And it's part of a larger Obama strategy to remake U.S. relations with Latin America. Before arriving here, the President's Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano introduced a new border czar for immigration and drug control, Alan Bersin, who had a similar role in the Clinton White House. And he pointed to more seizures of drugs and firearms and detention of illegal immigrants. And the administration designated three Mexican cartels as drug kingpins to tighten the financial noose around their organizations. Mexico is also pointing to small victories. More arrests, including a woman with a 50-caliber anti-aircraft machine gun but corruption is rampant. Are you losing the war on drugs?
FELIPE CALDERON: Absolutely not.
MITCHELL: Mexico's President Felipe Calderon told me when he meets with President Obama today, he will tell him the U.S. still has to do more.
CALDERON: You in United States, you have a lot of traffic of drugs, you have a lot of distribution of drugs, you have a lot of corruption as well.
MITCHELL: President Obama will not deliver long-promised Blackhawk helicopters, nor a ban on assault weapons smuggled south. He campaigned as a candidate against the assault weapons. Now that he's in office, he's had to back off.
CALDERON: But most of the weapons, almost 16,000 are assault weapons and 90 percent of those were sold in United States.
MITCHELL: 10,000 people have died since Mexico's president declared war on the gangs two years ago. There is a price on your head. This is a very risky business. Do you fear for your own life?
CALDERON: I'm not thinking about the risk associated with this privilege.
MITCHELL: After Mexico, President Obama heads to a two-day Latin American summit in Trinidad and Tobago to discuss the economy, the environment and hear an earful of criticism about U.S. policy toward Cuba. Although Mr. Obama loosened travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans this week, he did not propose lifting the 50-year U.S. ban on most travel and trade to the island. On that, Mexico is willing to be a go-between.
CALDERON: Mexico has the willingness to help the United States and Cuba to, to build new bridges of understanding.
MITCHELL: But overriding everything else on this trip, the U.S. recession which is now dragging down Latin American economies, and of course the drug war that has so inflamed the U.S.-Mexican border. Matt?

MATT LAUER: Alright Andrea, thank you very much. Andrea Mitchell in Mexico City this morning. Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of Homeland Security is also in Mexico City. Madam Secretary, nice to see you. Good morning.
JANET NAPOLITANO: Good morning.
LAUER: So even as President Obama is heading to Mexico to show support for President Calderon, President Calderon is pointing the finger at us here in the United States saying we've got to clean up our act if he has any chance of solving his problem. Do you agree with that?
NAPOLITANO: Well, what I think is that both countries have work to do to solve this problem. We can work on our own demand for drugs, as Secretary of State Clinton said, but also on the flow of guns and cash going south across our, our border into Mexico that are fueling these cartels. Mexico needs to work on its own law enforcement capacity and taking on these cartels right in their homeland.
LAUER: You know President Calderon wants a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban that was, that expired during the Bush administration. When you look at the numbers, that 90 percent of the 12,000 weapons Mexican officials recovered from these drug cartels in the last year or so were made and sold in the United States, and many of those, as we just heard from President Calderon, are assault weapons, how can President Obama, who ran on an issue against assault weapons, how can he not deliver on that?
NAPOLITANO: Well, let me, let me just say this. First of all, we can't wait for whatever happens in the Congress on something as clearly controversial as an assault weapons ban reinstatement to take on these drug cartels. This is a problem that's very urgent, it is right now. With 6,000-plus homicides in the northern states of Mexico last year, 500-plus of those were assassinations of law enforcement, public officials. And [what] we want to do is several things. One is help Mexico reduce that violence in its own homeland but also make sure we don't have significant spillover violence into the United States.
LAUER: Let me move on to another subject, Madam Secretary, if I can. In the last several days the Department of Homeland Security released a report warning, among other things, that right wing extremists could use the bad economy and the election of the country's first black president to recruit domestic terrorists to carry out attacks against the homeland. It said that veterans might be attractive recruits because of their experience in combat skills. But, and this is a big "but," no specifics, no plots currently under investigation were mentioned in this. Why not and why release the report without specifics?
NAPOLITANO: Well, these are, these are not intended to be specifics case-by-case. These are intelligence assessments. They are for situational awareness for law enforcement. Indeed, as the, the VFW said yesterday, this is an assessment, not an accusation. And I really do want to stress to the veterans out there watching this today, that report did not, and, and we do not mean to suggest that, veterans as a whole are at risk of becoming violent extremists. However in terms of situational awareness-
LAUER: Well you're saying that because as you know there's been-
NAPOLITANO: -it's just a factor.
LAUER: There's been an uproar over this. Conservatives have said that this is offensive, a blatant propaganda effort designed to characterize conservatives as racist, anti-American, dangerous extremists. And John Boehner in Congress said to characterize men and women returning home after defending our country as potential terrorists is offensive and unacceptable.
NAPOLITANO: Well, you know, he wants to make some political hay. But here let, let's focus on what this is. It is an assessment of a situation where you have a down economy. Other factors that go on that historically have given rise to violence. Now, we have a responsibility, we fight issues or try to protect against violence all the time. This was an assessment of things just to be wary of. Not to infringe on constitutional rights, certainly not to malign our veterans. In fact, our department has a huge number of veterans and, and we also have a branch of the military service ourselves, the Coast Guard, as part of our department. So I think what has happened is taking a few words, there has been a lot of spitting out there in Washington, D.C. land. But all we're trying to say across is look, there is situational awareness that needs to go on.
LAUER: Right.
NAPOLITANO: These are routine reports. In fact, this one was begun months ago in fact in preparation before this new administration took office. So these are just routine reports that go out.
LAUER: Okay.
NAPOLITANO: This one just happened to hit the Washington media stream.
LAUER: Madam Secretary, I appreciate your time this morning. Good luck in Mexico City.
NAPOLITANO: Thank you so much.

To read about Mitchell pressing Hillary Clinton about the assault weapons ban: www.mrc.org

-- Brent Baker