2. Networks Hyperventilate Over "Big Brother" Spying on "All of Us"
3. Time Editor Contends Plame a Good "Person of the Year" Candidate
4. Mapes Lashes Out Anew, Claims Typeface Issue "Hijacked the Story"
5. You Read It Here First: Fred Barnes Picks Up MRC Study on Iraq
6. "Top Ten Signs You're Not Going to Be Named Time Person of Year"
Moran asked: "I'd like to put this personally, if I can. You're a grandfather. I'm a father. When we look at those girls and we think that the country we're about to pass to them is a country where the Vice President can't say whether or not we have secret prisons around the world, whether water-boarding and mock executions is consistent with our values, and a country where the government is surveilling Americans without the warrant of a court -- is that the country we want to pass on to them?" Moran followed up by declaring that thanks to administration policies, "it's not the America we grew up in" and he countered Cheney's defense of tough anti-terror policies: "Even if it's changing who we are?"
Moran's contention, that Cheney and Bush are changing America for the worse, came during a series of questions about prisoner treatment which Moran fired at Cheney as the two sat outside on stools at a military base in Iraq. Moran demanded: "Should American interrogators be staging mock executions, water-boarding prisoners?" Cheney answered: "I'm not getting into specifics. You're getting into questions about sources and methods and I don't talk about that, Terry." In mock indignation, Moran retorted, before Cheney cut him off: "As Vice President of the United States you can't tell the American people whether or not-" Moran also pursued questions about whether "the United States maintain secret prisons around the world?" And: "Does the International Red Cross have access to everyone in U.S. custody, as we are obliged?"
[This item was posted this morning, with a video excerpt, in both RealPlayer and Windows Media formats, along with MP3 audio, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To watch or listen, or to post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]
ABC's World News Tonight on Sunday and Monday, as well as Good Morning America in between, ran excerpts from Moran's session with Cheney, but not until Monday's Nightline did viewers see the legacy for our daughters/granddaughters formulation.
In the EST and CST, Monday Night Football delayed Nightline by 85 minutes, to almost exactly 1am EST/12am CST. ABC devoted the entire Nightline to Moran's sit-down with Cheney.
A transcript of the Nightline segment, focused on prisoner treatment, which I cobbled together by correcting against the video the closed-captioning and interview highlights posted on ABCNews.com:
Terry Moran: "The President has said we do not torture. And Senator McCain proposed a measure in part to vindicate those values that would ban the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of any person in U.S. custody anywhere in the world. Why did you fight so hard against that?"
For ABC's posted interview highlights: abcnews.go.com
Again, for a video clip, go to the NewsBusters node linked above.
Picking up on a front page New York Times story, "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts," the three broadcast networks led Friday night with the revelation, which animated the cable networks during the day, about how post-9/11 the NSA has monitored communication by a few thousand people in the U.S. in touch with those on al-Qaeda lists captured in Pakistan, or an expanding chain of those connected to that initial cache. Despite the limited focus on identifying sleeper agents before they could murder Americans, in what has become the template for media obsession since Friday on the topic, the networks treated the policy as a violation of the rights of all Americans. With "Big Brother" in front of a picture of President Bush, ABC anchor Bob Woodruff teased: "Big brother, the uproar over a secret presidential order giving the government unprecedented powers to spy on Americans." NBC's Brian Williams teased: "Government spying. Tonight, revelations of domestic eavesdropping on hundreds of phone calls by the federal government, part of top secret orders by President Bush after 9/11." Williams insisted that now "the questions begin about civil liberties and privacy and the protection of all of us."
Though the White House maintains the policy is legal and congressional leaders as well as a federal judge were told about it in 2002, CBS characterized the policy as illegal. CBS anchor Bob Schieffer asked: "Has the government been using its spy satellites to illegally eavesdrop on Americans?" Schieffer then declared as fact: "It is against the law to wiretap or eavesdrop on the conversations of Americans in this country without a warrant from a judge, but the New York Times says that is exactly what the President secretly ordered the National Security Agency to do in the months after 9/11."
[This item was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your thoughts, go to: newsbusters.org ]
All three network stories did note how the operation uncovered a plot by a man in Detroit to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge.
In their story, New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau at least noted the notification of congressional leaders and the relevant federal judge, the legal defense and the narrow focus on potential sleeper operatives inside the U.S. An excerpt:
....Administration officials are confident that existing safeguards are sufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, the officials say. In some cases, they said, the Justice Department eventually seeks warrants if it wants to expand the eavesdropping to include communications confined within the United States. The officials said the administration had briefed Congressional leaders about the program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that deals with national security issues....
Mr. Bush's executive order allowing some warrantless eavesdropping on those inside the United States - including American citizens, permanent legal residents, tourists and other foreigners - is based on classified legal opinions that assert that the president has broad powers to order such searches, derived in part from the September 2001 Congressional resolution authorizing him to wage war on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, according to the officials familiar with the N.S.A. operation....
The program accelerated in early 2002 after the Central Intelligence Agency started capturing top Qaeda operatives overseas, including Abu Zubaydah, who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. The C.I.A. seized the terrorists' computers, cellphones and personal phone directories, said the officials familiar with the program. The N.S.A. surveillance was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible, they said.
In addition to eavesdropping on those numbers and reading e-mail messages to and from the Qaeda figures, the N.S.A. began monitoring others linked to them, creating an expanding chain. While most of the numbers and addresses were overseas, hundreds were in the United States, the officials said. Woodruff soon added that "Senator Arlen Specter called the revelations 'devastating.'"...
After the special program started, Congressional leaders from both political parties were brought to Vice President Dick Cheney's office in the White House. The leaders, who included the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House intelligence committees, learned of the N.S.A. operation from Mr. Cheney, Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden of the Air Force, who was then the agency's director and is now a full general and the principal deputy director of national intelligence, and George J. Tenet, then the director of the C.I.A., officials said.
It is not clear how much the members of Congress were told about the presidential order and the eavesdropping program. Some of them declined to comment about the matter, while others did not return phone calls.
Later briefings were held for members of Congress as they assumed leadership roles on the intelligence committees, officials familiar with the program said. After a 2003 briefing, Senator Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat who became vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee that year, wrote a letter to Mr. Cheney expressing concerns about the program, officials knowledgeable about the letter said. It could not be determined if he received a reply. Mr. Rockefeller declined to comment. Aside from the Congressional leaders, only a small group of people, including several cabinet members and officials at the N.S.A., the C.I.A. and the Justice Department, know of the program....
END of Excerpt
For the Friday New York Times story in full: www.nytimes.com
The teases and leads to the Friday, December 16 editions of the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts, which set the tone for the coverage since:
# ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Bob Woodruff teased, over a picture of President Bush with "Big Brother" imposed over him: "On World News Tonight: Big brother, the uproar over a secret presidential order giving the government unprecedented powers to spy on Americans."
Woodruff set up his lead story, with the Big Brother" tag in a graphic showing images on an envelope, a cell phone and the White House: "Good evening, everyone. Ever since 9/11, government officials have said the terrorist attacks changed everything. Today, we learned of a profound shift in policy that affects the civil liberties of Americans. The New York Times reported that the President secretly authorized the National Security Agency to monitor and record phone calls and e-mail messages of U.S. citizens in this country without having to get a warrant. The NSA, according to the report, is now eavesdropping on as many as 500 Americans at any given time. Today, Senator Arlen Specter called the revelations 'devastating.' We begin with our chief White House correspondent, Martha Raddatz."
Schieffer led, over "Spying on Americans" graphic: "It is against the law to wiretap or eavesdrop on the conversations of Americans in this country without a warrant from a judge, but the New York Times says that is exactly what the President secretly ordered the National Security Agency to do in the months after 9/11. The administration will neither confirm nor deny this story, but Congress is in a fury. Alan [Arlen] Specter, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, calls it inappropriate and says he will hold hearings to investigate. We begin with Bill Plante at the White House."
Williams opened his newscast, over a "Government Spying" graphic: "Good evening. This week here we've been showing you the reporting of our own Lisa Myers detailing how the Pentagon has been spying on people in this country, some of whom are members of anti-war groups. Well, today the story changed a bit with a page-one article in this morning's New York Times, saying the super-secret National Security Agency has been eavesdropping, spying on people in this country since 9/11. The Times has had this story for a year, but apparently agreed for national security reasons not to run the story until now. And now that it's all out, the questions begin about civil liberties and privacy and the protection of all of us. We begin here tonight with our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell."
Time went with Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono as their "Persons of the Year," but on Friday's Today before the pick was announced. Time Managing Editor Jim Kelly listed two finalists from the world of politics: President Bush and Valerie Plame. He noted that Bush "hasn't had a very good year" and then added, "this would not be the first time we put the President on with a bad year. Lyndon Johnson was on in '67 with the war in Vietnam and bad opinion polls." Kelly appeared to be much more intrigued by Valerie Plame as a candidate: "Valerie Plame really interests me because without Valerie Plame there's no Patrick Fitzgerald, there's no Karl Rove in trouble."
Kelly recounted meeting Plame a few months ago, describing her as a "absolutely charming, really interesting person." Matt Lauer jumped in and asked, "But wouldn't it be kind of different? I mean, she didn't do anything on purpose to be put in that position. And shouldn't someone have to initiate some kind of behavior or some kind of action?" Kelly noted this and replied, "Well, that's fair enough. You could do Patrick Fitzgerald, I suppose."
[This item is modified by a Friday posting, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, on the MRC's NewsBusters.org blog. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]
A transcript, of the relevant portion of the December 16 session in which both Lauer and Couric appeared with Kelly a little before 8am:
Katie Couric: "In 1927 Time magazine put Charles Lindberg on their cover its final edition of the year, called him their man of the year and a tradition was born. The honor has been bestowed on leaders, Presidents, and peacemakers. Jim Kelly is Time magazine's Managing Editor and he's here to reveal this year's finalists for Person of the Year....I know you've got six finalists and they represent sort of a wide variety of potential people. Let's start with the world of politics. You have two. You have President Bush and Valerie Plame."
Ex-CBS producer Mary Mapes still has her liberal blinders on, judging by the letter that appeared in the New York Times Book Review section on Sunday. Responding to an unfavorable review of her book by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, Mapes nevertheless credited Alter for being right about the anti-CBS jihad from "the right."
[This item, by Clay Waters, was posted Monday afternoon on the MRC's NewsBusters.org blog. To share your views, go to: newsbusters.org ]
For the letter from Mapes in the December 18 New York Times: www.nytimes.com
But not even the liberal Alter's paranoid attacks on the right are quite enough to satisfy Mapes:
For the TimesWatch rundown of Alter's November 20 review: www.timeswatch.org
Mapes seems blissfully unaware of just how thoroughly the forged Texas Air National Guard documents have been examined and shown to be bogus.
Scott Johnson of the Power Line blog, one of the first to break the forged documents story last year, pounced: "Whatever humor she writes with is surely unintentional. As for candor, to pick just one small point, Mapes is the lady who couldn't recall what political party she belongs to when asked by Bill O'Reilly in his interview with her on Fox News." See: powerlineblog.com
For more about Mapes on FNC and a video excerpt, check this November 11 NewsBusters posting: newsbusters.org
For more stories about New York Times bias, visit TimesWatch: www.timeswatch.org
You Read It Here First. In an article in this week's Weekly Standard, "A War Without Heroes? Only if you're reading the mainstream media," Fred Barnes cited how "in a study of over 1,300 reports broadcast on network news programs from January to September of this year, Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center found only eight stories of heroism or valor by American troops and nine of soldiers helping the Iraqi people. But there were 79 stories, Noyes said, 'focused on allegations of combat mistakes or outright misconduct on the part of U.S. military personnel.'"
For Noyes' October study, "TV's Bad News Brigade: ABC, CBS and NBC's Defeatist Coverage of the War in Iraq," go to: www.mrc.org
For a December 13 update, "No End to Media's Defeatism on Iraq War; MRC Study: Amid Iraq Progress, Networks Continue to Emphasize Violence and Calls for Withdrawal," go to: www.mrc.org
An excerpt from Barnes' article in the December 26 Weekly Standard:
....The war in Iraq is a war without heroes. There are no men -- or women, for that matter -- known to most Americans for their bravery in combat. There are no household names like Audie Murphy or Sgt. York or Arthur MacArthur or even Don Holleder, the West Point football star killed in Vietnam. When President Bush held a White House ceremony to award the Medal of Honor to Smith, posthumously, the TV networks and big newspapers reported the story. The coverage lasted one day. The story didn't have legs.
Instead of heroes, there are victims. The two most famous soldiers in the war are Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman (in Afghanistan). Lynch was captured by Saddam's troops after her truck crashed. Stories of her heroism in a gun battle with Iraqis turned out to be false. She was rescued later from an Iraqi hospital. Tillman, who gave up a pro football career to join the Army, was killed by friendly fire. "The press made that a negative story, a scandal almost," says a Pentagon official.
It gets worse. In a study of over 1,300 reports broadcast on network news programs from January to September of this year, Rich Noyes of the Media Research Center found only eight stories of heroism or valor by American troops and nine of soldiers helping the Iraqi people. But there were 79 stories, Noyes said, "focused on allegations of combat mistakes or outright misconduct on the part of U.S. military personnel."
Who is responsible for the lack of heroes? The Pentagon bears some of the blame. "We could do a better job," says Larry Di Rita, deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. But the fault lies mostly with the media. With the striking exception of CBS News, the media aren't interested in stories of heroism by Americans in Iraq.
And even when the media take an interest, it isn't always respectful. When CNN took up the medal awarded to Smith the day after the ceremony at the White House, here's how anchor Paula Zahn presented it:
"Time now for all of you to choose your favorite person of the day. Every day, you can vote on our website, cnn.com/paula. Today's choices: the mourners pouring into Rome, spending hours in line to pay their respects to the pope; Medal of Honor winner Sgt. Paul Smith for giving his life to save so many of his fellow soldiers in Iraq. And British prime minister Tony Blair, calling for a new election, even though his party has lost support in the polls."
At least Smith won. Zahn went on to describe his heroic act and call up soundbites from the president and Smith's widow. "His actions in that courtyard saved the lives of more than 100 American soldiers. Scripture tells us...that a man has no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends."
The New York Times took an odd approach to the Paul Ray Smith case. The nearer the awarding of the Medal of Honor came, the less coverage the Smith case got. It was as if the Times didn't want President Bush to get any credit for honoring Smith.
The day after the White House event, the Times put a picture of Smith on page A16 with a brief caption. True, the Times had run two earlier stories about Smith, one in 2003, the other earlier this year. The first was headlined: "The Struggle for Iraq: Casualties; Medals for His Valor, Ashes for His Wife." The second said Smith would get the Medal of Honor....
The media have no excuse for ignoring heroism. "There's no dearth of opportunity there," says Di Rita. In Iraq and Afghanistan, American Marines alone have been awarded 8 Navy Crosses, 35 Silver Stars, 617 Bronze Stars with "V," 1,126 Bronze Stars, and 5,197 Purple Hearts.
For its part, the White House has made an effort to play up heroes. In his speeches on Iraq, the president frequently singles out soldiers and sailors. Last month in Annapolis, Bush cited Marine Corporal Jeff Starr, who had been killed in Ramadi. He left behind a message on his laptop and the president read a portion of it. "If you're reading this, then I've died in Iraq," he wrote. "I don't regret going. Everybody dies, but few get to do it for something as important as freedom."
Last July 4, Bush spoke at West Virginia University and mentioned two men who'd served in Iraq with the state's National Guard. One of them, Lieutenant James McCormick, had just written him a letter. "If needed, all of us would return and continue the mission," McCormick wrote. "It's a just and much needed fight."
Bill McGurn, the chief White House speechwriter, says the stories of heroism are easy to find. "There are gazillions of them," he says. "It's like dipping your hand in a barrel and pulling one out." And when the president mentions a brave American service man or woman, that person tends to get some press coverage, if only in a hometown paper.
There is an exception to the rule on heroes. Beginning in May 2004, CBS News began running a short feature on "fallen heroes" on its evening news show -- every night. A few sentences touched on the life and death of a deceased soldier. Despite the name, however, these stories did not focus on heroism. Then on December 5, 2005, CBS revamped the feature and began calling it "American Heroes." The segment was expanded to include, as anchor Bob Schieffer put it, "not only those killed in the war zones, but also those who display exceptional courage on the battlefield and beyond."
On December 8, the hero was Gary Villalobos. He and his lieutenant were ambushed during a house-to-house hunt for enemy soldiers. The lieutenant was killed. Villalobos didn't retreat. He fought off insurgents and risked his life to protect a fellow soldier. In all, the CBS segment consisted of only 67 words--but words rarely spoken by the media.
The CBS feature, as admirable as it is, won't create national heroes. The segments are too short and involve a different person each night. For a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan to achieve national renown -- to become a celebrity even -- the media would have to dwell on his heroism....
END of Excerpt
For the piece by Barnes in full: www.weeklystandard.com
From the December 19 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Signs You're Not Going to Be Named Time Magazine's Person of the Year." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. "Your biggest achievement this year was hooking up your Tivo"
9. "You failed a paternity test on 'Maury'"
8. "The only award you've ever won is for eating your weight in ribs"
7. "You were on the Robert Blake jury"
6. "Don't subscribe to 'Time', but you do flip through 'Hustler' at 7-Eleven"
5. "You were on the Michael Jackson Jury"
4. "Only compliment you got this year was some idiot telling you you're doing 'a heck of a job'"
3. "You have Bill Gates' looks, Bill Gates' personality, without Bill Gates' money"
2. "You donate your free time to hot tubbin' with whores"
1. "You did this" (Videotape: Bush can't open door)
-- Brent Baker