Couric and Stephanopoulos Tout Bill Clinton Book as "Candid" --6/22/2004
2. Upset Over Innocent Detainees, Not Terrorists Mistakenly Let Go
3. Jon Stewart Denounces War in Iraq as "a Big Cluster[bleep]"
4. "Top Ten Surprises in the Bill Clinton 60 Minutes Interview"
Correction: Correction: The June 18 CyberAlert stated that on the June 16 NBC Nightly News David Gregory characterized the 9-11 Commission as "sharply at odds with what leading members of the administration continue to claim." That quote actually came from Tom in his introduction to Gregory's subsequent report. The June 17 CyberAlert correctly attributed the quote to Brokaw.
Just as they absurdly greeted Hillary Clinton's book a year ago as "candid" about how she only learned after eight months that Bill Clinton had lied to her about Lewinsky (on the June 4, 2003 Today Katie Couric gushed about how Mrs. Clinton was "very candid about a very personal matter"), some network stars have been equally gullible about Bill Clinton's new book. Couric touted at the top of Monday's Today: "True confessions. A candid President Clinton talks about his political accomplishments and personal demons." Over on ABC's Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos called the book "very candid, there's no question about it, a lot of personal revelation there."
Time's Joe Klein, appearing on Today, complained about how the media "blew" Clinton's "scandalettes way out of proportion." And on Saturday night, the MRC's Brian Boyd noticed, CBS's Randall Pinkston trumpeted how "the hoopla over Mr. Clinton's memoir is being compared to Harry Potter." He "reported" on the June 19 CBS Evening News: "With a book tour beginning next week, news magazine and talk show appearances and audio clips on the Web, the hoopla over Mr. Clinton's memoir is being compared to Harry Potter." To support that contention, he played a soundbite from Nora Rawlinson, Editor-in-Chief of Publisher's Weekly: "Harry Potter sold a million copies on its first day. So there may be this strange bedfellow of comparing Harry Potter and Bill Clinton."
More on June 21 morning show coverage:
-- NBC's Today. Couric opened the show, as observed by the MRC's Geoff Dickens: "Good morning. True confessions. A candid President Clinton talks about his political accomplishments and personal demons. Still standing. A military judge says Abu Ghraib prison is still a crime scene and shouldn't be destroyed. This as Private Lynndie England breaks her silence about the scandal. And rocket man. For the first time ever a man heads to space on a privately built spaceship today, Monday June 21st, 2004."
During a session with Time magazine's Joe Klein and former Clinton Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, Couric read to Klein what he penned in the latest issue: "Let me just read this quote from your article because this is your, your take. It says, 'It seems clear that Starr conducted an unseemly and irresponsible investigation. Built with abuses of power, as Clinton contends. Illegal leaks to the press and barely legal, legal coercive tactics against prospective witnesses. And it also seems clear that the press was way too credulous about Starr's allegations and didn't pay nearly enough attention to his methods.'"
For more on Klein's Time article and what he said on Meet the Press, see this June 21 CyberAlert item: 9-11 Ken Starr's fault? On NBC's Meet the Press, after endorsing Bill Clinton's disgust for Ken Starr ("He makes a very strong case for Starr's abuse of power") and agreeing with Clinton's view of himself more as victim than perpetrator ("My feeling is, that in the end on all this stuff he's more sinned against than sinner"), Time magazine's Joe Klein gave credibility to Clinton's claim that but for the Lewinsky scandal Clinton would have fired FBI Director Louis Freeh, who had supposedly proven incompetent in the battle against terrorism. Klein suggested "we might have had a better shot at rolling up those al-Qaeda cells if Bill Clinton had been free to fire Freeh." Go to: www.mediaresearch.org
-- ABC's Good Morning America. Diane Sawyer expressed some doubts about the Bill and Hillary line on her believing Bill for eight months: "The skeptics continue to say that how could a woman as smart as Mrs. Clinton not know the truth until the night before that grand jury testimony? Now that you've read the President's book, too, what do you say?"
Sawyer, the MRC's Jessica Anderson noted, soon wondered: "So George, watching the President now speaking, knowing him as you know him, any surprises for you? What was the biggest news for you in all this?"
Let's translate from Stephanopoulos' Clintonese: If he can fool naive journalists into saying he's "candid" in some areas, he can lie in other areas.
# Bill Clinton will appear Wednesday morning on both NBC's Today and ABC's Good Morning America, followed by CNN's Larry King Live on Thursday. Today, he'll be on Oprah.
Picking up on a massive 5,800 word New York Times story, "U.S. Said to Overstate Value of Guant'namo Detainees," on Monday's CBS Evening News, David Martin noted that only about 60 of the detainees "have been identified as likely to face trial by military tribunal. More than twice that many, 134 to be exact, have been determined not to pose a threat and sent home. Those numbers would seem to undercut a statement made by Vice President Cheney early in the war on terror that the prisoners being sent to Guantanamo were 'the worst of a very bad lot.'" Only in his last sentence did Martin acknowledge that two "convinced their interrogators they were innocent and were released, only to show up again on the battlefield in Afghanistan."
Indeed, as Michael Isikoff recounted in the May 3 Newsweek, "some of the more than 100 Gitmo prisoners who have been released have since turned up back in Afghanistan -- fighting with Taliban forces against the U.S. military." Isikoff elaborated: "One released prisoner, Mullah Shehzada, is serving as a 'senior' Taliban commander. The officials say that alarming development -- as well as information developed about four released detainees sent back to Britain -- shows that the Gitmo population is far more dangerous than most of the public understands. Administration officials are especially aghast over the released British prisoners, who U.S. intelligence says are hardened Islamic extremists trained in urban warfare and assassination techniques at Qaeda camps before 9/11."
Even New York Times reporters Tim Golden and Don Van Natta Jr. admitted the problem, though not until the 21st paragraph of their June 21 article, when they pointed out how the man named by Isikoff had been killed: "New accounts from officials in Afghanistan and the United States indicate that at least 5 of the 57 Afghan detainees released have returned to the battlefield as Taliban commanders or fighters. Some of the five have been involved in new attacks on Americans, officials in southern Afghanistan said, including a notorious Taliban commander, Mullah Shahzada, who was reportedly killed in a recent accident."
But none of that was very important to CBS. Dan Rather set up the June 21 story: "U.S. officials are trying to decide what to do with hundreds of detainees, many captured in Afghanistan, being held on the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Some will be put on trial. But CBS's David Martin reports many more are in a kind of legal limbo lacking any clear way out."
Martin began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Of the nearly 600 suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, only about 60 have been identified as likely to face trial by military tribunal. More than twice that many, 134 to be exact, have been determined not to pose a threat and sent home. Those numbers would seem to undercut a statement made by Vice President Cheney early in the war on terror that the prisoners being sent to Guantanamo were 'the worst of a very bad lot.' "Defense Department officials now admit there are a relatively small number of hard-core terrorists at Guantanamo. Men linked to 9/11 and other attacks, such as the bombings of the American embassies in Africa, men who boast they would kill again if ever set free.
The last few paragraphs of the Times story detailed the real danger posed by at least some at Guantanamo. And excerpt:
In interviews, the officials [military and police officials in southern Afghanistan] said at least five prisoners released from Guant'namo since early 2003 had rejoined the Taliban and resumed attacks on American and Afghan government forces. Although two American officials said only one of the former detainees had turned out to be an important figure, Afghan officials said all five men were in fact commanders with close contacts to the Taliban leadership.
"They are fighting again and killing people," said Khan Muhammad, the senior military commander in southern Afghanistan.
The most notorious of the former Gu'ntanamo detainees, Mullah Shahzada, had been a lieutenant to a senior commander when he was first captured in the war, an American military intelligence official said. After his return to Afghanistan in March 2003, he emerged as a frontline Taliban commander, Afghan officials said, leading a series of attacks in which at least 13 people were killed, including 2 aid workers.
Senior Pentagon officials refused to explain how Mr. Shahzada had talked his way out of Guant'namo. But two other military officials with knowledge of the case said he had given a false name and portrayed himself as having been captured by mistake.
"He stuck to his story and was fairly calm about the whole thing," a military intelligence official said. "He maintained over a period time that he was nothing but an innocent rug merchant who just got snatched up."
Other detainees who are known to have been released and then taken up arms are Mullah Shakur and two men known only as Sabitullah and Rahmatullah. A senior security official, Abdullah Laghmani, described all five men as commanders with close ties to the outlawed Taliban leadership.
Afghan officials blamed the United States for the return of the five men to the Taliban's ranks, saying neither American military officials nor the Kabul police, who briefly process the detainees when they are sent home, consult them about the detainees they free.
"There are lots of people who were innocent, and they are capturing them, just on anyone's information," said Dr. Laghmani, the chief of the National Security Directorate in Kandahar. "And then they are releasing guilty people."
END of Excerpt
For the Times article in full: www.nytimes.com
[WARNING: This item includes an accurate quotation of a vulgarity] President Lyndon Johnson infamously lost CBS Evening News anchorman Walter Cronkite's support for the Vietnam war, and now President George W. Bush has lost support for the Iraq war from....Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show on the Comedy Central cable channel. During an interview on Monday's show with Stephen Hayes, author of The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein has Endangered America, an unconvinced Stewart denounced the U.S. effort in Iraq as "a big clusterfuck." (Comedy Central bleeped fuck, but the word was pretty obvious since his pronunciation of the f and k came through clearly.)
Meanwhile, the latest Weekly Standard features a cover story by Hayes following up on last week's 9-11 Commission reports and media mis-reporting of it, "There They Go Again: The 9/11 Commission and the media refuse to see the ties between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda."
On the June 21 Daily Show with Jon Stewart, after Stewart complained that both Saudi Arabia and Iran support terrorism but the U.S. hasn't gone to war against them, Stewart opined about the war in Iraq: "I'm no pacifist and I'm no partisan, but this thing strikes me as a big clusterfuck. And I say that with all due respect to all the people that believe otherwise, but every time I read a book like this that shows me the evidence between al-Qaeda and Saddam it shows me so much more the evidence between all those other countries."
This episode of the Daily Show, which first aired at 11pm EDT and PDT/10pm CDT, will re-air tonight at 7pm EDT and PDT/6pm CDT.
Daily Show home page: www.comedycentral.com
....[T]he contents of the [9-11 Commission] documents have been widely misreported. Together the new reports total 32 pages; one contains a paragraph on the broad question of a Saddam-al Qaeda relationship, the other a paragraph on an alleged meeting between the lead hijacker and an Iraqi agent. Nowhere in the documents is the "Al Qaeda-Hussein Link...Dismissed," as Washington Post headline writers would have us believe. In fact, Staff Statement 15 discusses several "links." It never, as the Associated Press maintained, "bluntly contradicted" the Bush administration's prewar arguments. The Los Angeles Times was more emphatic still: "The findings appear to be the most complete and authoritative dismissal of a key Bush administration rationale for invading Iraq: that Hussein's regime had worked in collusion with al Qaeda."
A complete dismissal? Only for someone determined to find a complete dismissal. The major television networks and newspapers across the country got it wrong.
By Thursday afternoon, the misreporting had become too much for some members of the 9/11 Commission. Its vice chairman, former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton, defended Vice President Dick Cheney against his attackers in the media....
[T]he two paragraphs on the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship are highly imprecise. Statement 15 does not, in fact, limit its skepticism about the Iraq-al Qaeda connection to collaboration on "the attacks on the United States." It also seems to cast doubt on the existence of any "collaborative relationship" (while conceding contacts and meetings) between the two.
This ambiguity, which provided reporters the opening they needed to go after the Bush administration, was a departure from earlier reports of the 9/11 Commission. Most of the staff's investigative work -- its careful examination of pre-September 11 air safety procedures, for example -- has been both thorough and illuminating. By contrast, the analysis of the Iraq-al Qaeda connection comes off as incomplete, forced, and unreliable. Indeed, at least as regrettable as the misreporting of the newly released staff documents are the gaps in their contents....
The U.S. intelligence community has long believed that Saddam was willing to use Islamic militants -- including al Qaeda -- to exact revenge on the United States for his humiliating defeat in the first Gulf War. This belief was more than theoretical. Saddam played host to a wide range of Islamic militants through "Popular Islamic Conferences" his regime sponsored in Baghdad. He gradually Islamicized his rhetoric, incorporated harsh elements of Islamic law into the Iraqi legal code, and funded a variety of Islamic terrorist groups -- some quite openly, including Hamas. On August 27, 1998, Uday Hussein's state-run newspaper, Babel, proclaimed bin Laden an "Arab and Islamic hero." Jabir Salim, an Iraqi intelligence agent stationed in Prague who defected in 1998, reported to British intelligence that he had received instructions from Baghdad, and $150,000, to recruit an Islamic militant to attack the broadcast headquarters of Radio Free Iraq in the Czech capital. And virtually no one disputes that Saddam offered bin Laden safe haven in Iraq in late 1998 or early 1999.
The chief obstacle to Iraq-al Qaeda collaboration, according to this reasoning, was bin Laden's presumed unwillingness to work with Hussein. Osama had, after all, publicly labeled the Iraqi dictator an "infidel." But in 1993 -- according to testimony provided by top al Qaeda terrorist Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl and included in the Clinton administration's formal indictment of bin Laden in the spring of 1998 -- the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda reached an "understanding," whereby al Qaeda would not agitate against the Iraqi regime and in exchange the Iraqis would provide assistance on "weapons development." The following year, according to Staff Statement 15, bin Laden took the Iraqis up on their pledge. Hijazi told his interrogators in May 2003 that bin Laden had specifically requested Chinese-manufactured antiship limpet mines as well as training camps in Iraq....
According to numerous intelligence reports dating back to the Clinton administration, Iraq provided chemical weapons training (and perhaps materials) to the Sudanese government-run Military Industrial Corporation -- which, along with Sudanese intelligence, also had a close relationship with al Qaeda. (Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl and Ali A. Mohamed, two high-ranking al Qaeda terrorists who cooperated with U.S. authorities before 9/11, said Sudanese intelligence and military officials provided security for al Qaeda safehouses and training camps, and al Qaeda operatives did the same for Sudanese government facilities.)
William Cohen, secretary of defense under Clinton, testified to this before the September 11 Commission on March 23, 2004. Cohen was asked about U.S. attacks on a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory on August 20, 1998. The strikes came 13 days after al Qaeda terrorists bombed U.S. embassies in East Africa, killing some 257 people (including 12 Americans) and injuring more than 5,000. The Clinton administration and the intelligence community quickly determined that al Qaeda was behind the attacks and struck back at the facility in Sudan and at an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Almost immediately, the decision to attack the plant outside Khartoum was controversial. The Clinton administration, in its efforts to justify the strikes, told reporters that the plant had strong links to Iraq's chemical weapons program. No fewer than six top Clinton administration officials -- on the record -- cited the Iraq connection to justify its strikes in response to the al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. embassies. (Some of these officials, like James Rubin and Sandy Berger, now hold top advisory positions in John Kerry's presidential campaign. Kerry, however, now says he was misled about an Iraq-al Qaeda relationship.)...
The 9/11 Commission staff statement also states that "two senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq." Leaving aside the fact that this claim plainly contradicts the ties between Iraq and al Qaeda cited in the same paragraph, why are these bin Laden associates deemed credible? As noted, detainee debriefings are best viewed skeptically unless they are corroborated by other sources. In this case, numerous other sources have directly contradicted these claims. Did the commission staff have access to these detainees? Are the two al Qaeda detainees mentioned in the staff statement more credible than those who have reported Iraq-al Qaeda ties? That's certainly possible. But the staff report leaves out any description -- to say nothing of names -- of these al Qaeda detainees.
Information from al Qaeda detainees is attributed to named sources elsewhere in the 9/11 Commission report, but not in this instance. Why? Readers are left wondering.
STAFF STATEMENT 16 briefly assesses the alleged meeting between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague in April 2001. It says, "Based on the evidence available -- including investigation by Czech and U.S. authorities plus detainee reporting -- we do not believe that such a meeting occurred."
The report makes no mention of the fact that five senior Czech officials are on record confirming the meeting. In private conversations, some of these officials are less emphatic than their public statements would suggest. Yet when reporters ask about the meeting, the Czechs refer them to their previous public statements confirming the meeting.
And what is the evidence upon which the commission staff bases its conclusion? Articles in the New York Times, Newsweek, and the Washington Post had reported that the U.S. intelligence community has rental car records and hotel receipts that place Atta in the United States at the time of the alleged meeting. According to senior Bush administration officials, no such records exist, and the commission's report mentions no such documentation. "The FBI's investigation," it says, "places [Atta] in Virginia as of April 4, as evidenced by this bank surveillance camera shot of Atta withdrawing $8,000 from his account. Atta was back in Florida by April 11, if not before. Indeed, investigation has established that on April 6, 9, 10, and 11, Atta's cellular telephone was used numerous times to call Florida phone numbers from cell sites within Florida. We have seen no evidence that Atta ventured overseas again or reentered the United States before July, when he traveled to Spain and back under his true name."
So contrary to previous reporting, Atta cannot be definitively placed in the United States at the time of the alleged meeting. Cell phone records are interesting, but hardly conclusive. It is entirely possible that Atta would leave his cell phone behind if he left the country. In any case, the hijackers are known to have shared cell phones.
More disturbing, however, is what the commission staff left out. Staff Statement 16, which purportedly provides the "Outline of the 9/11 Plot," offers a painstakingly detailed account of Atta's whereabouts in the months leading up to 9/11. But it contains a notable gap: The report makes no mention of a confirmed trip -- technically, two trips -- that Atta made to Prague....
Atta applied for a Czech visa in Bonn, Germany, on May 26, 2000. He was apparently one day late. His subsequent behavior suggests that he needed the visa for a trip scheduled for May 30, 2000. Although his visa wasn't ready by that date, Atta took a Lufthansa flight to Prague Ruzyne Airport anyway. Without a visa, Atta could go no farther than the arrival/departure terminal; he remained in this section of the airport for nearly six hours. After returning to Germany, Atta picked up his new visa in Bonn and on June 2, 2000, boarded a bus in Frankfurt bound for Prague. After the approximately seven-hour trip, Atta disappeared in Prague for almost 24 hours. Czech officials cannot find evidence of his staying in a hotel under his own name, suggesting he registered under an assumed name or stayed in a private home. Atta flew from Prague to Newark, New Jersey, on June 3, 2000. Al Shehhi, a fellow hijacker, had arrived in Newark on May 29, 2000.
What was Atta doing? That's unclear. But he went to some lengths to stop in Prague before traveling to the United States. By leaving this out, the 9/11 Commission report seems to suggest that it is irrelevant.
Another omission: Ahmed Hikmat Shakir. Shakir, as WEEKLY STANDARD readers may recall, is an Iraqi who was present at the January 2000 al Qaeda planning meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. U.S. intelligence officials do not know whether Shakir was an active participant in the meeting, but there is little doubt he was there....
By week's end, several 9/11 panel commissioners sought to clarify the muddled report. According to commissioner John Lehman on Fox News, "What our report said really supports what the administration, in its straight presentations, has said: that there were numerous contacts; there's evidence of collaboration on weapons. And we found earlier, we reported earlier, that there was VX gas that was clearly from Iraq in the Sudan site that President Clinton hit. And we have significant evidence that there were contacts over the years and cooperation, although nothing that would be operational."...
The 9/11 Commission will be releasing its report later this summer. Let's hope that that final product is more thorough and convincing than the latest staff statements. What it must do is credibly address the events that are plainly within the commission's purview -- including any evidence, from Prague or Kuala Lumpur or elsewhere, of potential Iraqi involvement in 9/11....
END of Excerpt
For the article by Hayes in full: www.weeklystandard.com
-- The Republican Chairman and Democratic Vice Chairman of the 9-11 Commission on Thursday rejected the media's widespread reporting that the commission's report issued the day before had directly contradicted Bush administration statements about connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Yet on Thursday night ABC's Peter Jennings declared that there "continues to be a discrepancy between the commission's findings and the President's on whether al-Qaeda has a link to Saddam Hussein," and CBS anchor Dan Rather repeated how "the commission yesterday said it had found no credible evidence of a quote, 'collaborative relationship' between al-Qaeda and Iraq." NBC's Tom Brokaw reiterated the same no "collaborative relationship" finding. But, Brokaw intoned, "despite that conclusion, President Bush insisted there was a relationship between the two." NBC buried what should have been its lead. At the very end of his report, David Gregory informed viewers of how "Lee Hamilton said today that he does not see much different between administration statements and the commission's report." CNN barely mentioned Hamilton while the New York Times and Washington Post ignored him. See: www.mediaresearch.org
-- The networks pounced Wednesday night on how the 9-11 Commission decided, as CNN's David Ensor put it in echoing the commission's exaggeration of administration claims, "the commission staff report says Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11 and backs that up with some evidence." CBS's John Roberts stressed how the commission undermined President Bush, describing the Iraq connection as "one of President Bush's last surviving justifications for war in Iraq." Roberts charged: "The report is yet another blow to the President's credibility." ABC's Terry Moran proposed: "After the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq undermined President Bush's main argument for going to war, this new finding by the 9-11 Commission challenges his case on another front." Unmentioned by ABC, how maybe the Bush administration believed there was a bin Laden-Iraq connection because they believed ABC News. In 1999, ABC's Sheila MacVicar trumpeted how "ABC News has learned that" a top Iraqi official "made a secret trip to Afghanistan to meet with bin Laden. Three intelligence agencies tell ABC News they cannot be certain what was discussed, but almost certainly, they say, bin Laden has been told he would be welcome in Baghdad." See: www.mediaresearch.org
That item includes an excerpt from Hayes' book.
From the June 21 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Surprises in the Bill Clinton 60 Minutes Interview." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. Out of habit, Clinton vehemently denied ever writing his memoirs
9. During course of single interview, put away 6 bags of Ruffles
8. One of the production assistants -- Al Gore
7. Endorsement deal required Clinton to mention Spider-Man in each response
6. To make Clinton feel more comfortable, Dan Rather wore one of Hillary's ill-fitting pantsuits
5. First time an interview with a former President contained the phrase "booty call"
4. Original title of Clinton's Memoir: "Tuesdays with Tubby"
3. Hillary kept calling to make sure he was where he said he'd be
2. Chained up in Clinton's basement is a very alive Harry Truman!
1. Bill brought a date
Need to check into #6.
-- Brent Baker