CyberAlert -- 04/16/1999 -- Clinton Spy Cover-Up Skipped; Editors Applaud Clinton Retort of Talk Radio

Clinton Spy Cover-Up Skipped; Editors Applaud Clinton Retort of Talk Radio

1) Energy officials conceded on Thursday that the agency withheld from Congress crucial spying information, but only FNC found it newsworthy.

2) Sympathizing with President Clinton about how talk radio reminds him of "the right-wing conspiracy," a newspaper editor asked Clinton to respond to a "drumbeat" that he lacks "the moral authority to be commander-in-chief." Only CNN showed this q & a, but skipped how the media audience applauded Clinton's retort.

3) The broadcast networks all led with NATO's concession that it bombed refugees, but NBC uniquely reported how "Serb soldiers were forcing survivors to blame NATO for the attack."

4) NBC's Andrea Mitchell asked: "As more troops and planes head to the Balkans today there is this question: With U.S. forces also stretched from Korea to Haiti are they stretched too thin?"

5) Thoughts on the networks as world citizens above the U.S. Milosevic can make a charge and the Western media will relay it without bothering to see if it has any credibility.

>>> Now online: Latest MediaWatch and Media Reality Check. The April 19 MediaWatch is now up on the MRC Web site and features a look at how the networks have avoided Chinagate, titled "Networks Continue to Avoid Major Print Scoops: What Proof of a DNC-China Connection?" To read the this and the rest of the issue, go to:
"Clinton Contempt Ruling Doesn't Beat Boffo Visuals: Ratings Candy -- Great Video of a Copter Rescue in a Fire -- Beats A Historic Black Mark for Clinton," the latest Media Reality Check fax report by the MRC's Tim Graham has been posted by Webmaster Sean Henry. The report includes an interesting quote caught by the MRC's Jessica Anderson which did not appear in CyberAlert. The morning after Judge Wright's contempt ruling ABC legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin appeared on Good Morning America and implied Wright gave the right remedy, while impeachment or indictment was insane: "It was very stinging, but it was also very measured and appropriate and I think the remedy was very sane -- it was not impeachment, it was not throwing him in jail. It was just saying, look, you can't do this and you're going to pay a penalty." To read the fax report, go to the MRC home page at and look under "Our Newest Stuff." For back issues, click on the "News Division" button on the left. <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Energy Department officials admitted Thursday that they withheld information from Congress about Chinese espionage at the national labs, but only FNC found it newsworthy. Not a word Thursday night on ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN's The World Today or NBC Nightly News, though all had time for feature stories. ABC looked at new ideas for computerized kitchen gadgets and NBC explored how the allergy season is upon us, spawned by pollen.

On the Fox Report FNC anchor Paula Zahn read this 25-second item:
"There's more evidence the administration was stonewalling over China spying. An employee at the Energy Department says was told not to talk fully about spying at the Los Alamos National Lab when he went before a congressional committee last year. He says the Department's Deputy Secretary at the time gave him the order. She says she did tell him to limit what he said but didn't tell him to avoid the subject completely. China, of course, denies it stole any secrets."

FNC saved time by skipping the names and details, so to bring CyberAlert readers up to speed, here's how the April 15 AP dispatch by Jim Abrams on the hearing began:

Energy Department officials acknowledged Thursday they withheld information from a House subcommittee last fall on an alleged Chinese spying case.

A department intelligence officer said he was told by the deputy energy secretary not to talk about the case, a charge the senior agency official denied.

"We are very upset," said Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services military procurement subcommittee. He said the two officials, testifying under oath in a closed session in October, dodged specific questions about spying activities at the department's national weapons laboratories.

"I apologize," said Notra Trulock, the agency's special adviser for intelligence. He said he acted at the behest of then-Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Moler, who also testified at the hearing, when he did not discuss the investigation into possible Chinese espionage at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Trulock said Moler also edited written testimony he had prepared for the hearing to delete references to counterintelligence operations. Moler denied editing the testimony and said she only instructed Trulock to limit his comments to the subject of the national labs' foreign visitor program....

END Excerpt of AP story

This was Trulock's second appearance this week before a congressional committee and the second time ABC, CNN and NBC ignored his troubling revelations. See the April 13 and 15 CyberAlerts for details on how only CBS on Monday night provided a full report on Trulock's charge that his superiors "ridiculed" and "ignored" his discovery of espionage.


clinton0416.jpg (8476 bytes)cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) A troubling question for Clinton about his "moral authority" to lead troops, but posed in the nicest of ways with an elitist dig at talk radio as reflecting "the right-wing conspiracy."

President Clinton flew to San Francisco Thursday to speak before the national convention of newspaper editors. In asking him to respond to the "common drumbeat" on talk radio that he lacks "the moral authority to be commander-in-chief." Ken Bunning of the Seattle Post Intelligencer sympathized with Clinton about how talk radio reminds him "of your wife's comment about the right-wing conspiracy." When Clinton finished his answer by saying what talk hosts say "is something that's way beyond my control, and happily so," the audience applauded, the only answer I saw which generated such a response.

Thursday night only CNN's the World Today played an excerpt of this question and answer at the convention for the American Society of Newspaper Editors, though they skipped the set up part up front about talk radio and ended the excerpt just before Clinton got to the applause line. Below is the full question and answer, with *** marking where CNN began and ended what it played.

Bunning: "I haven't listened to any talk radio today, but I apologize, I do often, and I'm often reminded of your wife's comment about the right-wing conspiracy critics who want to get at you for anything and undermine your presidency and discredit you personally. But *** there is a common drumbeat on the airwaves now, and it is that you, personally, lack the moral authority to be commander-in-chief. And certainly I guess there's a powerful inclination to ignore those criticisms. But if you had to address it to an Air Force pilot, how would you -- who would listen to the same radio shows and perhaps been persuaded to that point of view -- how would you address that?"

An indignant Clinton replied: "Well, I don't have to address it to the Air Force pilot. I am his commander-in-chief and they swore an order an oath to the Constitution, and they have performed admirably, and they don't deserve to hear that.
"I just have seen a lot of our Air Force pilots. I just went down to Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, Louisiana. I spent endless amounts -- I spent hours talking to the families, the friends, the people that were there, encouraging people to say what they think.
"One person said something critical. Several hundred said, "We believe in what we're doing; it is the right thing to do; thank you for doing it; we are proud to do it; this is what we signed on for.
"This is a democracy, and people can say whatever they want to say. But I have found that the American people -- the vast majorities of them at least -- appreciate it when I don't spend my time responding to them, and instead I spend my time working for the American people and trying to do what I think is right. I'll let other people be the judge about whether they think I should or shouldn't do something. But I have no response except to get up every day and try to do my job. ***
"And I think that this country is in a better place than it was six years and three months ago because we have followed that policy instead of being totally consumed on spending all of our time answering our critics. I'd rather work on what I can control and the opinion of some of the talk show people is something that's way beyond my control, and happily so."

As Clinton got to his last words the audience began to clap.

+++ To see this exchange and hear the applause, go to the MRC home page where by noon ET today the MRC's Kristina Sewell and Sean Henry will have posted a clip of this exchange in RealPlayer format. Go to:


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) The broadcast networks all led Thursday night with how NATO now concedes that one of its planes bombed a convoy of refugees in Kosovo, but in trying to explain how the damage could be spread over several miles of road, NBC uniquely reported that "U.S. intelligence reports...say it was Serb warplanes or mortars that attacked these civilians over the past three days." Another NBC reporter relayed how a refugee who survived said "Serb soldiers were forcing survivors to blame NATO for the attack."

On the April 15 NBC Nightly News, from the Pentagon Jim Miklaszewski explored some riddles, raising the possibility that NATO bombed more than one part of the road or that the Serbs also attacked:
"But if only one NATO plane dropped only one bomb how could that kill as many as 70 refugees stretched over several miles? NATO says the accidental attack occurred just north of Dakovica and their warplanes also hit a military convoy just south of the town. But was there another civilian convoy and who might have attacked it? NBC reporters have seen a seven mile stretch of bombed out vehicles and human carnage on the road south of Dakovica. U.S. intelligence reports, based solely on refugee accounts, say it was Serb warplanes or mortars that attacked these civilians over the past three days. But the Pentagon says it still cannot confirm those reports. Whatever happened, Secretary of Defense Cohen says any accidental deaths pale by comparison to Serb atrocities."
Cohen before a Senate committee: "I think it's grotesque that Milosevic can take to the airwaves and somehow label this most recent incident and tragedy an atrocity."

Later, from Belgrade, NBC's Ron Allen talked with NBC reporter Jim Maceda who went on the official tour of he convoy site. Maceda relayed how he saw carbonized bodies and a bomb casing that matches NATO ordinance. Allen then uniquely told viewers: "But there are conflicting stories of what really happened, some blaming NATO, some pointing the finger at the Serbs." Over video of a refugee, Allen explained: "After the bombing, this man says, Serb soldiers were forcing survivors to blame NATO for the attack."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Can the U.S. fight in Kosovo and still respond to threats in other parts of the world? That's a concern raised by conservatives in light of all the Clinton-led defense cuts and added deployments this decade. Tuesday night NBC explored the issue, the first such story I can recall on one of the broadcast networks. Andrea Mitchell passed on concern from conservative Senator Jim Inhofe and warned: "Already, potential enemies are poised to take advantage."

Mitchell began her April 13 NBC Nightly News piece, transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens, by asking:
"As more troops and planes head to the Balkans today there is this question. With U.S. forces also stretched from Korea to Haiti are they stretched too thin?"
Kenneth Allard, former NATO advisor in Bosnia: "We have shortages in cruise missiles, precision guided munitions, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, tankers. But more than anything else we have shortages of personnel. Particularly pilots, particularly ground forces."
Mitchell: "For decades the Pentagon strategy to be able to fight two major wars at the same time. But already Kosovo, considered a small regional conflict is forcing the Pentagon to play a global chess game with ships, troops and planes. The aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk leaves the Pacific, near Korea, for the Balkans. Replacing another carrier, the Theodore Roosevelt, which earlier abandoned the Persian Gulf for Yugoslavia. Most F-15s and F-16s stopped patrolling Northern Iraq to bomb Belgrade. But what if Saddam Hussein suddenly challenges the US in the Gulf? Or if North Korean troops start marching toward Seoul?"

After a soundbite from and Army Colonel, Mitchell continued:
"Specific shortages? Three of the Pentagon's four J-Star vehicle tracking planes are now flying over Yugoslavia. That leaves only one for other potential hot spots anywhere in the world. And the stockpile of a crucial weapon, air launched cruise missiles is down to fewer than 100 with no new production for at least a year. Critics in Congress are alarmed."
Senator James Inhofe: "If the American people were aware of the threat that we are facing in our state of readiness, there would be hysteria in the streets."
Mitchell ominously concluded: "Already potential enemies are poised to take advantage. North Korean officials predict the U.S. will get so bogged down in Yugoslavia it will be vulnerable elsewhere in the world. A concern also raised today by leading Senators in their meetings with the President."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) The U.S. media as world citizens above it all.

Opening the April 15 CBS Evening News from Belgrade, Dan Rather announced: "Good evening from Belgrade. NATO acknowledges responsibility for that deadly air strike on a country road in Kosovo, but blames the Serb leader and his ethnic cleansing for putting the refugees in harms way. The story and pictures have handed Slobodan Milosevic a propaganda victory of no small proportions."

Yes they have, which was a larger point I was trying to make in the April 15 CyberAlert. As I acknowledged at the time I wrote the item, which was before NATO admitted anything, NATO might end up being responsible for the tragedy. But CBS and NBC, which led Wednesday night with the Yugoslav charge that NATO killed the civilians, had no idea at the time if the allegation was true or not and that spells trouble for the U.S. war effort if Milosevic knows he can hurl allegations to impact public opinion and the Western media will promote them without concern for their accuracy.

Like during the Cold War when reporters would say "Reagan said A and Gorbachev said B," as if both had equal credibility, the networks don't see themselves as part of U.S. society but as an element above it. We can joke about Clinton administration credibility, but no matter what you think of the policy of going to war in Kosovo it's true that if the Western news media gives equal credibility to the propaganda of our enemy, thus allowing them a powerful means to affect U.S. public opinion, that's one more hurdle U.S. servicemen will have to overcome to carry out their duties.

My thought for the day. -- Brent Baker


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