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Koppel: 'Enhanced Interrogation' Like 'Rape Is Enhanced Seduction' --5/12/2009


1. Koppel: 'Enhanced Interrogation' Like 'Rape Is Enhanced Seduction'
Former ABC News anchor Ted Koppel took to BBC's World News America newscast on Monday night to denounce former Vice President Dick Cheney as Koppel declared U.S. policy should be that "torture is always illegal, and those who use it will always be prosecuted." Koppel shared how his "greatest disagreement" with Cheney is over describing water-boarding as an "enhanced interrogation technique," which Koppel contended is a "euphemism" for torture that is "almost the moral equivalent of saying that rape is an enhanced seduction technique." Furthermore, Koppel contended in mocking the carefully construed legal reasoning that allowed water-boarding, if you do that "you might as well go all the way to the red-hot pokers."

2. CBS's Smith Defends Sykes Over Her Nasty Anti-Limbaugh 'Joke'
Talking about Wanda Sykes' nasty anti-Limbaugh "joke" at Saturday night's White House Correspondents' Association dinner ("I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker, but he was just so strung out on oxycontin he missed his flight"), CBS's Harry Smith defended Sykes more than did Keith Olbermann. Smith recounted on Monday's Early Show: "I ran into Keith Olbermann afterwards...And he said 'I'm not sure, I think that was probably -- probably in bad taste.' I said 'what do you think her job is?'" While even left-wing bomber thrower Olbermann thought Sykes was over the line, Smith defended her: "Well, you know what, any comedian, anybody who does that job, their job is to push the envelope...You can't go home -- you can't go home to the community of comedians unless you've gone too far."

3. Sawyer Skips Controversy for 'Angels & Demons'; Grilled Mel Gibson
Angels & Demons star Tom Hanks received zero critical questions or challenges when he appeared on Monday's Good Morning America to promote a movie that features the Catholic Church ordering a brutal massacre in order to silence a secret society. Instead, Sawyer referred to the film, a prequel to The Da Vinci Code, as a "scary, spiritual scavenger hunt." After playing a clip of Hanks' character in the film asserting that he has no religious beliefs, she moved on to talking about how the movie star still gets nervous when he acts. Contrast the gentle way that the ABC host treated Hanks with the grilling of Mel Gibson in a 2003 Primetime special on The Passion of the Christ. Regarding accuracy and his film about Jesus Christ, Sawyer pressed for specifics: "What about the historians who say that the Gospels were written long after Jesus died, and are not merely fact, but political points of views and metaphors? Historians, you know, have argued that in fact it was not written at the time [of Christ]. These [gospel writers] were not eyewitnesses."


Koppel: 'Enhanced Interrogation' Like
'Rape Is Enhanced Seduction'

Former ABC News anchor Ted Koppel took to BBC's World News America newscast on Monday night to denounce former Vice President Dick Cheney as Koppel declared U.S. policy should be that "torture is always illegal, and those who use it will always be prosecuted." Koppel shared how his "greatest disagreement" with Cheney is over describing water-boarding as an "enhanced interrogation technique," which Koppel contended is a "euphemism" for torture that is "almost the moral equivalent of saying that rape is an enhanced seduction technique." Furthermore, Koppel contended in mocking the carefully construed legal reasoning that allowed water-boarding, if you do that "you might as well go all the way to the red-hot pokers."

In his first commentary for the hour-long, Washington, DC-based newscast run on the BBC America channel and the BBC World News channel, "contributing analyst" Koppel recalled how water-boarding "has a long and notorious history dating back to at least the Spanish Inquisition," before proposing: "If we object to a technique being used on a captured American, we shouldn't use it, either." So, he declared: "Let those who violate our stated national principles on torture be put on notice, it is against American law no matter where or under what circumstances it's employed, and violations of that law will lead to prison."

Not considering the difference between interrogation techniques being used against uniformed combatants or intelligence officers for nations and state-less terrorists dedicated to murdering civilians, Koppel sermonized: "To call something an "enhanced interrogation technique" doesn't alter the fact that we thought it was torture when the Japanese used it on American prisoners, we thought it was torture when the North Koreans used it, we thought it was torture when the Soviets used it. It was torture when we use it."

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

The fairly new BBC newscast is executive-produced by Rome Hartman, who came from CBS where he had been the top producer of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric after many years as a producer for 60 Minutes: news.bbc.co.uk

Site for Word News America: news.bbc.co.uk

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of Koppel's commentary on the Monday, May 11 World News America aired on two BBC channels carried in the United States:

MATT FREI: Welcome back to BBC World News America. It is a tradition for recently departed American leaders to fade quickly into the background and to avoid publicly criticizing their successors. Former Vice President Dick Cheney is definitely not sticking to that script. He's attacked Barack Obama's decision to end the harsh interrogation policies used by the Bush administration. Yesterday he used a Sunday talk show to reiterate his strong belief in the approach adopted after the 9/11 attacks, and to deny that they constituted torture. Listen.
DICK CHENEY: If we had been about torture, we wouldn't have wasted our time going to the Justice Department.
BOB SCHIEFFER: In retrospect, years have passed, you're now out of office, do you think we should have done some things differently back then? Or do you have any regrets about any of it?
CHENEY: No regrets. I think it was absolutely the right thing to do. I'm convinced, absolutely convinced that we saved thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives.
FREI: No regrets. So did the interrogation policy save lives? Or did they cause America to abandon its coveted spot on the moral high ground? Our contributing analyst Ted Koppel has been thinking about that question and the entire question of torture. He's here with his perspective today. Ted?

TED KOPPEL: Thank you, Matt. We need a policy on torture, and it should be established soon before the next terrorist attack makes reasonable discussion impossible. The policy needs to be blindingly simple. Torture is always illegal, and those who use it will always be prosecuted. There's a back door, a weasel clause if you will -- there always is -- but I'll get to that in a moment. We thought we had a policy. President George W. Bush stated it with commendable clarity during a visit to Panama in 2005.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We do not torture.
KOPPEL: That turned out to be untrue. Water-boarding, for example, is a euphemism that's been with us for only a few years. The technique of simulated drowning, however, has a long and notorious history dating back to at least the Spanish Inquisition. When American soldiers used the technique in the Philippines more than 100 years ago, the euphemism was the "water cure." At any time and by any name, it was torture. Some prisoners of the Khmer Rouge, shackled hand in foot, broke bones in their wrists and ankles, so great were their struggles to escape the agonies of simulated drowning. Interviewer Scott Hennen of radio station WDAY was probably unaware of that historical trivia when, in 2006, he had this exchange with then-Vice President Dick Cheney.
HENNEN: Would you agree a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives?
CHENEY: Well, it's a no-brainer for me, but I, for a while there I was criticized as being the Vice President for torture. We don't torture, that's not what we're involved in.
KOPPEL: Well, we were involved in it, almost certainly will be again, and, rather than debating how many angels can writhe on the head of a pin, we should establish procedures that will at least minimize its use. Defining torture should be relatively simple. If we object to a technique being used on a captured American, we shouldn't use it, either. We also know that there are times when extraordinary circumstances -- what are sometimes called the "ticking time bomb scenario" -- will lead to the use of torture no matter what our public claims. Having said that, torture should be clearly and unambiguously against the law, as it is for those who safeguard our homes and streets domestically. Cases are thrown out of court because essential evidence was extracted under duress. Occasionally, brutal cops and corrections officers are even prosecuted and imprisoned. That has not led to the elimination of torture in our precincts and prisons, but it has been a deterrent. Let those who violate our stated national principles on torture be put on notice, it is against American law no matter where or under what circumstances it's employed, and violations of that law will lead to prison.
Is it possible that a threat to national security and the lives of many Americans may at a subsequent trial be determined to have justified the wisdom of that law? May a presidential pardon be warranted? Perhaps. But moral clarity and America's standing in the world demand that the burden of proof be on those who can find no alternative to torture. Matt?

FREI: Ted, how much allowance should there be made for the fact that a lot of these techniques and their legal justification were put in place just a few months or years after 9/11, when this country was in a significantly different mood to what it is today?
KOPPEL: Matt, I think a euphemism is a euphemism. To call something an "enhanced interrogation technique" doesn't alter the fact that we thought it was torture when the Japanese used it on American prisoners, we thought it was torture when the North Koreans used it, we thought it was torture when the Soviets used it. It was torture when we use it.
FREI: But there's still this culture of euphemism, what some people might say is, had they been more honest about what they should do in extreme circumstances, it might have been more acceptable to some people in this country?
KOPPEL: I think fundamentally that's where my greatest disagreement with Vice President Cheney comes. You know, it's almost the moral equivalent of saying that rape is an enhanced seduction technique. It doesn't change the fact that it is a brutal and violent act, and it shouldn't change the fact when we're talking about torture either. Simply to call it something that sounds less brutal doesn't make any difference. And I would make one other point. If indeed the argument is that we have to employ such techniques because of the danger of what could be threatening thousands, or as the Vice President put it, hundreds of thousands of Americans, then why hesitate at the threshold of the dungeon? You might as well go all the way to the red-hot pokers then.
FREI: But Vice President Cheney, former Vice President Cheney does channel or express a significant portion of opinion, public opinion, in this country, does he not?
KOPPEL: I think he does, and I think that's all the more reason why this debate has to be carried out now, while there is at least less heat about it than there will be as soon as there is another terrorist attack in this country.
FREI: Do you think there should be legal consequences?
KOPPEL: Of course, there should be legal consequences -- not necessarily for those who acted in the past because they did have Justice Department justification, as misguided as I think that was. But some line needs to be drawn. We need to draw that line now and say, from here on in, understand torture may be used, but if it is, there will be, there must be legal consequences.
FREI: Ted Koppel, thanks for your views.

CBS's Smith Defends Sykes Over Her Nasty
Anti-Limbaugh 'Joke'

Talking about Wanda Sykes' nasty anti-Limbaugh "joke" at Saturday night's White House Correspondents' Association dinner ("I think maybe Rush Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker, but he was just so strung out on oxycontin he missed his flight"), CBS's Harry Smith defended Sykes more than did Keith Olbermann. Smith recounted on Monday's Early Show: "I ran into Keith Olbermann afterwards...And he said 'I'm not sure, I think that was probably -- probably in bad taste.' I said 'what do you think her job is?'" While even left-wing bomber thrower Olbermann thought Sykes was over the line, Smith defended her: "Well, you know what, any comedian, anybody who does that job, their job is to push the envelope...You can't go home -- you can't go home to the community of comedians unless you've gone too far."

Co-host Julie Chen later wondered: "But how did the room react, you guys, who was there?" Smith replied: "They groaned, serious groan...And Michelle Obama, in particular, was very uncomfortable with some of Wanda Sykes." Dave Price explained: "It was pretty much the only groan. I mean, there were a couple of other small ones. But she was -- she was pretty much en fuego [on fire]."

[This item is based on a Monday post by the MRC's Kyle Drennen on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Price went on to observe that left-wing Hollywood was back in force at the dinner: "And of course, you had the whole Hollywood community back in. They typically have shied away from Republican presidential candidates. And they came back in force, because to the -- you know, Obama's a rock star." Co-host Maggie Rodriguez remarked: " Obama's so popular." Price added: "...particularly in Hollywood."

In addition to the conversation centered around Sykes, all of the Early Show hosts went out of their way to mention how funny they thought Barack Obama was. Earlier in the show, Smith declared: "It was a star-studded event as President Obama added 'comedian-in-chief' to his duties over the weekend." Later, after playing a clip of Obama at the dinner all of the hosts chimed in, beginning with Russ Mitchell: "That was pretty good." Rodriguez added: "That was very good-" Smith remarked: "Really lots of really funny self-deprecating stuff." Price later exclaimed: "He was very, very funny. First of all, whoever wrote it was brilliant and his delivery was right on target."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:13AM TEASE:
HARRY SMITH: It was a star-studded event as President Obama added 'comedian-in-chief' to his duties over the weekend. We'll talk all about that, next.
7:19AM TEASE:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Coming up next, President Obama takes on Hillary Clinton, Dick Cheney, even Joe Biden. We'll tell you what he had to say at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.
7:23AM TEASE:
HARRY SMITH: Maggie, Julie missed you at the Correspondents Dinner in Washington D.C. Here's a little bit of President Obama.
BARACK OBAMA: Which brings me to another thing that's changed in this new, warmer, fuzzier White House. And that's my relationship with Hillary. You know, we had been rivals during the campaign. But these days we could not be closer. In fact, the second she got back from Mexico, she pulled me into a hug and gave me a big kiss. Told me I better get down there myself. Dick Cheney was supposed to be here. But he is very busy working on his memoirs. Tentatively titled, 'How To Shoot Friends and Interrogate People.'
SMITH: He's pretty funny.
RODRIGUEZ: Very funny.
7:18AM SEGMENT:
HARRY SMITH: People still buzzing about the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday Night. Dave was there. I was there. Tom Cruise was there.
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Oh, so all the cute guys.
RUSS MITCHELL: Of course, yeah. A-list.
JULIE CHEN: Name-dropper, Harry Smith.
SMITH: Ah well, we've got more names to drop.
DAVE PRICE: You were rolling around with Julia Louis Dreyfus.
SMITH: Please, I have stories to tell, but let's listen to a little more of the funny stuff.
BARACK OBAMA: Now Sasha and Malia aren't here tonight, because they're grounded. You can't just take Air Force One on a joy ride to Manhattan.
MITCHELL: That was pretty good.
RODRIGUEZ: That was very good-
SMITH: Really lots of really funny self-deprecating stuff.
RODRIGUEZ: -referring to the Statue of Liberty picture that cost the guy who arranged it his job.
PRICE: He was very, very funny. First of all, whoever wrote it was brilliant and his delivery was right on target. What did you think of Wanda Sykes?
SMITH: Well, you know what, any comedian, anybody who does that job, their job is to push the envelope. Remember Don Imus with Bill Clinton?
PRICE: Pushed it-
SMITH: Stephen Colbert with Bush, whoever's there is going to push it past-
CHEN: Okay, Harry-
SMITH: Yes?
CHEN: -you need to explain, because a lot of people don't know, unless we have the Wanda Sykes soundbite, do we have it ready?
SMITH: She told a joke about Rush Limbaugh as being one of the -- one of the hijackers and the reason he didn't make the flight was because he was, you know, on drugs or whatever.
CHEN: Oh, on Oxytocin, right.
SMITH: And the whole place -- yeah -- so the whole place groaned, and I ran into Keith Olbermann afterwards.
PRICE: Right.
SMITH: And he said 'I'm not sure, I think that was probably -- probably in bad taste.' I said what do you think her job is?'
PRICE: Right.
RODRIGUEZ: That's what she was aiming for.
CHEN: But how did the room react?
SMITH: You can't go home -- you can't go home to the community of comedians unless you've gone too far.
MITCHELL: Right.
CHEN: But how did the room react, you guys, who was there?
SMITH: They groaned, serious groan.
PRICE: Oh, no, they groaned. But-
SMITH: And Michelle Obama, in particular, was very uncomfortable with some of Wanda Sykes.
PRICE: True, but I-
MITCHELL: Was it the only groan? Was it the only groan that you heard?
PRICE: It was pretty much the only groan. I mean, there were a couple of other small ones. But she was -- she was pretty much en fuego. And of course, you had the whole Hollywood community back in. They typically have shied away from Republican presidential candidates. And they came back in force, because to the -- you know, Obama's a rock star.
RODRIGUEZ: Obama's so popular.
PRICE: To -- particularly in Hollywood. Steven Spielberg was there.
SMITH: Unbelievable.
PRICE: I mean, Tom -- Tom-
RODRIGUEZ: Tom Cruise, you mentioned him already.
PRICE: Right.

Sawyer Skips Controversy for 'Angels
& Demons'; Grilled Mel Gibson

Angels & Demons star Tom Hanks received zero critical questions or challenges when he appeared on Monday's Good Morning America to promote a movie that features the Catholic Church ordering a brutal massacre in order to silence a secret society. Instead, Sawyer referred to the film, a prequel to The Da Vinci Code, as a "scary, spiritual scavenger hunt." After playing a clip of Hanks' character in the film asserting that he has no religious beliefs, she moved on to talking about how the movie star still gets nervous when he acts.

It's not as though Hanks didn't open himself up to questions about the film's validity. He admitted to Sawyer that in a few years, this movie, like every one he's made, will be subject to wondering "if moments are proper or authentic. Or if it actually, really, has some purpose in its reflection of, like, the human zeitgeist and that's where you find out whether or not you were telling the truth or not." Wouldn't this have been a good point to jump in and debate some of the assertions made in the book and movie? Sadly, Sawyer remained silent.

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

Contrast the gentle way that the ABC host treated Hanks with the grilling of Mel Gibson in a 2003 Primetime special on The Passion of the Christ. Regarding accuracy and his film about Jesus Christ, Sawyer pressed for specifics: "What about the historians who say that the Gospels were written long after Jesus died, and are not merely fact, but political points of views and metaphors? Historians, you know, have argued that in fact it was not written at the time [of Christ]. These [gospel writers] were not eyewitnesses."

As the MRC's Tim Graham wrote in a May 23, 2006 study that contrasted the treatment of Mel Gibson's movie with The Da Vinci Code, the conservative filmmaker actually received a psychological profile from Sawyer:

Sawyer pounded Gibson about his addictions, and how they led him to return to his Catholic beginnings. But Sawyer went further than that: on Good Morning America, she interviewed TV pop-psychologist Drew Pinsky about Gibson's mental problems, with this line of questioning: "We know that spirituality is fundamental to AA [Alcoholics Anonymous]. Is there any rehab program that really says, hey, do it on your own, you don't need that?" And so on: "And you've said that the relationship between the movie, which concentrates on the suffering, the Passion, the suffering of Jesus, and what [Gibson] went through during this darkest time." And so on: "He's talked about intensity of his struggle being reflected in the violence in the movie."

See "The Trashing of the Christ" for more: www.mrc.org

Regarding Angels & Demons, in an April 30 column, MRC President Brent Bozell explained how even the film's trailer is misleading:

Movie watchers are going to think large chunks of this story are actual human history, and the trailer has no disclaimer about how this scientist-murdering-church narrative is pure fantasy. The real Illuminati originated in Bavaria in 1776 (long after Galileo died) and fizzled out a decade later. The Catholic Church never murdered a single member of the Illuminati.

Bozell's column: www.mediaresearch.org

In many ways, it seems as though GMA's coverage of the works of Dan Brown has gotten worse. Thus far, the morning show isn't even hinting that there's anything controversial in Angels & Demons.

A partial transcript of the May 11 segment, which aired at 8:17am:

DIANE SAWYER: Well, on Angels Demons, it is another, you called him what, an intellectual Indiana Jones without the whip out there-
TOM HANKS: Yes.
SAWYER: -on another one of his scary, spiritual scavenger hunts.
HANKS: That's a good way of putting it, yes.
SAWYER: And here you are talking to Ewan McGregor, who's inside the Vatican and you have to basically save the Vatican, save the world.
HANKS: Good enough, yeah. Every movie is sort of like that these days.
SAWYER: And he wants to know about your soul. Let's listen.
["Angels and Demons" clip]
EWAN MCGREGOR: Do you believe in God, sir?
HANKS: Father, I simply believe that religion-
MCGREGOR: I did not ask you if you believe what man says about God. I asked you if you believe in God.
HANKS: I'm an academic. My mind tells me I will never understand God.
MCGREGOR: And your heart?
HANKS: Tells me I'm not meant to. Faith is a gift that I have yet to receive.
[Clip ends.]
HANKS: There you have it. The British School, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art Guild Hall Drama School and the American school "Bosom Buddies" and the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile. And they are going head to head in a battle royal of acting backgrounds
SAWYER: Showdown. Right. In the box office. Have you said- somebody told me on Biography once, you said that you have two sides of your face.
HANKS: Aww.
SAWYER: One side of your face is leading man and one side of your face-
HANKS: I blame my mother for pushing improperly. The- Because, you know, it's just like- I do. You come out. And I guess for awhile there your head is malleable, you know, your skull and when I was a young man I came out with one pretty good jaw side.
SAWYER: Wait a minute.
HANKS: Which is- this is a good side. This is- you know, please, what time is it? Who's got a good side at this time of the morning? That is a good side and this is not the good side. Now, people at home will YouTube this and freeze frame it and they will say, my God, those are two different human beings. But it's all me.
SAWYER: It's invisible to the naked eye and my eye is very naked at this hour of the morning looking at you. One of the other things that you said, which struck me was that each time you do it, each time- even after all this, each time when you go out, your heart is pounding a little.
HANKS: Oh, it's-
SAWYER: Not possible.
HANKS: Look, I take my work very seriously. I do not take the promotion of my work very seriously. This is a very different beast wrestling, wrestling, wrestling the maw. But it is terrifying because, look, it'll last forever. That's the thing. All movies come out in this kind of, like, hot house atmosphere. Is it a thumbs up? Is it thumbs down? Is it number one at the box office? Did the marketing work? Is the story- Is it worthwhile making the movie at all? That fades after a certain time and years from now, three year, four year, five years, every movie, everybody's film is recalibrate as to whether it was worthwhile or not and whether- if moments are proper or authentic or if it actually really has some purpose in its reflection of, like, the human zeitgeist and that's where you find out whether or not you were telling the truth or not. So, every day, no matter where you are in the world, oh, it's petrifying when you think about that.

-- Brent Baker