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Networks Distort Terrorist Surveillance Into 'Domestic Spying' --1/18/2007


1. Networks Distort Terrorist Surveillance Into 'Domestic Spying'
The announcement Wednesday from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) would now approve of surveillance actions under the "Terrorist Surveillance Program," prompted a return to the bad network habit of describing as "domestic spying" and "domestic eavesdropping" the effort to monitor communication between people inside the United States and suspected terrorists abroad. With "Domestic Spying" on screen, ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson cited "a major reversal today by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism. Two years ago, you may recall, the administration maintained it had the right to spy on people in the United States, without court approval. Today, however, the Justice Department said there will be no such surveillance of people in this country without court approval." The CBS Evening News put "Domestic Eavesdropping" on screen.

2. Sawyer Speaks to 16 Female Senators: No War If Women Ran World?
Wednesday's Good Morning America ran a taped session from Washington, DC of co-host Diane Sawyer speaking with all 16 female members of the Senate. The January 17 interview, broken up into two segments, ranged from silly questions, such as whether more women leaders could result in less war, to queries about whether America is too prejudiced to accept a female President. One question that did go unasked is whether Senator Barbara Boxer, who didn't appear on camera, should apologize for her recent insinuation that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is oblivious to the effects of war because she doesn't have children. One would think that in a group of professional women this would be an important topic. Apparently not. Sawyer began by asking the assembled ladies whether or not more women Presidents would lead to peace: "Do you believe that if there were more women Presidents in the world, there would be less war? How sure are you that there would be less war?" Later, she pressed the Senators: "There was a Newsweek poll recently that showed that 35 percent of American people do not think America is ready for a woman President. It doesn't mean they're saying they wouldn't vote, they just don't think America is ready. Are you all absolutely confident?"

3. ABC's 'Boston Legal' Takes Cheap Shots at GOP and Dick Cheney
Tuesday's Boston Legal prime time drama on ABC was packed full of political jabs at congressional Republicans and Vice President Cheney. Buffoonish conservative lawyer "Denny Crane" (played by William Shatner) was placed on the "No Fly List" and when liberal lawyer "Alan Shore" (played by James Spader) asked if Crane had called for help, he responded: "Well, I can't get anybody. I called Tom DeLay, his number's disconnected. Foley has got his hands full, Frist said, "Don't take it personally." I called Clarence Thomas; his office said he was indisposed." Shore then asked, "Have you tried going right to the top?" Crane replied: "Cheney?" Shore also linked being "red, white and blue" with not reading newspapers and got in a slap at Cheney in a quip about avoiding "the rich friend who will take you to his quail ranch and let you shoot him."


Networks Distort Terrorist Surveillance
Into 'Domestic Spying'

The announcement Wednesday from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) would now approve of surveillance actions under the "Terrorist Surveillance Program," prompted a return to the bad network habit of describing as "domestic spying" and "domestic eavesdropping" the effort to monitor communication between people inside the United States and suspected terrorists abroad. With "Domestic Spying" on screen, ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson cited "a major reversal today by the Bush administration in the war on terrorism. Two years ago, you may recall, the administration maintained it had the right to spy on people in the United States, without court approval. Today, however, the Justice Department said there will be no such surveillance of people in this country without court approval."

[This item was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The January 17 CBS Evening News put "Domestic Eavesdropping" on screen as anchor Katie Couric suggested President Bush had dropped the program, not just brought it under court supervision, as she very misleadingly referred to eavesdropping on "Americans" when it could be anyone inside the United States: "In the war on terror here at home, a surprising development today. President Bush is giving up what he's long insisted is a key weapon, his program of eavesdropping without a court order on the phone calls and e-mails of Americans suspected of communicating with terrorists." Jim Axelrod had to correct her and point out how the program continues: "We should make the point Katie, about this about-face, that the eavesdropping won't stop at all. It's just that the requests will have to now be monitored by a judge."

The NBC Nightly News avoided the loaded and inaccurate on screen graphic, going with "Electronic Surveillance," but Brian Williams contended the program targeted "U.S. citizens" when it really deals with anyone within the borders of the United States communicating with a terrorist outside the borders: "Tonight the Bush administration has reversed itself on one of the most controversial pieces of the President's anti-terror program. It involved listening in on the phone calls of U.S. citizens without a warrant."

Sawyer Speaks to 16 Female Senators:
No War If Women Ran World?

Wednesday's Good Morning America ran a taped session from Washington, DC of co-host Diane Sawyer speaking with all 16 female members of the Senate. The January 17 interview, broken up into two segments, ranged from silly questions, such as whether more women leaders could result in less war, to queries about whether America is too prejudiced to accept a female President. One question that did go unasked is whether Senator Barbara Boxer, who didn't appear on camera, should apologize for her recent insinuation that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is oblivious to the effects of war because she doesn't have children. One would think that in a group of professional women this would be an important topic. Apparently not. Sawyer began by asking the assembled ladies whether or not more women Presidents would lead to peace: "Do you believe that if there were more women Presidents in the world, there would be less war? How sure are you that there would be less war?" Later, she pressed the Senators: "There was a Newsweek poll recently that showed that 35 percent of American people do not think America is ready for a woman President. It doesn't mean they're saying they wouldn't vote, they just don't think America is ready. Are you all absolutely confident?"

[This item is adopted from an article by Scott Whitlock which was posted Wednesday on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Maria Cantwell (D-WA), answered Sawyer's proposition about female leaders and war: "Well, I think, Diane, I think that women are agents of change. And while we're only 16 percent of the United States Senate, we are trying to make change. So, it doesn't mean that you're going to predict the outcome, but it does mean you will hear about collaboration, you will hear about cooperation, and you'll hear about a format I think brings people together. I think that-"
Mary Landrieu (D-LA): "Let me say this, I'm not certain we would have less wars, but I am certain there would be more collaboration. So, while we can't prevent war, we can maybe extend the peace longer, maybe we can bring it more readily. We don't ever claim that could empower, end war. But I do think women bring a different perspective on just how much is enough when it comes to bloodshed and expenditure of funds for weapons."
Hillary Clinton (D-NY): "You know, Diane I just got back from Iraq and Afghanistan and in both places, in addition to meeting with our military leaders and the governmental officials from both countries, I met with groups of women, and women who are now in positions of responsibility in both governments. You know, just begged for help from American women, particularly those of us in government, to give them some resources and support. So I don't think that you can foresee or foreordain any particular outcome. But I do think what we're all saying is, that there is at least in our experience, more of an openness to process, to bring people together to the table, that collaboration and collegiality. And that in and of itself can cause positive results. Not that, you know, it's going to end all wars or something as hopeful and aspirational [sic] as that. So I, I do think there are some differences we could build on."

The mostly Democratic women continued. Uninterrupted by questions from Sawyer, they seemed to engage in a coordinated, and not very subtle, effort to build up Hillary Clinton:

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): "I think women look at power differently, too. I think men have a very -- I was going to say sort of up-scale view of power, that it's got to really emanate from the top. And most women have gotten wherever we've gotten because of hard work, doing your apprenticeship, earning your spurs, working your way up. It's a very different thing. So you intend to be much more inclusive."
Susan Collins (R-ME): "But I don't, I don't want to leave the impression that a woman president wouldn't do what is necessary to defend this country. If Elizabeth Dole had been successful and had been president, I'm sure that she would have reacted very strongly and effectively to the attacks on our country on 9/11."
Claire McCaskill (D-MO): "I want to point out, this is a tough, tough group of women. Don't cross these women. If you, if you want to mess with America, if you want to do something that harms our country, I think that at the same time we talk about how we are good at finding common ground and we care very much about collegiality, I don't want this interview to end with anyone being mistaken, whether it be Hillary Clinton or any of these women, if the time comes and any of us have to make a tough decision that has to do with war or defending our country, every woman in this room is ready to do that because, believe me, if she got here, she's tough."

Incidentally, the comment by Susan Collins, was the only time a Republican Senator spoke in the first segment, broadcast at 7:08am. Is this a coincidence, or is ABC trying to assist the promotion of Mrs. Clinton's campaign?

In the second part, which aired at 8:14, Sawyer became less subtle and wondered if America could handle a woman President:
"There was a Newsweek poll recently that showed that 35 percent of American people do not think America is ready for a woman President. It doesn't mean they're saying they wouldn't vote, they just don't think America is ready. Are you all absolutely confident?"
Hillary Clinton (D-NY): "We don't have any way of knowing that."
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): "I think things that are changing rapidly, as more women become mayors, as they become governors. As they represent us in the state legislatures. As they do well, as they are effective, suddenly people look and say, 'Ah hah. I know I'm going to get a fair shake. That's who I'm going to vote for.'"
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR): "That's why, when Claire and I ran this time, it was a lot easier for people to imagine us in the U.S. Senate, because of the women sitting here today."
Sawyer: "Okay, but let me ask you this. Let me ask you this. What has taken America so long? We've got, what, six, seven, female Presidents, six Prime Ministers that I know about in the world."
Elizabeth Dole (R-NC): "We still have a long way to go."
Lincoln (D-AR): "But my mother told me, she said, this is history. And it's going to take time. It's not a fault. It's a fact that there aren't more women elected and it will be our fault if we don't change that."
Susan Collins (R-ME): "We're starting to break the glass ceiling for governor. I think that parallels the corporate world where we've had a hard time breaking the class ceiling where to become CEOs. And I think, as there are more and more women serving as CEOs, we're going to see a greater openness to women serving in executive positions in the political world."

If Ms. Sawyer's questions seem familiar, they should. In November, the ABC anchor interviewed Illinois Senator and 2008 presidential aspirant Barack Obama. Sawyer asked him if America is 'more racist or sexist' and then repeated the query on the next day's program. See the November 13 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

And the November 15 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

ABC's 'Boston Legal' Takes Cheap Shots
at GOP and Dick Cheney

Tuesday's Boston Legal prime time drama on ABC was packed full of political jabs at congressional Republicans and Vice President Cheney. Buffoonish conservative lawyer "Denny Crane" (played by William Shatner) was placed on the "No Fly List" and when liberal lawyer "Alan Shore" (played by James Spader) asked if Crane had called for help, he responded: "Well, I can't get anybody. I called Tom DeLay, his number's disconnected. Foley has got his hands full, Frist said, "Don't take it personally." I called Clarence Thomas; his office said he was indisposed." Shore then asked, "Have you tried going right to the top?" Crane replied: "Cheney?" Shore also linked being "red, white and blue" with not reading newspapers and got in a slap at Cheney in a quip about avoiding "the rich friend who will take you to his quail ranch and let you shoot him."

[This item is adopted from a posting by the MRC's Michelle Humphrey, which was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

In the January 16 episode, Shore described Crane to a Homeland Security official: "Mr. Murch...there is nobody more red, white and blue than this man here. He's for the death penalty. He's pro-life. He doesn't read newspapers. He's exercised every loophole to avoid paying taxes. He's even donated to the Jack Abramoff ball."

During his closing argument, Shore discussed the cost of changing the technology of Homeland Security: "This can't be undoable. Expensive, maybe, but judging from recent spending patterns, we've got billions to throw around. Halliburton alone has profited over $10 billion from the war. Maybe we could get them to kick in. Why is it our government leaders only tap into the private sector for campaign contributions or to pass out contracts to cronies?"

Finally, to wrap the episode Crane asked Shore: "Name a change that relates to this issue -- government technology." Shore recommended: "I made that suggestion in court. Hire the geniuses, not the guy who's got the best lobbyist or the rich friend who will take you to his quail ranch and let you shoot him."

This was hardly Boston Legal's first foray into liberal pontificating. The March 21, 2006 CyberAlert item, "ABC's Boston Legal Airs Anti-Bush Tirade that Raises McCarthy Era," recounted:
The episode featured a plot line with over-the-top lawyer "Alan Shore," played by James Spader, delivering a five-minute-long closing argument, in defense of a woman who wouldn't pay


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income taxes, railing against the war on terrorism. Earlier, explaining to Shore her reasoning, the woman, "Melissa Hughes," cited how her grandfather, who fought in World War I, would be "embarrassed" by "what's happening today."
She listed "us torturing people, spying on our own people, squashing everybody's civil liberties. My grandfather would weep." To which Shore got in an obvious slap at FNC: "You need to change the channel. The awful things you speak of never happen on the 'fair and balanced' newscasts." In his closing, Shore cited a litany of misdeeds, including: "When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out not to be true, I expected the American people to rise up....And, now it's been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens -- you and me. And I at least consoled myself that finally, FINALLY, the American people will have had enough. Evidently, we haven't."
Shore soon compared the current climate to that of the McCarthy era, recalling what he read in a book by Adlai Stevenson: "Too often, sinister threats to the bill of rights, to freedom of the mind, 'are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-communism.' Today, it's the cloak of anti-terrorism."

For more, including a video clip, go to: www.mrc.org

-- Brent Baker