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Reversal of 'Eavesdropping' Ruling Ignored After Bush Loss Touted --7/9/2007


1. Reversal of 'Eavesdropping' Ruling Ignored After Bush Loss Touted
Last August, when one federal judge ruled unconstitutional the monitoring of U.S. phone calls with suspected terrorists overseas, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all highlighted the defeat for the Bush administration. But on Friday, after an appeals court overturned the earlier decision, ABC and CBS were silent while NBC again distorted the policy as "domestic spying." Last August 17, ABC's World News anchor Charles Gibson teased: "A federal judge tells the Bush administration one of its main terror-fighting tools violates the Constitution." Gibson introduced the story of the "major legal defeat" for the Bush administration and correspondent Martha Raddatz filed a full report in which she described the ruling as a "significant blow" to the administration. While the words "Domestic Surveillance" were displayed on screen, NBC anchor Campbell Brown relayed that the judge "harshly condemned" the program. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann also ignored Friday's ruling on his Countdown show, while last August he had trumpeted that day's anti-Bush court decision as a "judicial smackdown."

2. New PM Welcome Break from Blair's 'Apocalyptic View of Terrorism'
New Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown's milder approach to the terror threat, in the wake of the Glasgow bombing, appears to be more up the alley of the New York Times' London-based reporter, judging by Alan Cowell's favorable Wednesday "news analysis" on Brown: "Brown's Reaction to Terrorist Threat, So Different From Blair's, Reassures Many." Cowell applauded Brown as he chided former Prime Minister Tony Blair for a supposedly "apocalyptic" approach to terrorism: "Mr. Brown played down the threat, treating the episodes as a crime rather than a threat to civilization. Yet, his minimalist approach seemed to strike a reassuring chord with Britons, many of whom had expressed fatigue with Mr. Blair's apocalyptic view of terrorism."

3. ABC Suggests Rural Areas to Blame for Philadelphia's Murder Rate
ABC's World News Sunday presented a sympathetic look at Philadelphia city officials who are threatening to sue the Pennsylvania state government, "dominated by rural lawmakers" from hunting country, for blocking the city's push for more gun regulation in the face of a high murder rate. Correspondent David Kerley suggested a link between New York City's gun control laws and its lower murder rate: "Philadelphia has more murders than New York, with six times the population. But unlike New York, Philadelphia cannot pass its own gun laws." Instead of presenting the argument that a greater rate of gun ownership by the law-abiding could help reduce crime, Kerley merely showed a soundbite of a Republican lawmaker who argued that gun control would not affect criminals, before concluding: "That argument is being echoed across much of the country, as rural sensibilities continue to rule the gun debate, and cities like Philadelphia prepare for another night, and another shooting death."

4. Links to Holiday Week CyberAlerts: Galled at Libby Commutation
Links to several of the CyberAlert articles in the four CyberAlerts produced last week, a holiday period for many.


Reversal of 'Eavesdropping' Ruling Ignored
After Bush Loss Touted

Last August, when one federal judge ruled unconstitutional the monitoring of overseas phone calls with suspected terrorists, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all highlighted the defeat for the Bush administration. But on Friday, after an appeals court overturned the earlier decision, ABC and CBS were silent while NBC again distorted the policy as "domestic spying." Last August 17, ABC's World News anchor Charles Gibson teased: "A federal judge tells the Bush administration one of its main terror-fighting tools violates the Constitution." Gibson introduced the story of the "major legal defeat" for the Bush administration and correspondent Martha Raddatz filed a full report in which she described the ruling as a "significant blow" to the administration. While the words "Domestic Surveillance" were displayed on screen, NBC anchor Campbell Brown relayed that the judge "harshly condemned" the program.

Yet, eleven months later, though Gibson anchored Friday night during the holiday week, ABC's World News skipped the reversal from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals as ABC led with the problem of people defrauding the government of Hurricane Katrina relief money. Neither ABC or CBS caught up on Saturday night.

With "Domestic Spying" on screen, fill-in anchor Lester Holt read this short item on the July 6 NBC Nightly News:
"A victory for the Bush administration today in the ongoing dispute over its warrantless wiretapping program. A federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit challenging the program, saying the plaintiffs, which included the American Civil Liberties Union, had no standing to sue. The decision overturned a lower court ruling that the program violated privacy and free speech rights. The appeals court ruled 2 to 1 that the plaintiffs couldn't prove they were spied upon."

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann also ignored Friday's ruling on his Countdown show, while last August he had trumpeted that day's anti-Bush court decision by interviewing liberal law professor Jonathan Turley, who maintained that Bush "could well have committed a federal crime not once, but 30 times." Olbermann had hailed the August ruling as a "judicial smackdown" and a "stunning ruling" against the program, and had repeatedly referred to the NSA program as monitoring "our" phone calls or "our" e-mails. But the Countdown host did introduce Friday's show by trumpeting comments by former Reagan administration NSA director William Odom about the possibility of impeaching President Bush: "The top National Security officer from the Reagan administration insisting that the only way to protect the troops in Iraq is to get the Bush administration to bring them home, and the only way to do that may be to threaten the President directly with impeachment." (Transcript at end of this article)

[This item is based on a Saturday posting, by Brad Wilmouth, on the MRC's NewsBusters blog: newsbusters.org ]

While a Carter-nominated judge issued the 2006 ruling, the two judges in the majority on Friday were named by Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. July 7 Boston Globe story, "Court gives Bush win on surveillance," online at: www.boston.com

The networks are interested in some terrorism-related federal appeals court rulings, at least those in which the Bush administration is on the losing side. The Tuesday, June 12 CyberAlert, "Lead with 'Rebuke' of Bush on Terror Suspect; Skip Clinton Role," documented:

ABC and CBS on Monday night led by celebrating a 2-to-1 federal appeals court ruling against the Bush administration's policy of holding a sleeper cell suspect at a military brig without redress in civilian courts, but in eagerly quoting from the ruling neither bothered to mention that the two judges in the majority were Clinton appointees. "Tonight," Charles Gibson teased at the top of World News, "a stinging rejection for the President." Gibson set up his lead story by marveling at how "it is not often you will see a federal court call a policy of the President's 'disastrous.'" Gibson recited how the appeals court "says the President 'claims power that far exceeds that granted him by the Constitution,' a strong rebuke of the administration," a characterization soon repeated by ABC legal reporter Jan Crawford Greenburg: "The language in this decision is almost indignant, it's a sharp rebuke to these policies of President Bush..." ABC also featured the suspect's attorney, who asserted: "The court is warning is that if they can do that to Mr. Al Marri, they can do it to you, they can do it to your mother."

With "Bush Setback" on screen, CBS anchor Katie Couric trumpeted "a big defeat for President Bush." Reporter Wyatt Andrews relayed how "the ruling bluntly tells President Bush he has gone too far arresting civilians as enemy combatants," but he at least quoted a clause from the dissenting judge before concluding by describing the ideology of the court circuit without regard for who nominated the two judges who issued the ruling: "This is a case the White House lost in the appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, perhaps the nation's most conservative. And while the President is still arguing he has unquestioned authority to detain terror suspects, the courts are now firmly saying he does not."...

For the entire CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

Last year, the networks pounced on the rebuke of the Bush policy from the single federal judge. The Friday, August 18, 2006 CyberAlert, "Nets Skip Weaknesses in NSA Surveillance Ruling by Liberal Judge," recounted:

All three broadcast network evening newscasts on Thursday covered the ruling by a federal judge against the Bush administration's controversial NSA spying program that involves warrantless monitoring of international phone calls when one participant is a terrorist suspect. Stemming from a case filed by the ACLU and other plaintiffs, Judge Ann Diggs Taylor, a Detroit-based Carter appointee, found the program to be unconstitutional. Unlike CNN and FNC, which conveyed that the ruling would likely be overturned, none of the network evening newscasts mentioned the liberal credentials of Judge Taylor or the debate over judicial activism and legal weaknesses in the ruling, such as the issue of whether the plaintiffs had standing to file the lawsuit, since the plaintiffs themselves were not found to be the subjects of surveillance.

On ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, Gibson introduced the story of the "major legal defeat" for the Bush administration, and correspondent Martha Raddatz filed a full report on the ruling in which she described the ruling as a "significant blow" to the administration, showing a soundbite of plaintiff James Bamford arguing that the ruling means the President "isn't a king." While she did at least provide some balance by relaying that "many national security experts" argue the program is essential, followed by a supporting soundbite from James Garafano of the Heritage Foundation, Raddatz did not delve into any legal weaknesses of the ruling itself.

The CBS Evening News and the NBC Nightly News only ran anchor-read stories, during which CBS's Bob Schieffer, uniquely among the networks, pointed out that those subjected to surveillance were "suspected of having ties to terrorists." And while ABC's Gibson did at least mention that the surveillance involved "overseas phone calls from this country," NBC's Campbell Brown did not even mention the international nature of the calls, while the words "Domestic Surveillance" were displayed on the screen next to her. Brown relayed that Judge Taylor "harshly condemned" the program.

On FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume, correspondent Bret Baier mentioned that Judge Taylor was a Carter appointee, and the show also gave attention to the debate over whether the plaintiffs in the case had standing to file their lawsuit. During the "Fox All Stars" panel segment, Fortune magazine's Nina Easton talked about feedback she had received that the "legal reasoning on it was thin," and addressed the issue of standing: "And this question of the standing of these folks you're talking about, the scholars and the journalists and so on, and whether they actually had standing to bring this suit, well, she [Judge Taylor] wrestled with some of those questions, but then she dismissed the other concerns, saying, well, if they don't have standing, then who's going to keep the President, who's going to keep the President, hold his feet to the fire and who's going to let courts come in and hold him accountable? It's like, well, I gotta give him standing, and so I thought that was extremely telling."...

For the August 18, 2006 CyberAlert in full: www.mrc.org

The Monday, August 21, 2006 CyberAlert item, "Olbermann Bolsters 'Smackdown' of Spying on 'Our' Phone Calls," reported:

On Thursday's Countdown, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann bolstered the ruling by federal Judge Ann Diggs Taylor against the Bush administration's controversial NSA spying program that involves warrantless monitoring of international phone calls when one participant is a terrorist suspect. Referring to the ruling as a "judicial smackdown" and a "stunning ruling" against the program, Olbermann repeatedly referred to the NSA program as monitoring "our" phone calls or "our" emails. The MSNBC host further contended that since the program was revealed, "anybody who had actually read the Constitution" believed it would eventually be ruled as "patently illegal." Olbermann's guest discussing the topic was liberal law professor Jonathan Turley, who labeled Judge Taylor's ruling as a "very thoughtful opinion," called efforts by conservatives to discredit her as a liberal Carter appointee as "distasteful" and maintained President Bush "could well have committed a federal crime not once, but 30 times."

For the August 21, 2006 CyberAlert in full: www.mrc.org

But, as noted above, last Friday Keith Olbermann wasn't interested in the overturning of that ruling. Instead, he hyped a call to impeach Bush. From the Friday, July 6 Countdown:

Olbermann, in opening teaser: "The Odom plan: The director of the National Security Agency, the NSA, under Ronald Reagan, General William Odom, says the best way to support the troops in Iraq is to get them home from Iraq, and that the administration is so out of control, that the only way to make that happen is to threaten the President with impeachment if he does not agree."

Olbermann, introducing his lead story: "Good evening from New York. It has been thus on every sinking ship from Titanic to the SS Minnow of Gilligan's Island. A few far-thinking visionaries try to get off first to get others to leave with them, then others begin to file off one by one, and after them, the deluge. And so it is for the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. Our fifth story on the Countdown, conservative Republican Senator Pete Domenici yesterday, conservative Republican Congressman John Doolittle today. Hope you can swim, boys.
"This while the top National Security officer from the Reagan administration insisting that the only way to protect the troops in Iraq is to get the Bush administration to bring them home, and the only way to do that may be to threaten the President directly with impeachment. The Commander-in-Chief having now supported the troops to a death toll of 3,592 with no end in sight. Conservative Congressman Doolittle of California, one-time Mormon missionary, today joining the others in his party in questioning whether the conflict is worth the loss of any more American lives. His remarks, though, making the Congressman sound less like a great humanitarian or patriot, and rather more like a huge xenophobe. 'I am increasingly convinced,' said Mr. Doolittle, 'that we are never going to succeed in actually ending people dying in Iraq. I think it's going to be a constant conflict...and if that is going to happen...it needs to be the Iraqis dying and not the Americans.'
"The White House saying today it views any sort of precipitous withdrawal from Iraq as dangerous, the Pentagon that leaving early would leave that country a mess, but Lieutenant General William Odom, the director of National Security for President Reagan, the Bush administration says that, he says that the Bush administration, rather, should no longer be allowed to determine the vocabulary for the debate. General Odom's contention that supporting the troops actually means bringing them home, and now. Mr. Odom pointing out that Congress clearly and indisputably has two powers over the executive: the power of the purse and power to impeach. Should the first option fail, Mr. Odom saying lawmakers should not be afraid to threaten the second, having ample justification to do so. 'An attempt to extort Congress into providing funds by keeping U.S. forces in peril...surely would constitute the 'high crime' of squandering the lives of soldiers and Marines for his,' the President's, 'own personal interest.'"

New PM Welcome Break from Blair's 'Apocalyptic
View of Terrorism'

New Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown's milder approach to the terror threat, in the wake of the Glasgow bombing, appears to be more up the alley of the New York Times' London-based reporter, judging by Alan Cowell's favorable Wednesday "news analysis" on Brown: "Brown's Reaction to Terrorist Threat, So Different From Blair's, Reassures Many." Cowell applauded Brown as he chided former Prime Minister Tony Blair for a supposedly "apocalyptic" approach to terrorism: "Mr. Brown played down the threat, treating the episodes as a crime rather than a threat to civilization. Yet, his minimalist approach seemed to strike a reassuring chord with Britons, many of whom had expressed fatigue with Mr. Blair's apocalyptic view of terrorism."

[This item is adapted from a Thursday posting, by Clay Waters, on the MRC's TimesWatch site: www.timeswatch.org ]

Cowell was no fan of Tony Blair's support for George Bush and the Iraq War. He particularly enjoyed repeating left-wing anti-war mockery of Blair as "Bush's poodle." See: www.timeswatch.org

An excerpt from the July 4 "news analysis" by Cowell:

Before Gordon Brown took power as Britain's new prime minister, there was much talk about whether the electorate would warm to the dour, methodical and detail-driven Scot, particularly after so many years of soaring oratory from his predecessor, Tony Blair

The answer came more quickly than anyone thought, with the foiled terrorist attacks in London on Friday and at Glasgow Airport on Saturday, just days after Mr. Brown took office.

For his admirers, it seemed, Mr. Brown's very dourness offered an antidote to the theatrical Mr. Blair.

In a somewhat wooden address to the nation on Saturday and in an interview with the BBC on Sunday, Mr. Brown played down the threat, treating the episodes as a crime rather than a threat to civilization. Yet, his minimalist approach seemed to strike a reassuring chord with Britons, many of whom had expressed fatigue with Mr. Blair's apocalyptic view of terrorism.

SUSPEND Excerpt

The text box read: "Some Britons seem to have tired of Blair's apocalyptic view."

RESUME Excerpt:

"Gordon Brown has got off to a flying start as prime minister," Peter Riddell, a political columnist for The Times of London, wrote Tuesday, saying Mr. Brown's poll ratings for strength and leadership were 'soaring' after the thwarted attacks.

He received high marks from civil rights groups as well. "So far, at least, Mr. Brown has passed the first test of his administration," Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said Sunday. "He has not played politics with the terror threat, and has treated this weekend's events as an operational rather than a political matter."

END of Excerpt

For the July 4 article in full: www.nytimes.com

Cowell didn't mention an apparent example of political correctness in the new administration. An article in Britain's Daily Express newspaper reported the Brown government has banned the use of the term "Muslim" when discussing the terrorist plots: "Gordon Brown has banned ministers from using the word 'Muslim' in -connection with the -terrorism crisis. The Prime Minister has also instructed his team -- including new Home Secretary Jacqui Smith -- that the phrase 'war on --terror' is to be dropped. The shake-up is part of a fresh attempt to improve community relations and avoid offending Muslims, adopting a more 'consensual' tone than existed under Tony Blair."

Yet Cowell lamented Brown has not gone far enough: "In some ways, Mr. Brown has not shed the past. Part of his first response to the foiled attacks of recent days was to blame Al Qaeda, even though security officials shied from that depiction. Ultimately, too, he will be under pressure, as Mr. Blair was, to balance civil liberties against more draconian security measures."

Cowell also asserted: "In practical terms, that means Mr. Brown must decide whether to press for an extension of the permissible period of detention without charge for terrorism suspects to 90 days from 28, and new legislation to permit the use of evidence from wiretaps in court cases. But he has raised expectations among supporters that the shift in tone will also mean a shift in substance."

To support his theory, Cowell offered the views of a left-wing newspaper columnist: "Jackie Ashley, a columnist in The Guardian newspaper, said there had been 'no amateur dramatics, no histrionics, nothing silly' in Mr. Brown's muted response to the foiled attacks. 'With his sober assessment of the danger and warnings of the inconvenience we will have to face, he made it clear that knee-jerk responses to atrocities will be a thing of the past,' Ms. Ashley wrote Monday."

ABC Suggests Rural Areas to Blame for
Philadelphia's Murder Rate

ABC's World News Sunday presented a sympathetic look at Philadelphia city officials who are threatening to sue the Pennsylvania state government, "dominated by rural lawmakers" from hunting country, for blocking the city's push for more gun regulation in the face of a high murder rate. Correspondent David Kerley suggested a link between New York City's gun control laws and its lower murder rate: "Philadelphia has more murders than New York, with six times the population. But unlike New York, Philadelphia cannot pass its own gun laws." Instead of presenting the argument that a greater rate of gun ownership by the law-abiding could help reduce crime, Kerley merely showed a soundbite of a Republican lawmaker who argued that gun control would not affect criminals, before concluding: "That argument is being echoed across much of the country, as rural sensibilities continue to rule the gun debate, and cities like Philadelphia prepare for another night, and another shooting death."

[This item, by Brad Wilmouth, was posted Sunday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

During a plug for the story before a commercial break, anchor Dan Harris portrayed Philadelphia as a "desperate" city that was "in the cross-hairs" of the gun control debate: "A city desperate to stop the murders finds itself in the cross-hairs of a national debate on gun control."

Harris introduced the story by relaying the contention of Philadelphia gun control proponents that its city has a higher murder rate because the city must abide by gun laws set by a state government that is "dominated by rural lawmakers." Harris: "Philadelphia has to follow gun laws set by the state government, which is dominated by rural lawmakers. And city officials say that is why they have the highest murder rate of the nation's big cities -- 213 this year and counting."

Kerley began his report by recounting the story of a five-year-old girl who was shot to death while riding in a car. Kerley then suggested that the reason New York City has a lower murder rate than Philadelphia is because it has stricter gun laws than Philadelphia: "Philadelphia has more murders than New York, with six times the population. But unlike New York, Philadelphia cannot pass its own gun laws."

The ABC correspondent then turned to one of the "frustrated city officials" who says they will "sue their own state government." City Councilman Darrell Clarke: "I can no longer continue to sit here and allow the level of violence to continue unabated simply because people don't feel it is appropriate to do what I believe is their mandatory duty."

When Kerley moved to the pro-gun side of the issue, and showed soundbites of Republican State Representative Steve Cappelli, the ABC correspondent referred to the interest of rural Pennsylvanians in hunting, but did not delve into the argument that high rates of gun ownership can reduce crime: "But even the city councilman [Clarke] knows he's in for a bruising battle, one that he may not win. That's because the vast majority of Pennsylvania is rural. And guns and hunting are very important here in farm country." Notably, in May, ABC's John Stossel had discussed the self-defensive benefits of gun ownership on 20/20. See the May 7 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

After hearing from Cappelli, who argued that new gun laws "will not impact the very element that's terrorizing that city," Kerley concluded: "That argument is being echoed across much of the country, as rural sensibilities continue to rule the gun debate. And cities like Philadelphia prepare for another night, and another shooting death."

Below is a complete transcript of David Kerley's story from the July 8 World News Sunday on ABC:

DAN HARRIS, before commercial break: And coming up here on World News this Sunday, a city desperate to stop the murders finds itself in the cross-hairs of a national debate on gun control. We'll take "A Closer Look."

...

HARRIS: We're going to take "A Closer Look" tonight at gun control. Where you stand on this issue may depend on where you live. Urban Americans tend to favor strict gun laws. Rural Americans do not. But in one big city, they don't get to choose. Philadelphia has to follow gun laws set by the state government, which is dominated by rural lawmakers. And city officials say that is why they have the highest murder rate of the nation's big cities -- 213 this year and counting. ABC's David Kerley has the story.

DAVID KERLEY: Nearly every day, someone in Philadelphia is shot to death. Last fall, it was five-year-old Cashae Rivers.
KIM CARTER-FORD, Aunt of shooting victim: I couldn't imagine something like that going through my back and coming out my chest.
KERLEY: Riding in the back seat of a car, a bullet ripped through her heart.
CARTER-FORD: It does make you want to retaliate. But no one wants to just keep the cycle going.
KERLEY: A cycle that has caused the murder rate to soar at twice that of most major cities. In fact, Philadelphia has more murders than New York, with six times the population. But unlike New York, Philadelphia cannot pass its own gun laws. The state of Pennsylvania tells Philadelphia you can't pass a gun law?
DARRELL CLARKE, Philadelphia City Councilman: The state of Pennsylvania has preempted all of our abilities to deal with gun regulations.
KERLEY: So now, frustrated city officials say they will sue their own state government.
CLARKE: I can no longer continue to sit here and allow the level of violence to continue unabated simply because people don't feel it is appropriate to do what I believe is their mandatory duty.
KERLEY: These urban leaders say all they want is to restrict gun purchases to one a month, and require a yearly $10 registration fee, to target those who buy guns in bulk to sell to criminals. But even the city councilman knows he's in for a bruising battle, one that he may not win. That's because the vast majority of Pennsylvania is rural. And guns and hunting are very important here in farm country. You got a couple of bull's eyes there.
State Representative STEVE CAPPELLI (R-PA): Yes, I do.
KERLEY: Steve Cappelli has a concealed weapons permit. He's a hunter.
CAPPELLI: You're a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, aren't you?
Unidentified man: I certainly am.
KERLEY: And he's a Republican state representative. Philadelphia has a problem, don't they?
CAPPELLI: They are experiencing cultural genocide, to be blunt. Yes.
KERLEY: But Cappelli, like so many rural supporters of the Second Amendment, says gun limits won't work.
CAPPELLI: And any measure we give Philadelphia, any new regulation, any new authority to regulate firearms, will not impact the very element that's terrorizing that city.
KERLEY: That argument is being echoed across much of the country, as rural sensibilities continue to rule the gun debate. And cities like Philadelphia prepare for another night, and another shooting death. David Kerley, ABC News, Philadelphia.

Links to Holiday Week CyberAlerts: Galled
at Libby Commutation

Links to several of the CyberAlert articles in the four CyberAlerts produced last week, a holiday period for many:

# "Panic Over Possible Pardon, ABC Contrasts Libby to Cocaine Dealer." Go to: www.mrc.org

# "Olbermann Calls on Bush and Cheney to Resign, Congress to Impeach." See: www.mrc.org

# "AM Wrap: CBS Puts 'Libby Pardon' On Screen, ABC: 'Above the Law?'" Check: www.mrc.org

# "Flashback: In 2001 Nets Not So Fast to Jump on Rich Pardon." Go to: www.mrc.org

# "Olbermann: For Commutation in 'Crime of Century' Bush Must Resign." See: www.mrc.org

# "CNN: Conservatives 'Angry' Too Over Libby, GOP Double Standard." See: www.mrc.org

# "MSNBC's Hardball Turns Into DNC-TV with Al Sharpton as the Host." Go to: www.mrc.org

-- Brent Baker, in New Hampshire