2. A Real Outing of CIA Operatives: 'Where's the Outrage?'
3. GMA Slams Insurance Industry Profits; Pushes Calls for Regulation
CBS's Bob Schieffer just can't resist making analogies to Vietnam, especially when it comes to a setback in Iraq. In the wake of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to start withdrawing his nation's troops from Iraq, which CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric paired with Denmark's decision to withdraw its 400 soldiers to form her lead story Wednesday night about "the shrinking U.S.-led coalition in Iraq," Bob Schieffer came aboard via satellite from Washington, DC to compare the Iraq situation to Vietnam: "I think what we're seeing here, Katie, is what happened back during the Vietnam era when things were going badly and the crusty old Senator from Vermont, George Aiken, said 'there's only one way out there, that's to declare victory and just leave.'"
Wikipedia's page on Aiken: en.wikipedia.org
[This item was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Schieffer often sees the world through the prism of Vietnam. This was at least the third time just this year he has raised the comparison:
# On Face the Nation the morning after the January 27 anti-Iraq war protest in Washington, DC, Schieffer reminisced: "Yesterday in Washington was like a day from yesteryear -- the war that to many seems long ago and far away: the war in Vietnam. Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of people descended on the capital to protest the war in Iraq." See: www.mrc.org
# The night after President Bush's January address announcing the surge, Schieffer asserted: "You really have to go back to Vietnam and Watergate to find presidential speeches on television that didn't give the President at least a little bump in the polls." See: www.mrc.org
# In early December, assessing a CBS News poll, Schieffer maintained: "This is opposition that is taking on historic proportions. By 1973, at the height of American opposition to the war in Vietnam, a Gallup poll showed that 60 percent of those polled said it had been a mistake to send our troops to Vietnam. Well, today's poll shows that slightly more Americans than that, 62 percent, now believe it was a mistake to go to Iraq. That is simply stunning." See: www.mrc.org
# Back in September, in a "freeSpeech" commentary (remember those?) on the CBS Evening News, Schieffer opined: "I am beginning to see parallels in the remarkably similar way the government then and the government now reports war news. During Vietnam, the government was on a never ending search for good news. Victory was always just around the corner. Over and over there were sightings of that light at the end of the tunnel. In 1964, a Senator returned from the war zone and declared: 'We are winning and everybody knows it, but Americans.' Sound familiar?" See: www.mrc.org
# In May, after protesters confronted Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Schieffer, as anchor of the CBS Evening News, trumpeted: "Not since the Vietnam War has a Secretary of Defense been under the kind of criticism that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been getting lately." See: www.mrc.org
The Couric/Schieffer exchange on the February 21 CBS Evening News:
Couric: "Now to Washington and our chief correspondent there, Bob Schieffer. Bob, the Bush administration is characterizing the British draw down as a sign of success. Is anyone buying that?"
"Where's the outrage?" So asked James Taranto in his Wednesday "Best of the Web Today" column for Opinion Journal.com. Taranto highlighted a Sunday Los Angeles Times story, "Pilots traced to CIA renditions: The Times identifies three fliers facing kidnapping charges in Germany related to a 2003 counter-terrorism mission," which though it did not list their real names, identified the aliases and enough information about each to help anyone trying to find them, including how they all live within 30 miles of a certain rural airport. One "drives a Toyota Previa minivan and keeps a collection of model trains in a glass display case near a large bubbling aquarium in his living room," another "is a bearded man of 35 who lives with his father and two dogs in a separate subdivision" and a third "is 46, drives a Ford Explorer and has a 17-foot aluminum fishing boat" where he lives "in a house that backs onto a private golf course here." (Taranto explained: "In a town of 13,000 the Times identifies in its dateline.")
Taranto ruminated: "Remember all the outrage when Robert Novak 'outed' Valerie Plame, who apparently worked a desk job at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.? Here the L.A. Times is publishing extensive personal details on three men who have actually done dangerous work defending the country. Where's the outrage?" Good question.
The February 21 "Best of the Web Today" compilation: www.opinionjournal.com
[This item was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
An excerpt from the February 18 Los Angeles Times story by Bob Drogin and John Goetz:
....The names they used were all aliases, but The Times confirmed their real identities from government databases and visited their homes this month after a German court in January ordered the arrest of the three "ghost pilots" and 10 other alleged members of the CIA's special renditions unit on charges of kidnapping and causing serious bodily harm to Khaled Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, three years ago.
None of the pilots responded to repeated requests for comment left with family members and on their home telephones. The Times is not publishing their real names because they have been charged only under their aliases.... According to Masri's account, he was detained by local authorities while crossing from Serbia into Macedonia on Dec. 31, 2003. Three weeks later, seven or eight men in masks stripped him naked, put him in a diaper and jumpsuit, drugged him and then chained him, spread-eagle and blindfolded, to the floor of a Boeing 737 that flew to Afghanistan on Jan. 24, 2004. German prosecutors say the men in masks were with the CIA rendition team.
At the time, U.S. intelligence authorities believed Masri was involved with radical Islamic groups in Ulm, a city in southern Germany. Masri was released five months later after undergoing what he described as repeated beatings and other physical abuse in a now-closed CIA-run prison called the Salt Pit in Kabul, the Afghan capital. U.S. officials have told German authorities that Masri was seized and imprisoned in error because his name is similar to that of a suspected terrorist linked to Al Qaeda.
Flight records show that Aero Contractors, based in Smithfield, N.C., operated the plane that carried Masri from Macedonia to Afghanistan. The charter aircraft company has flown scores of sensitive missions for the CIA and has played a key support role in counter-terrorism operations since the Sept. 11 attacks, according to former agency officials.
The three pilots in the Masri rendition case live within a 30-minute drive of the guarded Aero hangar and offices at the rural Johnston County airport. Reached by telephone Saturday, Aero official Freddy Pearce declined to discuss any aspect of the company's business.
The chief pilot in the Masri case, who used the alias Fairing, called Pearce at his Clayton home during his layover in Spain.
In real life, the chief pilot is 52, drives a Toyota Previa minivan and keeps a collection of model trains in a glass display case near a large bubbling aquarium in his living room. Federal aviation records show he is rated to fly seven kinds of aircraft as long as he wears his glasses.
His wife, reached by phone at her office, said her husband had done no wrong. "He's just a pilot," she said.
His copilot, who used the alias Fain, is a bearded man of 35 who lives with his father and two dogs in a separate subdivision. He called home during a subsequent mission from the Royal Plaza Hotel on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza, according to records collected by Spanish investigators from the Guardia Civil.
The third pilot, who used the alias Bird, is 46, drives a Ford Explorer and has a 17-foot aluminum fishing boat. Certified as a flight instructor, he keeps plastic models of his favorite planes mounted by the fireplace in his living room in a house that backs onto a private golf course here. His wife declined to comment....
END of Excerpt
For the February 18 Los Angeles Times article in full: www.latimes.com
On the Tuesday edition of Good Morning America, co-host Robin Roberts slammed the insurance industry for daring to make a profit in the years since Hurricane Katrina. She also used the segment as a vehicle to call for more government regulations. The piece, combatively titled "GMA Gets It Done: Getting Answers" suggested the subjective, advocacy oriented slant that the program would take. (Additionally, last week, Diane Sawyer previewed the multi-day story, describing it as "a call to arms.")
Roberts repeatedly took insurance company representative Bob Hartwig to task for the industry's "record profits." A sampling of Roberts' hostile questioning:
# "When people who have lost everything, who are in dispute with various insurance companies and they see the amount of money that -- the profit that is being made in such a year, these home owners scratch their heads a little bit. Do you understand?"
# "Though people find it hard to believe during such a devastating year, you still make a significant increase in your profit. And they're saying, 'Good grief, we trusted you.'"
# "You know that rings hollow, what you just said, to so many people. They don't believe that anymore."
[This item is adopted from a Tuesday posting, by Scott Whitlock, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Roberts began the segment, which aired at 7:45am on February 20, by recounting some very real, and obviously sad, cases of Katrina victims who have had problems with their insurance companies. However, when she talked with Hartwig, President of the Insurance Information Institute, the ABC host seemed more interested in how wrong it was for the industry to be making profits during such a difficult time:
Roberts: "Paul and Julie Leonard whose home suffered $100,000 in damages have also sought help in court. The judge in their first trial ruled their Nationwide policy did not cover storm surge damages caused by the hurricane. They are appealing and so far they have received only $1200. Still, the insurance industry maintains for the most part, Katrina claims have been settled amicably. Bob Hartwig represents the insurance industry, the major insurance companies we contacted, declined to be interviewed."
After allowing Democratic Congressman Taylor, whose party affiliation was only mentioned in an on-screen graphic, not by Roberts, to push for more government control over the insurance agency, the co-host proceeded to focus on industry profits and repeatedly asked the same question:
Taylor (D-Mississippi): "If you're going to tell a federal judge that can't read his policy, if you're going to tell a U.S. Senator who is a graduate of the University of Mississippi Law School that they can't read policy, what kind of chance does an average Joe have?"
It seems as though GMA anchors are tougher on the insurance industry then they are on dictators. This is, after all, a program which spent the past two weeks airing chummy, not-very-challenging interviews with Middle Eastern dictators. See: newsbusters.org
Can anyone imagine co-host Diane Sawyer essentially calling Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a liar and telling him that his statements "ring hollow?" See: newsbusters.org
-- Brent Baker