CBS & NBC Focus on KSM's Torture Claims, Only ABC Tags Him 'Evil'

CBS and NBC on Thursday night were as interested in highlighting the claims of torture, from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and four 9/11 terrorist attack co-conspirators who were arraigned by a military commission court in Guantanamo Bay, as to informing viewers about the charges against them. ABC didn't consider the torture allegations relevant and so didn't mention the topic as Jan Crawford Greenburg uniquely described KSM as “evil.” In contrast to NBC which called him a “man” and “defendant,” CBS anchor Katie Couric at least described him as a “terrorist.”

CBS reporter Bob Orr, who emphasized that “some legal critics called the hearing...a complete and utter farce,” relayed how “the self-proclaimed mastermind of 9/11 said openly in court that he had been tortured by the U.S., and he called the case against him a sham.” With the quote on screen, Orr reported: “KSM, who the CIA admits was subjected to water-boarding, questioned the legitimacy of the military hearing. 'For five years, they torture,' he said. 'After the torturing they transfer us to inquisition-land in Guantanamo.'” Orr proceeded to showcase how Aziz Ali charged: “This government failed to treat me as a human for five years.”

On NBC, Jim Miklaszewski highlighted how KSM “called the legal proceedings 'evil'" and featured criticism from the ACLU. Miklaszewski also highlighted the “after five years of torture, they transfer us to inquisition land, Guantanamo” quote, before asserting: “Mohammed was water-boarded by the CIA. Defense attorneys had intended to challenge any of Mohammed's statements on the grounds he was tortured.”

Following a soundbite of the ACLU 's Executive Director disparaging the hearing as “a complete and utter farce,” Miklaszewski concluded: “Many legal experts predict these defendants may never face a trial before military commissions, delaying justice once again for those families of 9/11.”

Of course, maybe they could face justice if liberals/journalists were a little less concerned about procedure and treatment and a bit more interested in meting out punishment.

All three correspondents reported from Guantanamo Bay, but only Williams felt the need to say the Pentagon provided the transportation: “He [Miklaszewski] got there by cargo plane on a trip arranged by the Pentagon for reporters.”

On ABC's World News, Jan Crawford Greenburg began her story: “His name has become notorious, synonymous in the minds of many, with evil.” And she concluded it with a second “evil” description:
Journalists from around the world have come here to Guantanamo to cover today's hearing. We sat in the back of the court room watching the proceedings, and Charlie, I've got to tell you, I spent hours just staring at Khalid Sheikh Mohammed sitting there like everyone else. A man that for years we've come to think of as evil.
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide these transcripts of the stories on the Thursday, June 5 broadcast network evening newscasts:

CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: Good evening, everyone. Nearly seven years after 9/11, the terrorist who says he planned the attacks was brought before a military tribunal today on the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It was the first court appearance for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed since the CIA captured him while he was sleeping in Pakistan five years ago. He and four alleged co-conspirators heard the charges against them, charges that could get them the death penalty. Mohammed told the court he wants to die a martyr and plans to represent himself. Our justice correspondent Bob Orr is at Guantanamo. And, Bob, it was quite a scene there today.

BOB ORR: Katie, there's no doubt about it. This first military court appearance by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was both dramatic and also bizarre. Sitting next to four alleged al-Qaeda co-conspirators, the self-proclaimed mastermind of 9/11 said openly in court that he had been tortured by the U.S., and he called the case against him a sham.

It was a surreal reunion of five men who the government charges were on the board of directors of al-Qaeda. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, looking dramatically different from the disheveled man in this now-infamous mug shot, was clearly in charge. Mohammed, dressed in a white tunic and turban win a flowing 10-inch beard, openly made hand signals and seemed to be directing his co-defendants, who sat single file behind him. Walid bin Attash, known as Khalad, accused of running terror training camps. Ramsi Binalshibh, who the government says helped train the 9/11 hijackers, and two money men -- Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Hawsawi – accused of financing the attacks.

But Mohammed, educated in the U.S., dominated the courtroom. Chanting verses from the Koran and providing his own English translation, KSM said he only answered to the laws of Allah, and he rejected his American lawyers, saying, "their President George Bush waged war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they are still killing people there." KSM, who the CIA admits was subjected to waterboarding, questioned the legitimacy of the military hearing. "For five years, they torture," he said. "After the torturing they transfer us to inquisition-land in Guantanamo."

The judge warned KSM against representing himself, reminding the accused terror chief that he and his colleagues are charged with killing nearly 3,000 Americans, and they could be sentenced to death. "That is what I wish," Mohammed calmly responded. "I wish to be martyred for a long time." Co-defendant Binalshibh, who tried four times to join the 9/11 hijackers in their attacks, echoed that defiance, telling the court with a smile, "I've been seeking martyrdom for five years. I tried for 9/11 and could not get a visa. If this martrydom happens today, so be it.

The others also followed KSM's lead. Each fired his lawyers, and each condemned the legal process. In nearly perfect English, detainee Aziz Ali put it this way: "This government failed to treat me as a human for five years. My conscience does not allow me to participate." Some legal critics called the hearing, which is now ended, a complete and utter farce. At a minimum, it was certainly weird. At one point, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for example, objected to one of the court sketches of him. He said it was an unfair image. The sketch eventually was changed.

NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: A dramatic scene today in an American courtroom in Cuba. The man accused of masterminding the 9/11 attacks made his first public appearance in a court, a military courtroom in this case, at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba -- the first time anyone charged directly with the hijackings was in court to hear the charges. Our own Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski was there. He got there by cargo plane on a trip arranged by the Pentagon for reporters. And he's with us tonight. Jim, good evening.

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI: Good evening, Brian. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other defendants faced arraignment here today on charges of conspiracy, terrorism and murder for the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind of 9/11, appeared robust and confident with a long full salt and pepper beard -- a far cry from the confused, disheveled look when he was captured more than five years ago. But today, Mohammad was defiant, telling the military commission he's willing to die. Mohammad called the legal proceedings "evil," rejected his defense attorneys, and said he wanted to represent himself. When the judge asked if he understood he could get the death penalty, Mohammed shot back, "That is what I wish, I wish to be martyred."

One by one, the remaining defendants followed his lead and rejected their attorneys. In what sounded like a confession, Ramsi Binalshibh, the so-called twentieth hijacker, said he, too, wanted to be a martyr on 9/11, but was denied entry into the U.S. He told the commission, "I tried to get a visa but could not." But Mohammad commanded the center stage. He called the proceedings an "inquisition," and claimed, "after five years of torture, they transfer us to inquisition land, Guantanamo." Mohammed was water-boarded by the CIA. Defense attorneys had intended to challenge any of Mohammed's statements on the grounds he was tortured.

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER BRIAN MIZER, MILITARY COMMISSIONS DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Because in the back of the detainee's mind is always the possibility that they've done it to me once before, they can do it again.

MIKLASZEWSKI: Observers of today's hearing included the head of the American Civil Liberties Union, a critic of the commission process.

ANTHONY ROMERO, ACLU EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: I think today has been a complete and utter farce, that it's clear that the rules of the commissions are imploding on themselves.

MIKLASZEWSKI: As of late tonight, no trial date has been set for any of the five 9/11 defendants. In fact, many legal experts predict these defendants may never face a trial before military commissions, delaying justice once again for those families of 9/11.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center