MSNBC's Wagner Fails to Detail Al-Awlaki's Al-Qaeda Ties

With this afternoon's Senate confirmation hearings for CIA director nominee John Brennan in view, the February 7 broadcast of Now with Alex Wagner devoted significant attention to the Obama administration's use of armed drones and the recently-leaked DOJ White Paper defending the legitimacy of drone strikes that explicitly targeted American civilians overseas. 

For her part, host Alex Wagner failed to mention Anwar al-Awlaki’s activities as a terrorist operative affiliated with al-Qaeda.  The Now host merely tagged al-Awlaki as an American-born cleric, even though he served as a talent recruiter within the organization and inspired Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hassan.  Al-Awlaki also had contact with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the terrorist who attempted to blow up a passenger airliner on Christmas Day of 2009.  None of that was mentioned on the show. 

Aside from studiously avoiding the T-word, Wagner showed excerpts of the New York Times editorial that detailed the editorial board’s frustration with the Obama policy on drone strikes, lamenting that it “brought back unwelcome memories of memos written for President George W. Bush to justify illegal wiretapping, indefinite detention, kidnapping, abuse and torture.”  Oddly, however, Wagner didn’t mention the concluding paragraph where the Times said that:

Going forward, he [Obama] should submit decisions like this one to review by Congress and the courts. If necessary, Congress could create a special court to handle this sort of sensitive discussion, like the one it created to review wiretapping. This dispute goes to the fundamental nature of our democracy, to the relationship among the branches of government and to their responsibility to the public.


In other words, it's OK to kill Americans abroad, it's just that President Obama needs to give Congress a head up. That's a far cry from the Times's previous high dudgeon about the Bush administration's so-called (by the media) Torture Memos.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the liberal outrage to the Obama kill list/drone-strike policy is tepid at best.  When the Obama administration irresponsibly released the secret Bybee memo in 2009, which justified the legality of simulated drowning during interrogations, the Times said that federal judge Jay Bybee should be impeached, as he “is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution.”  At that point, Bybee had served without controversy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for six years, but the Times wanted to punish him for simply advising the president in his role as an assistant attorney general in 2002.

By contrast, as my colleagues Noel Sheppard and Clay Waters noted in separate stories today, the Times withheld for months, at the behest of the White House, on publishing information it had uncovered about a secret drone base in Saudi Arabia. That this isn't a scandal to the liberal MSNBC network shows how in the tank they are for Team Obama, being more a purely partisan propaganda outfit than an ideologically liberal one.

To her credit, however, far-left journalist Katrina Vanden Huevel of The Nation did have the temerity to call out the media, saying they 

[have] played a role. I'm sure some of your viewers have followed today the reports that the New York Times, and some other major news organizations, at the White House's request, chose not to report that there was a drone base in Saudi Arabia.