“NBC Nightly News” Leads With Pentagon Torture Ban, Downplays WaPo Leak Inquiry

Last evening, NBC’s “Nightly News” began its program with a report from the Pentagon concerning new rules governing the torture of prisoners. In a two minute forty-four second piece, a total of 15 seconds was devoted to demands by Republican leaders of Congress for an investigation into who leaked information about overseas CIA detention centers to the Washington Post.

Brian Williams began the segment by bringing up Abu Ghraib, and passed it off to Jim Miklaszewski at the Pentagon, who, of course, began with stories of Abu Ghraib as pictures of abuse there rolled across the screen. Miklaszewski finished the segment (video link to follow):

“In a related development, the C.I.A. and two top Republicans in Congress, Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert, have called for separate investigations into the leak of classified information to "The Washington Post." The story revealed information about secret C.I.A. prison sites overseas where it's alleged that prisoners may have been tortured.”

Just weeks after Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis Libby was indicted for allegedly lying about leaking information about a CIA operative, it does seem peculiar that allegations of a similar kind warranted only fifteen seconds in this report. In fact, this side of the story is front-page news in today’s Washington Post, and many other papers across the country:

“Congress's top Republican leaders yesterday demanded an immediate joint House and Senate investigation into the disclosure of classified information to The Washington Post that detailed a web of secret prisons being used to house and interrogate terrorism suspects.”

“‘If accurate, such an egregious disclosure could have long-term and far-reaching damaging and dangerous consequences, and will imperil our efforts to protect the American people and our homeland from terrorist attacks,’ Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) wrote in a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees.”

According to the Post, a CIA referral has already been made to the Justice Department concerning this matter:

“Such referrals are made at the rate of three to four per week, according to intelligence officials. But the notice is also the first step in a process that could lead to a criminal investigation, as happened in the Valerie Plame case.”

Yet, NBC felt this only warranted 15 seconds last night.  

What follows is a full transcript of this segment, as well as a video link.

Williams: Good evening. Ever since those first pictures of those Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, ever since 9/11, the new war on terrorism with its new rules, all eyes have been on the United States and the whole world has been watching, looking for any signs the U.S. may be doing what it has accused other nations of doing, torturing prisoners. We learned today the Pentagon has laid down new rules for the military and for that matter for anyone who is listening. We begin tonight with NBC's Jim Miklaszewski at the pentagon.

JM: Two years after the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and persistent allegations of torture at Guantanamo Bay, the Pentagon today released the new directive which specifically bans the torture of prisoners in U.S. Military custody. The eight-page document formally declares that all acts of physical or mental torture are prohibited. It's intended to clarify the rules and tighten controls over prisoner interrogations. Military officials claim confusion over interrogation guidelines led to some abuses. For example, in November 2002, defense secretary Rumsfeld personally approved the use of guard dogs to intimidate prisoners. But even after Rumsfeld later retracted the order, soldiers continued to use dogs. Today's directive bans the use of dogs as part of interrogations. In addition, the army will soon release a new field manual spelling out exactly what interrogation techniques are or are not permitted. But some Pentagon officials claim the timing of this document is more about politics than protecting prisoners to head off attempts by Congress to set its own rules for treatment of detainees. Republican Senator and former P.O.W. John McCain is pushing hard for a Congressional ban on torture of prisoners. Fellow Republican Lindsay Graham said today Congress must exert more control.

Graham: The Congress has been AWOL. The Congress has turned over the whole war and not spoken on detention, interrogation, and prosecuting of terrorists.

JM: The torture ban would also cover the C.I.A. But the White House was forced to deny reports that Vice President Dick Cheney has lobbied congress to exempt the C.I.A. from any strict guidelines.

Scott McClellan: The way you characterize it, that we're asking for exemption for torture, is false.

JM: In a related development, the C.I.A. And two top Republicans in Congress, Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert, have called for separate investigations into the leak of classified information to "The Washington Post." The story revealed information about secret C.I.A. prison sites overseas where it's alleged that al Qaeda prisoners may have been tortured. Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.

Video Link

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.