CBS Spins Civilian Court Debacle of Detainee as a Setback for the 'Government,' No Mention of Obama
Of the three morning shows on Thursday, only CBS left out any mention of Barack Obama or Attorney General Eric Holder while reporting on the nearly complete acquittal of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.
Early Show news anchor Erica Hill asserted that "the verdict is in for the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a civilian court and it is being seen by some as a serious setback for the government." Ahmed Ghailani was acquitted on 284 out of 285 charges against him. The President's name never came up on CBS.
Over on NBC's Today, the four hour morning program devoted a scant 40 seconds to the topic. But even in that short amount of time, reporter Ann Curry was more definitive than CBS. She at least allowed, "But, the decision could undermine President Obama's plan to put other Guantanamo Bay detainees on trial in civilian courts."
Good Morning America correspondent Jake Tapper was more direct. He explained that Ghailani, who was accused of plotting a 1998 al Qaeda bombing in Africa, "will go to prison. But, he could do as few as 20 years for his role in 224 deaths."
Tapper also highlighted Republican opposition, citing Representative Peter King: "The verdict is a, quote, 'a, total miscarriage of justice,' said the incoming House Homeland Security committee chairman Republican Peter King. Saying it, quote, 'demonstrates the absolute insanity of the Obama administration's decision to try al Qaeda terrorists in civilian courts.'"
The Media Research Center's Tim Graham pointed out on October 14 how journalists were ignoring a judge's decision throwing out evidence in the case:
In the Obama Justice Department’s first showcase attempt to try a Guantanamo terrorist suspect in civilian court, a Clinton-appointed federal judge barred a witness in the case of Ahmed Ghailani, accused of aiding the bombing of two U.S. embassies in 1998. CBS Evening News offered an anchor brief, with Couric calling it a "big setback for federal prosecutors," not for the Obama administration. ABC and NBC skipped it.
Early Show, to its credit, did mention this on Thursday.
A transcript of the November 18 GMA segment, which aired at 7:11am EST, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to go back to Washington now. This has been the roughest month of the Obama presidency. And the latest setback came late yesterday, when a jury cleared an al Qaeda operative from Tanzania an all but one of the 300 charges against him, for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa. Jake Tapper joins us now from Washington. Jake, this is going to complicate the Obama administration's efforts to try Guantanamo detainees in civilian court.
JAKE TAPPER: That's likely right, George. But, a senior administration official pushes back on that notion, pointing out that Ghailani was convicted of one count that carries a minimum of 20 years and possibly life in prison. Quote, "We tried a guy who the Bush administration tortured," the senior administration official said, "in a court, before a jury, with full transparency and legitimacy and we were able to convict him and incapacitate him for essentially the rest of his natural life." President Obama had been hoping for a much tougher verdict for Ahmed Ghailani, the Tanzanian put on trial for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa. Ghailani is the first Guantanamo detainee tried in a civilian criminal court instead of a military tribunal. A test case for the President's ideals.
BARACK OBAMA: Our courts and our juries, our citizens are tough enough to convict terrorists.
TAPPER: And yesterday, Ghailani was acquitted of all but one of the 285 charges against him. He will go to prison. But, he could do as few as 20 years for his role in 224 deaths. The verdict is a, quote, "a, total miscarriage of justice," said the incoming House Homeland Security committee chairman Republican Peter King. Saying it, quote, "demonstrates the absolute insanity of the Obama administration's decision to try al Qaeda terrorists in civilian courts." The verdict comes at the same time the President is on defense regarding the START nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia, which Republicans are threatening to block.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Will you vote for it?
LINDSEY GRAHAM: In its current condition? No.
TAPPER: And the President will continue to press the case for START, especially speaking after a meeting, a bipartisan group, of former national security officials, Elizabeth, which includes Henry Kissinger and Jim Baker. Elizabeth?
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.