As NewsBusters’ Clay Waters reported, a National Security Agency surveillance program, codenamed “Echelon,” – apparently similar to what the NSA is doing today to counter terrorist activities that has garnered tremendous media outrage in the past four days – existed some years ago. In fact, according to a February 27, 2000 Associated Press article, the ACLU had been expressing its concern regarding this program for quite some time:
“Nevertheless, the American Civil Liberties Union has been requesting congressional hearings on Echelon for nearly a year. In a letter sent to the House Government Reform Committee in April 1999, the ACLU said: ''It is important that Congress investigate to determine if the Echelon program is as sweeping and intrusive as has been reported.''
This AP article also referenced a letter that the NSA had sent to Congress concerning the upcoming “60 Minutes” story:
Unlike the other major broadcast network Sunday talk shows (as reported by NewsBusters), NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” led with Thursday’s historic elections in Iraq, while mentioning the surveillance scandal raised in a New York Times article Friday as almost an afterthought. Then, after the break, Matthews began on another topic that is likely much more of a concern to Americans than the legality of wiretaps on terrorists, illegal immigration.
After introducing his guests – Joe Klein of TIME, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, David Brooks of The New York Times, and syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker – Matthews went right into Thursday’s Iraqi elections. With the notable exception of Klein, the panel seemed in agreement that this was an historic event on Thursday, and that democracy in Iraq now seems possible. Mitchell stated, “I think there is a better chance than we have ever before seen of Iraq actually creating a government of these people working together, and of this country not blowing apart.” Matthews agreed, “I think it's the most amazing week in this whole war this week.”
An extraordinary election occurred in Iraq on Thursday. However, all three major network Sunday talk shows – ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and CBS’ “Face the Nation” – all began their programs this morning with a discussion about revelations released on Friday by The New York Times that the White House has been authorizing surveillance of potential terrorists on American soil without getting court orders.
CBS’ Bob Schieffer, after introducing his guests Senators Joe Biden (D-Delaware) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), began the segment (from closed captioning):
“Gentlemen, we have to start this morning with this story. It is against the law, of course, to eavesdrop or wire tap U.S. citizens in this country without a court order from a federal judge. But the "New York Times" says that is exactly what the president is authorized the government to do since 9/11. The secretary of state said this morning that the president has statutory and constitutional authorization to do what he did. So I'll start with Senator Graham. Does he have that authority, senator?”
As reported by the MRC’s Brent Baker, the media are in full dudgeon over new revelations of a secret eavesdropping, antiterrorism strategy by the White House. However, there are some key elements of this story that the president just discussed in his weekly radio address as reported by the Associated Press that The New York Times and others either neglected to share with the public, or downplayed in their reports:
“Bush said the program was narrowly designed and used ‘consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution.’ He said it is used only to intercept the international communications of people inside the United States who have been determined to have ‘a clear link’ to al-Qaida or related terrorist organizations.”
In a post-9/11 world, this does seem to be a reasonable strategy to avert further terrorist attacks. Wouldn’t most Americans wish that the 9/11 hijackers all had their “international communications” intercepted regardless of the existence of a court order to do so?
Paul Farhi wrote an article for today’s Washington Post that confirmed yesterday’s Drudge Report exclusive sited by NewsBusters that the New York Times failed to disclose a major story it broke surrounding U.S. spying in America was part of a soon to be released book by one of its columnists, James Risen. In addition, Farhi indicated that the timing of the release of this report might indeed have been designed to correspond with a Congressional vote to renew the Patriot Act. The antiterrorism bill was blocked last evening in the Senate with members claiming revelations in the Times article may have been the death knell.
According to the Post:
“The [Times] offered no explanation to its readers about what had changed in the past year to warrant publication. It also did not disclose that the information is included in a forthcoming book, ‘State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,’ written by James Risen, the lead reporter on yesterday's story. The book will be published in mid-January, according to its publisher, Simon & Schuster.”
And what about the timing surrounding the renewal of the Patriot Act?
This morning’s New York Times article, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” has certainly created a huge buzz in the media that has taken some focus away from the good news concerning yesterday’s highly successful elections in Iraq: “Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.”
The Drudge Report, in an exclusive, just announced that this story by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau is just “one of many ‘explosive newsbreaking’ stories that can be found -- in [Risen’s] upcoming book -- which he turned in 3 months ago!” Yet, “The [Times] failed to reveal the urgent story was tied to a book release and sale.”
Arianna Huffington went on quite a rant at her blog today over the president’s speech in Philadelphia. In fact, she pulled no punches. Early on, she stated that “the president’s fanaticism is a scary prospect for the country.” But, that was just the beginning:
“The latest issues of both Time and Newsweek paint a portrait of an isolated president detached from the reality of all that is going on around him. Nothing seems to be penetrating -- not the rising death toll, not his depressed poll numbers, not the continuing revelations about the deceptions his administration used to lead us to war. Not even the growing skepticism about the war being expressed within his own party.”
The latest issue of Newsweek featured an almost 4,000 word article – written by Evan Thomas and Richard Wolffe, with assistance from Holly Bailey, Daniel Klaidman, Eleanor Clift, Michael Hirsh and John Barry – that painted a pretty bleak picture of President Bush as possibly being “the most isolated president in modern history.” The authors referred to Bush as being in a “bubble” that blocks out thoughts, policy suggestions, and ideas that he is either unwilling or intellectually incapable of absorbing. Some of the lowlights:
“Yet his inattention to Murtha, a coal-country Pennsylvanian and rock-solid patriot, suggests a level of indifference, if not denial, that is dangerous for a president who seeks to transform the world.”
“What Bush actually hears and takes in, however, is not clear. And whether his advisers are quite as frank as they claim to be with the president is also questionable.”
Vaughn Ververs of the CBS News blog “Public Eye” critiqued a NewsBusters post today concerning a report made by the “CBS Evening News” last night about the former 9/11 commission’s newly released report card on the government’s response to homeland security issues. Ververs apparently asked correspondent Robert Orr and producer Ward Sloane for their opinions on the NewsBusters analysis: “The ‘news’ in the former 9/11 Commission's briefing was not that the U.S. is doing a very few things right, but rather that four years after the attacks, the U.S. government is largely failing in its very expensive $100 billion attempt to prevent another one.”
Although this might indeed be what the mainstream media perceived as the “news” in this briefing, the reality is that there were a total of 41 categories that the former commission graded the government on, and this CBS News report only shared some of the the “D’s” and the “F’s,” while totally ignoring all of the “C’s,” “B’s,” and “A’s” that the government received. Aren’t these grades “news” as well? Shouldn’t the public be informed as to what the government is doing properly to protect them from terrorist attacks, or are only the failures “news?”
On Friday, NewsBusters reported the results of a new Rasmussen poll indicating that the public’s view of the War on Terrorism has dramatically improved in the past couple of months, but none of the mainstream media were opting to share this information with the citizenry. Well, another polling agency has just done a survey confirming this increase in American optimism concerning this subject. Yet, in this case, the very media outlet that paid for the survey is the one not including the results in its own published report.
On Sunday, TIME magazine posted an article at its website concerning a recent poll done for it by Schulman, Ronca & Bucuvalas (SRBI). This survey covered the typical analysis found in most polls these days including the president's job approval rating, how the public feels things are going in Iraq, etc. Yet, TIME curiously chose not to share with its readers an entire section from this SRBI survey concerning how the public feels the War on Terrorism is going.
The folks at PollingReport.com have the results that TIME didn’t share with its readers. For instance, 49 percent of those surveyed felt that the president is doing a good job handling the War on Terrorism. This is up from 46 percent in their poll taken after Katrina hit.
The three broadcast networks all did segments this evening on the former 9/11 commission’s report card released today. Though all three focused on the negatives, only the "CBS Evening News” ignored the good grades given by the commission, while also failing to mention that a key problem highlighted in this report is already being addressed by legislation pending in Congress (video link to follow).
Bob Orr quickly gave a rundown of the “F’s” and the “D’s” given by former commission members for the government achieving a set of priorities they deemed necessary to avert another terrorist attack. However, as can be seen in the full report card, Orr chose not to mention any of the 12 “B’s” given by the commission, or the “A-” obtained for “Terrorist Financing.” Orr also reported:
As has been reported by NewsBusters before, the mainstream media largely ignore the polling work of Scott Rasmussen. Certainly, it is quite unlikely they will report polling data that he just released concerning how Americans feel the War on Terror is going:
“December 2, 2005--Confidence in the War on Terror is up sharply compared to a month ago. Forty-eight percent (48%) Americans now believe the U.S. and its Allies are winning. That's up nine points from 39% a month ago and represents the highest level of confidence measured in 2005.
“Just 28% now believe the terrorists are winning, down six points from 34% a month ago. The survey was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday night following the President's speech outlining his strategy in Iraq.”
As is typical, these sentiments are much different depending on party affiliation:
Fox News gives its audience what it wants, too. That's why, in 2003, a survey from the Program on International Policy Attitudes found that 67 percent of its loyal viewers believed the fallacy that Saddam Hussein was connected to al-Qaida, whereas only 40 percent of those who relied on print media were confused on that point. Welcome to the "informed" electorate of a newspaper-free world. It's already starting to give us the government we deserve.
(Notice that people who watch Fox are fallacious believers, while the people who consume her product and don't agree with her are simply "confused".)
Saddam connected to al-Qaida? That's a weird wild thought. Where on Earth would Fox News and this "informed electorate" get that "fallacious" idea? Let's see, maybe...
State of the Union Address January 28, 2003: "Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody, reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaida."
BBC Profile: "It is during this period that Zarqawi is thought to have renewed his acquaintance with al-Qaeda. He is believed to have fled to Iraq in 2001 after a US missile strike on his Afghan base, though the report that he lost a leg in the attack has not been verified. US officials argue that it was at al-Qaeda's behest that he moved to Iraq and established links with Ansar al-Islam - a group of Kurdish Islamists from the north of the country. He is thought to have remained with them for a while - feeling at home in mountainous northern Iraq."
Tired of public opinion polls? Well, an article in today’s New York Times might be an indication that Americans have seen enough polls in the past three months, and that a new strategy is necessary to inform them how to think. How does it work? Well, instead of releasing data that supposedly represents a statistical picture of the nation’s views on a subject, make the data significantly more real by putting names and faces to the numbers.
The article in question, entitled “Even Supporters Doubt President as Issues Pile Up,” effectively introduced this strategy in its first four paragraphs:
The Associated Press and United Press International are reporting that another Democratic hawk, Norm Dicks (D-Washington), has changed his position on the Iraq war. They are both quoting from and referencing a Seattle Times article first published about 16 hours ago entitled “Defense hawk Dicks says he now sees war as a mistake.” Yet, they are conveniently ignoring previous statements made by Dicks concerning the war that were also reported by the Seattle Times.
Around twelve hours ago, NewsMax broke a story about Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) having urged former President Clinton to remove U.S. troops from Somalia in 1993:
“Clinton took the advice and ordered the withdrawal - a decision that Osama bin Laden would later credit with emboldening his terrorist fighters and encouraging him to mount further attacks against the U.S.”
At this point, a Google news search identified only a handful of media sources – including Rush Limbaugh, The American Thinker, and Village Soup – as having picked up this story. Yet, there are a number of articles from September 1993 that appear to confirm the NewsMax story, so many so that one has to wonder if and when any mainstream press outlets are going to report this.
For instance, Rowan Scarborough with the Washington Times at that point reported on September 6, 1993:
There’s been a lot of suggestion by the media lately -- especially since the elections last Tuesday -- that the Republican Party is in dire trouble, and could lose control of the House and the Senate in 2006. For those interested in a side of this debate that the media are ignoring, you should watch today’s “Meet the Press,” in particular the second-half with DNC chairman Howard Dean.
Some of the pertinent exchanges of note:
DR. DEAN: I think Democrats always have to stand up and tell the truth and that's what we're doing. The truth is that the president misled America when he sent us to war. They did--he even didn't tell the truth in the speech he gave. First of all, think there were a lot of veterans were kind of upset that the president chose their day to make a partisan speech.
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):
Former President Jimmy Carter has a new book and is making the morning show rounds. He appeared on American Morning with Soledad O'Brien via satellite from Washington, DC, and in an excerpt of a taped interview with Rene Syler aired in the 7:00 a.m. half-hour of CBS's The Early Show. Syler's full interview will air at a later date, but if today's excerpt is any indication, it won't be a tough interview with balanced questions.
Syler lets Carter make unsubstantiated claims without asking him for evidence, particularly Carter's assertion that the President always intended to start a war with Iraq, well before 9/11, and his hinting that there is likely a sinister explanation for faulty intelligence before the Iraq war. Syler didn't ask Carter about his fellow Democrats, including former President Clinton, who had similar intelligence from the CIA and made equally alarming claims about the threat from Hussein with weapons of mass destruction in years past.
Staff writers Robert E. Pierre and Hamil Harris report today in the Metro section of the Washington Post on Louis "Farrakhan's Message of Defiance and Unity"* in his march planned for tomorrow in Washington, D.C., commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March.
Pierre and Harris bury Farrakhan's conspiracy theory rhetoric about the government bombing the levees in New Orleans deep into the article, and they completely ignore Farrakhan's charge that the federal government was involved in 9/11. As reported by CNSNews.com's Marc Morano yesterday:
At a National Press Club news conference Thursday, Farrakhan said his weekend Millions More Movement was intended to put a stop to the "lies, to thieves, to murderers in the name of government.
"When you have people who politically feel that they get their advantage by killing people and blaming it on somebody else, then it makes us wonder what really happened to the Twin Towers (in New York City)," a reference to the terrorist strikes against the U.S. four years ago that brought down the World Trade Center.
"Was the heat from fuel from two airplanes sufficient to compromise the steel in that building? (sic) People had said they heard explosions and the buildings came down like we see old buildings in Vegas or in Florida or in other places, implode," Farrakhan said. "So who was the victor there? Who got the advantage there? It wasn't the American people.
It was Gene Shalit's turn on Today Thursday to hail "Good Night and Good News," the George Clooney movie glorifying CBS's Edward R. Murrow hatchet job on Joe McCarthy. Please read Jack Shafer's very thorough takedown for Slate. Shafer reminds that Andrew Ferguson said the Murrow show was "a compendium of every burp, grunt, stutter, nose probe, brutish aside, and maniacal giggle the senator had ever allowed to be captured on film." He also has a link to the show's original transcript.
Anyway, Matt Lauer began with the typical take, that this CBS-glorifying, liberal bias-celebrating movie was accurate and fantastic: "George Clooney has directed a new movie about a groundbreaking time in the early days of television journalism. It's called Good Night and Good Luck. And our Gene Shalit says this black and white production gives a clear picture of the era." Shalit began: "Good morning and welcome to the Critic's Corner. In the early 1950s, two feared specters hovered over America: the Soviet Union and Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin." At least, a mention that the Soviet Union was a little scary, but the moral equivalence between Stalin's dictatorship and McCarthy's reign of terror is so.....1970s. And George Clooney will never make a movie about a brave dissident living inside the terror of the Soviet Union. Shalit goes on with the typical litany of McCarthy's wreckage:
The New York Times ran an op-ed this morning by controversial biographer Kitty Kelley. As the subject matter was George W. Bush, it should not be surprising that this article had nothing positive to say about the president:
“SECRECY has been perhaps the most consistent trait of the George W. Bush presidency. Whether it involves refusing to provide the names of oil executives who advised Vice President Dick Cheney on energy policy, prohibiting photographs of flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq, or forbidding the release of files pertaining to Chief Justice John Roberts's tenure in the Justice Department, President Bush seems determined to control what the public is permitted to know. And he has been spectacularly effective, making Richard Nixon look almost transparent.”
At issue this morning is an executive order that Bush signed in November 2001 concerning the release of any former president’s private papers. Kelley sees this as another sinister move by the president:
Ever since the dust and debris had been cleared away from where once stood the World Trade Center, a cultural fight has ensued these many months over what kind of memorial should be erected in honor of the victims of 9/11, and the memory of that fateful day.
Today (25 September) the NY Times ran an editorial, “The Hard Bigotry of No Expectations.” It excoriates the Bush Administration for two principal “failures,” the bad response to Hurricane Katrina and the defective Iraq Constitution. Instead, the Times demonstrated that its entire staff is incompetent.
Regarding Katrina, the Times opines, “Four years after 9/11, Katrina showed the world that performance standards for the Department of Homeland Security were so low that it was not required to create real plans to respond to real disasters.”
The Times has dozens of its reporters and editors working on various aspects of hurricane coverage. Apparently, none of these crack “journalists” have yet discovered what the blogosphere has known for two weeks. There WAS an existing Evacuation Plan for Southern Louisiana. It was dated 1 January, 2000. It required (paragraph 5, page 13) the use of “public buses” for those citizens who “do not have, or cannot afford” private transportation.
One kudo for the New York Times today for the front page story by David Dunlap on the important ideological battle over a proposed museum at the site of the Twin Towers ("Freedom Museum Is Headed For Showdown at Ground Zero").
Critics of the International Freedom Center, including many relatives of the victims of 9-11, contend that the proposed museum would slight the victims in favor of liberal history lessons.
In an influential Wall Street Journal op-ed, chief critic (and relative of a 9-11 victim) Debra Burlingame called the proposed museum "a high-tech, multimedia tutorial about man's inhumanity to man, from Native American genocide to the lynchings and cross-burnings of the Jim Crow South, from the Third Reich's Final Solution to the Soviet gulags and beyond."
She stated: "This is a history all should know and learn, but dispensing it over the ashes of Ground Zero is like creating a Museum of Tolerance over the sunken graves of the USS Arizona." Burlingame also noted the left-wing nature of many connected to the project, including radical Columbia professor Eric Foner and left-wing billionaire George Soros.