A Perception Issue? Revolving Door Between the ACLU and National Public Radio
In his Monday "Media Notes" column in The Washington Post -- for some reason, the whole column was demoted to page C-7 -- Howard Kurtz reported (in his second item) that National Public Radio's FBI reporter, Dina Temple-Raston, recently did a report quoting the American Civil Liberties Union. That wouldn't be shocking, except that Temple-Raston is also co-author of a new book with the executive director of the ACLU on "the dangerous erosion of the Bill of Rights in the age of terror."
Temple-Raston claimed she's aware of the "perception issue," but will try to be "really, really balanced." (So is NPR, which includes the data in her online bio.) This hire is a complete insult to the idea of creating an impression of a fair, nonpartisan public-radio news network. It would be bad enough if an NPR reporter gave money to the ACLU, or attended their fundraising dinners. But this reporter has written a book, cheek and jowl, with the leader of the ACLU, endorsing their leftist worldview on a blooming Bush dictatorship. How on Earth can NPR think it doesn't look transparently partisan from the first broadcast word?
Here's the Kurtz item:
Dina Temple-Raston, who covers the FBI for National Public Radio, did a story last week on objections by civil libertarians to the bureau's tactics in conducting surveillance without court orders. The first person she quoted was an official at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Temple-Raston is also the co-author of a new book titled "In Defense of Our America." The other author is Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU. The book "illustrates the dangerous erosion of the Bill of Rights in the age of terror," as the organization's Web site puts it.
Does being partners with such a prominent civil libertarian raise questions about an FBI beat reporter?
"When you see my name on the book, it's absolutely fair to wonder what the depth of participation was," Temple-Raston says. When she was hired by NPR six months ago while finishing the book, "we talked about whether there could be a conflict of interest."
Temple-Raston says she signed on to the project after Romero got the contract and that they had mainly an "e-mail relationship." She says NPR editors came up with "common sense" guidelines that do not allow her to quote Romero or profile the ACLU, but that still allow her to use the organization as a source.
"I'm attuned to the problem that there could be a perception issue," she says. "The ACLU and other civil liberties groups are going to be part of my beat. It's something I think about, it's something I'm aware of, just like I worry about being too sympathetic to the FBI. I'm trying to be really, really balanced."
The book summary, also listed at Amazon.com, underlines that the book is also about the other ACLU causes, including its fights with the religious right on abortion, homosexuality, and the teaching of evolution:
Against the backdrop of post-9/11 America, readers are taken behind the scenes of some of the most important civil liberties cases in America. From the story of the "American Taliban" to the battle against the National Security Agency's warrantless spying program, In Defense of Our America tracks a roster of skirmishes in the larger fight for civil liberties in this country. It tracks an effort in Pennsylvania to force religion into the public school science curriculum and tells the story of South Dakota's attempts to place an outright ban on abortions in the state.
In a narrative that allows the characters to tell the story, In Defense of Our America offers the first inside look at the Lindh family as they saw their son and brother, John Walker Lindh, emerge as a symbol of America's battle against Islamic fundamentalism. It follows Joshua Dratel, a defense attorney at the center of many legal battles over the rights of individuals suspected of terrorism, and tells the story of a modern-day Scopes trial in Dover, Pennsylvania. The book tracks the case of Matthew Limon, a gay teenager sentenced to 17 years for having consensual oral sex with a younger teenage boy in Kansas, and looks behind the reports of a broken judicial system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
In Defense of Our America chronicles the stories of an array of colorful characters to illustrate the state of play in today's fight for civil liberties, including Cecelia Fire Thunder, the Sioux president who wanted to open an abortion clinic on her South Dakota reservation, and high school science teacher Bertha Spahr who defied a school board dominated by fundamentalist Christians by taking a stand against "intelligent design."
Lastly, here's one indication that Temple-Raston will be tight with her ACLU types: that same Joshua Dratel is quoted in a June 7 story she did for NPR.