Early Friday afternoon, the Washington Post's David Nakamura confirmed that on Tuesday, September 11 -- before the attack in Benghazi that killed Amb. Chris Stevens -- the Obama National Security Council asked YouTube to pull down a video "trailer" for "The Innocence of Muslims," saying it may violate the video-sharing service's "terms of service." Such a move would have removed the film from the site worldwide, something YouTube has refused to do, even though parent company Google "is honoring requests to block the video the site restricted access in Libya and Egypt because of the unrest."
But despite the troubling implications of U.S. government officials waging a specious "terms of service" complaint about a private citizen's video on a video-sharing site, a search of Nexis reveals that absent a very brief mention by ABC's Jake Tapper on the September 14 World News, the broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, and NBC -- have ignored the story:
JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS)
(Voiceover) And the White House said the attack seemed to have been motivated by the anti-Muslim movie, but on Capitol Hill, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee said it seemed more serious than that.
SENATOR JOE LIEBERMAN (IND) (ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE)
They were a well-planned and professional terrorist act against the US Consulate in Benghazi.
JAKE TAPPER (ABC NEWS)
DAVID MUIR (ABC NEWS)
(Off-camera) Of course, sparking so much unrest. Jake Tapper at his post at the White House. Jake, thank you.
Since the National Security Council confirmed they issued a request, numerous critics across the political spectrum have decried the move. Among them is Jonathan Turley, a center-left constitutional law professor at George Washington University, who points out that the Obama administration is working with Muslim countries to iron out an international standard for blasphemy prosecution that has troubling First Amendment implications (emphasis mine):
The Obama Administration has formally asked YouTube “to review” the anti-Muslim film “Innocence of Muslims.” In a perfectly incoherent position, White House press secretary Jay Carney stressed that the White House was not asking for it to be removed . . . only “reviewed.” I have been discussing this controversy on NPR and CNN. The latest White House move appears to be an effort to get YouTube to remove the video without taking responsibility for expressly asking for the removal. For civil libertarians, the announcement leaves an uneasy — and all-too-familiar — feeling with this Administration. The White House has repeated compromised on civil liberties in favor of political advantage in areas like torture, immunity, and surveillance policies.
We have seen this type of double talk before — in the aftermath of the Danish cartoon violence. The Administration has joined Muslim allies in trying to develop what has been called an “international blasphemy” standard. (For prior columns, click here and here). The West has steadily yielded to the demands of religious groups that free speech must be curtailed in the name of faith. At the same time, Western governmental and religious leaders have denounced agnostics and atheists as one of the greatest threats facing the West (here and here and here and here). President Obama and Hillary Clinton have been facilitating this trend by working with Muslim nations to develop an international standard allowing for the prosecution of those who insult religion. The Administration has drawn a dangerous line with Muslim countries in first supporting the concept of an international blasphemy standard. As I have mentioned before, the efforts of the Obama Administration to work with these countries on an international blasphemy standard is a threat to free speech around the world. After first supporting an international blasphemy standard, the Administration sought to get Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other countries to adopt the Brandenburg standard as the basis for such prosecutions. This case also shows why the use of the Brandenburg standard is so dangerous in the hands of such officials who view free speech as the cause of imminent violence. Past cases show that even the suggestion of blasphemy is enough to trigger violent riots in some Muslim nations. Because any joke or image of the Prophet can trigger violence, the standard is immediately satisfied in countries like Egypt and Pakistan, which can then claim some legal legitimacy under the standard created with the United States.
Turley raises some troubling issues that most Americans are unaware of. It's a shame that the media at large and the broadcast newscasts in particular -- they reach the largest audiences after all -- are ignoring the story, much less failing to turn to folks like Turley for analysis and comment.