Thursday, January 13, 2005

Democracy Now!: Jesselyn Radak, Climate Change, Third World Debt; Richard Cohen, Forbes & Frank in Orlando on CBS's four firings

Democracy Now! (always worth watching, as Marcia notes):
Headlines for January 13, 2005

- White House Admits No WMD In Iraq
- U.S. Downplays Importance of Iraqi Voter Turnout
- White House Pressed Congress Not To Restrict Interrogation Methods
- Supreme Court Overturns Federal Sentencing Guidelines
- Bolivian Protests Force Gov't To Cancel Water Contract
- CARICOM Refuses to Recognize U.S.-backed Haiti Gov't
- Kennedy: "We Cannot Become Republican Clones"
- Bob Marley's Body to Be Reburied in Ethiopia

George Monbiot: "Climate Change Is a Far Greater Threat To Human Well-Being Than Terrorism"

Landslides and flooding following days of heavy rain in California have left some 20 people dead in the state, including 10 in La Conchita following a devastating mudslide. We take a look at extreme weather and global warming with author and columnist George Monbiot. 

The Debt Threat: How Debt is Destroying the Developing World

As a group of the world's richest countries agree to temporarily freeze debt repayments of Asian countries hit by last month's tsunami, we speak with globalization expert Noreena Hertz, author of The Debt Threat: How Debt is Destroying the World.





Susan, Ben, Brad and Trina have already written in wanting to know about Jesselyn Radack. 
The good news is she's interviewed on the third segment of Democracy Now! today:
Whistleblower Charges Justice Dept. with Misconduct in Chertoff's Prosecution of John Walker Lindh

We speak with former Justice Department attorney, Jesselyn Radack, who charges that department officials under Michael Chertoff improperly questioned John Waker Lindh and that her memos raising ethical concerns about his interrogation were purged and not turned over to a criminal court.
On this thirteenth day of January, BuzzFlash runs their thirteenth daily editorial (they're doing a total of twenty to lead up to the inauguration of the Bully Boy):

Antonin Scalia believes that America is officially a Christian nation.

John Ashcroft has declared that God is our King. George W. Bush believes that a Christian God chose him to become President and lead the nation in killing tens of thousands of people.

The Bush right wing religious base firmly believes, with few exceptions, that America was founded as a Christian country.

This is not hair splitting about "moral values." This gets to the heart of whether America was created, as Jefferson pronounced, with "a wall of separation between church and state" or whether we have an official state religion.

The Scalias, Ashcrofts, Bushes, Falwells and Robertsons are not just talking about a Christian nation; they are talking about THEIR vision of what a Christian nation should be. And a vengeful one it is.

There are many Christian denominations and interpretations of the Bible, and most of them are not radically extremist like the Bush hard core base. The Methodist Church, for example, to which Bush nominally belongs, opposed the War in Iraq, as did, it appeared, most of the major Christian groups in the United States. So the Bush religious contingent is a splinter group of fundamentalists (

To read the twelve prior, go to and select by a title or read in order.

Frank in Orlando sends this in from Forbes (

Here is a news flash: Very few reporters have "sufficient time" to learn these "fundamentals." The supposed fundamentals are laid out in a seven-page appendix, which reads like a manual for trial lawyers. The plain fact is that few reporters have the time to "authenticate" documents in any systematic way--though these reporters made an honest effort.

Every reporter, for instance, will rely on statements, whether from government officials or from companies, that are not authenticated in the legal sense. Reporters rely on documents written by people they don't know all the time, and no one suggests there is something wrong with the practice. When the author of the document is dead, as was the case with the 60 Minutes report, legal authentication is often impossible, which is why lawyers have a big problem when witnesses die.

Most historical documents are not subject to formal authentication. Reporters of today's news or yesterday's events must do their best. To cite one example close at hand, I am relying on the report issued by CBS that I found on the Web, even though I never spoke to Thornburgh. I failed to authenticate. Of course, I had no reason to doubt that the document I was reading was the Thornburg Report. If a reporter has reason to believe a document has been forged, he should check it out. But the fired CBS reporters did that.

Frank in Orlando:  "This is the point you were driving home in the vanished post about how CBS was doing a legal review and not a journalistic one."

Right, because it's a valid point and one that I first became aware of when the fired CNN producers began speaking out to the press (1999). [Which is the wrong year, it should be 1998.  My mistake.] I certainly didn't invent that point and I certainly don't own it.  It was a criticism (a valid one and one I agreed with) over the CNN report.  And I think the CBS "panel" reflects the same mentality/mind set.  So toss it around and, if it's one you agree with or think's worth discussing, toss it out there to people you're interacting with. 

The press, my opinion, should have stood as one against the CBS panel.  Instead, for various reasons, a number have remained silent or chosen to accept the panel as valid.  I don't think either's an option for a press that's under attack.

In the missing post, I highlighted two segments of Democracy Now! (and wrongly stated that you could listen or watch them, you can only listen to them online -- now I'm doing corrections for posts that have vanished!):

CNN/Time Vs. Reporters  (July 10, 1998)

We've heard a lot over the past few weeks about the retraction, the reprimands, the firings and the resignation stemming from the CNN/Time Magazine piece charging the U.S. military used sarin gas on its own troops during the Vietnam War. But what about the substance of the piece? What about the serious charges that the military used sarin gas during its covert war in Laos and that it used the gas on its own troops? We are joined now by the two former CNN producers fired under pressure from the military after their piece -- "Valley of Death" -- aired on CNN.


  • April Oliver was a CNN Producer for four and a half years and was previously a Producer at McNeil Lehrer for five years.
  • Jack Smith, was a Senior Producer at CNN and before that worked for 23 years at CBS as the Washington Bureau Chief and the Chicago Bureau Chief.

CNN Journalists Fire Back (July 27, 1998):

Two fired producers of a report alleging the U.S. military used sarin nerve gas charged last week that the investigation that led CNN to retract that story was itself biased and designed to protect the network's top management.

While both producers have spoken in various interviews since they were fired July 9, last week's response was the most forceful and detailed rebuttal to date. They said it was aimed at restoring their reputations and reaffirming that the story, titled "Valley of Death," was accurate. That story, shown July 7 on CNN, charged that sarin gas was used in Operation Tailwind, a U.S. raid into Laos in 1970, to find and kill American defectors.

In a 77-page document that was released over the Internet, as well as at a press conference last Wednesday, April Oliver and Jack Smith vigorously disputed the findings of First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, who concluded their allegations couldn't be proven and that they overlooked contradictory evidence because of their strong belief in the story.

The producers wrote in their rebuttal, "We were tried, convicted, and sentenced in a closed proceeding that failed any test of fairness or due process." They say the Abrams report virtually ignores much of the most important information and attempts to discredit the many important sources that supported the story. . . . [no transcript is available online, but there is a longer written introduction to this segment]

April Oliver and Jack Smith press conference moderated by Alex Jones, a former media critic for the New York Times. The press conference was sponsored by the Freedom Forum, and presented at the Newseum in New York.

Additional resources on this issue can be found at:

CNN's 'Tailwind' and Selective Media Retractions, by Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon (8/98) (from Fair's Extra!)

a transcript of the "Valley of Death" broadcast

via Media Channel: Ten Tips For Controversial Journalism
Award-winning journalists have seen their careers crushed over controversial investigations. April Oliver offers survival tips from her experience with the disastrous CNN/Tailwind story.

Richard Cohen, Washington Post, is weighing in with his thoughts on the CBS firings so I'll note his op-ed today "Hollow Accountability" (

Those who paid at CBS happen to be some of that network's best people. They made a mistake, no doubt about it. They had professional lapses. Again, no doubt about it. But most of them had long and distinguished careers. One of them, in fact, helped break the story about abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. They deserved to be reprimanded for putting an apparently bogus (at least the documents were) report on the air. They did not deserve to be fired.

Liars get fired. None of the CBS four lied. Plagiarists get fired. None of the four plagiarized. Incompetents get fired -- and one mistake over the course of an entire career is not proof of incompetence. All these people deserved another chance. Bush would understand that. He always gets another chance.

. . .

Later, "60 Minutes" killed a report about whether the Bush administration had relied on false documents in making the case that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger. A CBS spokesman said it would have been "inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election" -- a statement just plain stunning in its implications. First of all, it was late September -- a full month before the election -- and, second, isn't affecting elections what can happen when journalists do their jobs? I mean, are we supposed to withhold the truth because, in addition to making you free, it might make you change your vote? This was a dark day for CBS and for all journalism.

Now it is even darker. The capitulation to Bush and the GOP is nearly complete. After the firings, the White House voiced its approval. So did Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, who, keeping a firm grip on his emotions, did not suggest President Bush take note and do some firings himself. All over this great country, wherever right-wing pundits pund and bloggers blog, a chorus of gleeful approval was raised to the heavens. But in praising accountability, they were unaccountably silent about -- and here let me quote from the CBS report about what went wrong -- the "myopic zeal" of administration figures who got everything wrong, still do and have never been called to account for it. They had everything wrong but the target. It wasn't Iraq that was the pushover; it was CBS.

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