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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Friday April 30, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 74)

NBC Ignored Nuclear Data Transfer; Nets Avoid Implicating Clinton

1) NBC News considers hurricanes more threatening than potential nuclear annihilation by China. Not a word on NBC Nightly News about the New York Times bombshell about nuclear data transfer.

2) Clinton falsely denied spying took place on his watch and the New York Times revealed Justice delayed the search of Wen Ho Lee's home, but the networks refused to implicate the Clinton team.

3) Scientists at one of the national labs, with their identities hidden, told CBS News about lax security since the early 1990s.

4) Today agreed to a one-topic interview of Bill Clinton, so no China questions, but the show rejected an actress's terms.

5) The mother of a student who survived eight gunshot wounds told CBS how her daughter affirmed her belief in God.

6) In the midst of calls highlighted by the media for more gun control, the Conservative News Service "identified 18 current federal and state gun control laws that were violated by the perpetrators of the Colorado school rampage."

>>> May 3 MediaWatch now online thanks to the MRC's Sean Henry and Kristina Sewell. Check out the front page article, "Short Shrift for Clinton's Contempt" and the Review of gun control advocacy: "Colorado Tragedy Exploited for Politics." MRC analyst Jessica Anderson contributed a page 4 piece on how ABC's GMA became a forum for daycare "experts" to tout the French system and champion Hillary Clinton's Senate bid. The On the Bright Side article highlights how "ABC Focused on Teen's Faith." Plus, Newsbites on ABC's presentation of the wonderful benefits of taxes, how all but FNC skipped a development in the China scandal and how CNN has dropped Peter Arnett. To read these pieces, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/mediawatch/1999/mw1999archive.html <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) The New York Times revealed in a Wednesday morning, April 28, front page story that suspected spy Wen Ho Lee "improperly transferred huge amounts of secret data from a computer system at a government laboratory, compromising virtually every nuclear weapon in the United States arsenal." The transfers occurred during Clinton's first term, thus contradicting his claim that all the spying took place in the 1980s.

     Two days after the March 6 New York Times first broke the China spying story, NBC News VP and Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert told John Hockenberry on MSNBC why he immediately jumped to book Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Shelby on Meet the Press the next morning: "I said, 'This is dead serious. Why aren't people reacting to it?' Front page of the New York Times on Saturday. I assumed by Sunday the country would be aghast by it and talking about it. And that's why we reached out to Senator Shelby."

     So how did NBC react to this latest New York Times bombshell about how many enemy nations had access to 40 years worth of U.S. nuclear research and expertise and that the spying continued well into the Clinton years? Not one syllable about it on NBC Nightly News Wednesday or Thursday night.

     NBC's total coverage: This 15-second item on Today during the 8am news update on April 28 caught by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
     "A spy case involving a fired scientist may be even more serious than previously believed. The New York Times reports that secrets were passed to China on virtually every nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal. The Times says the secrets were downloaded from computers at the laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico."

     What did NBC find more newsworthy? Wednesday's Nightly News featured a full story on congressional testimony by a professor, who NBC's Robert Hager relayed, calls the "threat of increasing hurricanes our nation's greatest natural hazard for the future."

     Apparently NBC News is more concerned with hurricanes than nuclear annihilation.

     Not even MSNBC cared. No mention of this story on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams on Wednesday night, reported MRC analyst Mark Drake.

     Other network: ABC's World News Tonight ran a full story and CNN's The World Today featured two pieces. GMA also gave it 20 seconds. See item #2 for details. The CBS Evening News briefly mentioned the New York Times story in introducing its own exclusive with national lab scientists confirming lax security. See Item #3 below. None of the morning shows aired anything about it Thursday morning, though by then they had a full day to book expert guests.

     Here are some excerpts from the April 28 New York Times story by James Risen and Jeff Gerth which NBC found unnewsworthy:

A scientist suspected of spying for China improperly transferred huge amounts of secret data from a computer system at a government laboratory, compromising virtually every nuclear weapon in the United States arsenal, government and lab officials say.

The data -- millions of lines of computer code that approximate how this country's atomic warheads work -- were downloaded from a computer system at the Los Alamos, N.M., weapons lab that is open only to those with top-level security clearances, according to the officials.

The scientist, Wen Ho Lee, then transferred the files to a widely accessible computer network at the lab, where they were stored under other file names, the officials said.

The Taiwan-born scientist transferred most of the secret data in 1994 and 1995, officials said.

American experts said the data would be useful to any nuclear power trying to replicate this country's atomic designs. But one American scientist said the codes and accompanying data were not, by themselves, sufficient to produce an exact copy of an American weapon.

American officials said there was evidence that the files were accessed by someone after they were placed in the unclassified network. Other evidence suggests that this was done by a person who improperly used a password, the officials said....

Although Lee had been under investigation in the W-88 case for nearly three years, Los Alamos officials failed to monitor his computer use and let him retain his access to nuclear secrets until late 1998....

President Clinton was first told of the new evidence by Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on March 31. During a subsequent meeting at the White House residence in early April, the president told Richardson to "get to the bottom of it," Richardson recalled in an interview Tuesday....

The huge scale of the security breach has shocked some officials, and has prompted a new sense of urgency in the FBI to solve the Los Alamos spy case. The bureau is now pouring additional agents and resources into the investigation. The evidence of transfers from his office computer provided the basis for an FBI search of Lee's home on April 10, officials said....

The fact that the huge data transfers were not detected until the last few weeks has sparked outrage among officials who wonder why computer use by a scientist already under suspicion as a spy was not being closely watched by Los Alamos or the FBI....

The information improperly transferred by Lee included what Los Alamos officials call the "legacy" codes. According to John Browne, director of Los Alamos, the legacy codes consist of computer data used to design nuclear weapons, analyze nuclear test results and evaluate weapons materials and the safety characteristics of America's nuclear warheads....

The legacy codes can be used to help design nuclear weapons through computer simulation, and so are valuable on their own. But they become more valuable when combined with specific performance data, which would then enable someone to generate a computer simulation of American warhead designs....

The legacy codes and the warhead data that goes with them could be particularly valuable for a country, like China, that has signed onto the nuclear test ban treaty and relies solely on computer simulations to upgrade and maintain its nuclear arsenal. The legacy codes are now used to maintain the American nuclear arsenal through computer simulation....

It was not until last month, just a few days before he was fired, that the FBI finally asked for and received Lee's authorization to search his computer, officials said. Once the bureau saw the transferred files in the unclassified computer network, investigators realized their significance.

Within days, Richardson was briefed, and he then told the President and shut down the lab's computer systems for two weeks. But the FBI still encountered delays in winning Justice Department approval to seek a court-ordered search of Lee's home, officials said, and did not conduct the search until April 10.

     END Excerpt

     To read this story in full, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/asia/042899china-nuke.html

     To read April 29 follow-up stories on congressional anger and the value of the disclosed data, go to:   http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/asia/042999china-nuke-code.html

     Both stories include a list of past New York Times stories on Chinese espionage with links to each. Please note: You must be a New York Times online registered user to access these pages.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) As the New York Times article excerpted above reported, the latest allegations center around events in 1994-95. Directly implicating the Clinton administration, the Times revealed that even after the FBI discovered the secret data transfer, "the FBI still encountered delays in winning Justice Department approval to seek a court-ordered search of Lee's home."

     Incredibly, though ABC and CBS, unlike NBC, covered the Times story, neither implicated the Clinton administration. ABC's Barry Serafin even allowed Energy Secretary Bill Richardson to scapegoat low-level officials at the labs.

     A little background on Clinton obfuscation. At his March 19 press conference Wendell Goler of FNC asked Clinton about charges that nuclear secrets leaked during his term. Clinton replied: "There has been no espionage at the labs since I have been President. I can tell you that no one has reported to me that they suspect such a thing has occurred."

     At the April 8 joint press conference with Chinese premier Zhu Rongji, Larry McQuillan of Reuters asked Zhu about charges of human rights abuses and then turned to Clinton, suggesting he did not deliberately mislead but was a "victim" of bad staff: "At your last formal news conference you spoke about these allegations of Chinese spying and you said it mainly dealt in the 1980s, that there were no indications that it involved your presidency. In the wake of today's New York Times report can you still make that statement or are you concerned that perhaps you were misled or had information withheld from you about the extent of the allegations."

     Clinton shot back: "I noted that even the article acknowledged that the alleged espionage might not have been connected to the national labs, which is the question I was asked in the press conference."

     Note that Clinton issued this seeming denial on April 8. The New York Times reported in its April 28 story: "President Clinton was first told of the new evidence by Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on March 31."

     Wednesday night on FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume Goler noted how Clinton had responded to his question by denying spying took place under his watch. CNN ran two full reports on The World Today. First, Pierre Thomas summarized the Times story. Second, David Ensor reviewed the impact of the data transfer. But this is all CNN mustered on the role of the Clinton administration: "And with Energy Department officials saying that Wen Ho Lee may have been transferring the top secret data for 12 years, up until 1995, it now looks as if the Clinton administration may have to share some of the blame for doing too little about security at the weapons labs."

     Wednesday morning ABC's Good Morning America allocated just 20 seconds to the New York Times story, however World News Tonight delivered a full report, but one that failed to include anything about the role of the Clinton administration in impeding the investigation.

     Barry Serafin led into a soundbite from former Ambassador Lilley by reporting: "Although it is not known whether the Chinese obtained the nuclear technology files, a former U.S. Ambassador to China believes it is likely that they did."
     Serafin then noted how it took three years before the FBI searched Lee's home, but Serafin failed to raise charges about Justice Department foot-dragging: "Wen Ho Lee has been a suspect for three years, but it is only within the past two months that federal agents have searched his home and his computer. He was not fired until last month."

     In fact, instead of holding the Clinton administration accountable, Serafin allowed Energy Secretary Bill Richardson to scapegoat lab employees: "Why did this individual so long have a security clearance, not be disciplined, not be dealt with in a way that he couldn't jeopardize our national security? Lab officials dropped the ball here."

     (Those who heard Rush Limbaugh on Thursday will recall that a caller told him about this Richardson blame-shifting, but he could not find the actual quote in Hotline or elsewhere. Well here it is.)


livermore0430.jpg (15610 bytes)cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer only allocated a few seconds to the New York Times story detailed above in item #1, but CBS did deliver an exclusive talk with three scientists at the Livermore national lab about lax security. Two wished to remain anonymous, so CBS altered their voices and allowed a lampshade to block viewers from seeing their faces as they sat on a couch.

     Sharyl Attkisson began her April 28 report: "The scientists who spoke exclusively with CBS News, work at Lawrence Livermore in California, one of the labs where intelligence officials say the Chinese stole sensitive weapons data in recent years."
     Scientist with voice altered: "Certainly in the last half of the 1990 there's been a significant change in the working atmosphere."
     Attkisson: "A loosening of security?"
     Scientist: "A general loosening, yes."

     But Attkisson didn't pursue the angle of the scientist's charge that security was loosened when Clinton entered office. In fact, she never referred to he administration or Clinton. Instead, Attkisson moved on, explaining how the two anonymous scientists have the highest security rating -- "Q-clearance." Attkisson detailed the lax security:
     "They say in the early '90s workers without a Q-clearance began getting access to buildings where classified work is done and still today the only security keeping non-Q workers away from sensitive areas is often no more than a 'keep out' sign."
     Scientist with altered voice and lampshade head: "There's a door on one facility that says 'Q only.' It's up to the person if they're not a Q to not go in that building."

     Attkisson added that "self patrolling became tougher a few years ago" when badges were re-designed, making low-clearance badges look much like Q badges. "But the biggest threat may lie in the ability of hundreds of Q clearance workers to simply carry out reams of secret documents," Attkisson revealed before the scientists explained how scientists can enter and exit without ever encountering a guard so they could load up a briefcase with secret files.
     Attkisson concluded: "Security and intelligence sources at the labs and the Energy Department confirm each of scientists accounts. One congressional investigator told CBS News the U.S. has never figured out how China stole huge amounts of weapons data but that these scientists' stories provide the best insight yet into how easily lab security can be breached."

     +++ Hear, and sort of see, the scientists disclose the bad security with their voices altered and a lampshade blocking their faces. By about noon ET Friday the MRC's Kristina Sewell and Sean Henry will post in RealPlayer format, on the MRC home page, a chunk of this CBS story. Go to: http://www.mrc.org


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Today accommodated Clinton's topic preferences but the show doesn't do the same for others.

     Friday morning Today devoted the entire 7am half-hour after the news update to Katie Couric's interview of President Clinton taped on Thursday afternoon. She stuck to what can be done to prevent school violence, failing to ask anything about China. NBC probably landed the exclusive by agreeing to stick to the one subject. But Today usually isn't so willing to hand over editorial control to a guest.

     In the April 30 Washington Post TV reporter Lisa de Moraes noted that Calista Flockhart, star of Fox's Ally McBeal, canceled her scheduled Monday Today show interview when NBC refused her request to not ask if she's anorexic. "'We said this is not something we'd agree to do and they said, 'Then she won't do the show,' a Today spokeswoman said."


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Is considering the role of religious belief catching on at the networks? The April 27 CyberAlert detailed how ABC's Peggy Wehmeyer examined how church and faith turned around the life of one of the Columbine victims, observing: "Today at Cassie Bernall's funeral friends and family celebrated the strength of one young girl's faith." To watch a clip of Wehmeyer's story via RealPlayer, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/biasvideo.html

     Wednesday night CBS did not devote an entire story to a victim's faith, but did highlight the topic in a story reviewing the status of some of those who were seriously injured. On the April 28 CBS Evening News reporter Cynthia Bowers told viewers:
     "Val Schnurr is still not up to talking even though she's home from the hospital now. She was shot eight times. Some of those bullets will never be removed. According to her mother, Val's luck rested with a higher power."
     Bowers to Val's mother: "I think the thing that amazes most of us is the courage that your daughter displayed when she was asked about her faith. Can you tell us what she's told you about that?"
     Shari Schnurr, Val's mother: "They asked her if she believed in God and she was half scared to say yes because they were reloading and she knew she was probably going to get it again but knowing that she couldn't say no and deny her faith. That was a real difficult point for her and I'm really proud of her for standing and saying what she believes in."


cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) The media have eagerly passed along calls for more gun control in the wake of the Columbine High School tragedy, but as the MRC's Conservative News Service determined, the shooters broke at least 18 current federal and state gun control laws. To read examples of gun control advocacy by the networks, check out the Review in the May 3 MediaWatch. "Colorado Tragedy Exploited for Politics: Networks Identify 'Gun Culture' as the Culprit." Go to:   http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/mediawatch/1999/mw19990503rev.html

     Here are some excerpts from the illuminating April 28 story by CNS staff writer Ben Anderson:

Riding the shock-waves of last week's Colorado high school shooting, President Bill Clinton Tuesday announced a broad legislative package to expand existing firearm regulations and further restrict access to guns.

But will the proposed laws that the Clinton Administration said are designed, in part, to reduce violent crime, be able to short circuit events like those at Columbine High School?

An analysis of current gun control laws suggests that the answer is no, and one Member of Congress said that poor enforcement of federal gun laws is allowing too many guns into schools.

CNS has identified 18 current federal and state gun control laws that were violated by the perpetrators of the Colorado school rampage. Had the two teenage suspects not killed themselves, as authorities believe happened, they would have been tried and faced penalties that could have kept them behind bars for the rest of their lives.

Columbine students Dylan Klebold, 17, and Eric Harris, 18, allegedly used several types of firearms to kill 12 students and one teacher before killing themselves. Among the weapons found were two sawed-off shotguns, a HiPoint 9mm semi-automatic carbine and an Intratec TEC-DC9 semi-automatic handgun, according to investigators....

Federal law prohibits possession of a "sawed-off" shotgun or rifle, such as those found at the scene of the Columbine murders. A violation carries a prison term of up to 10-years, with fines reaching $10,000.

U.S. law also forbids possession of a firearm on school property, a violation which could mean five years in prison.To discharge a firearm on school grounds with reckless disregard for another's safety could result in another five-year sentence.

Under Colorado law, intentionally aiming a gun at another person is illegal, as is displaying a gun in public with the intent to alarm.

A number of laws also cover the use of bombs, such as those found by investigators of the Littleton shootings. Under federal law, simply possessing a "destructive device" such as the bombs planted around the school carries a 10-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine for each offense.

Manufacturing a "destructive device" is worth another 10 years and a $10,000 fine. The penalties for the use of such bombs are compounded if they're part of a murder, carrying a sentence of life in prison or the death penalty.

Colorado law also forbids possession of an "explosive or incendiary device." Increased penalties are imposed if it is used to commit a felony.

The acts of using a gun or bomb to further a crime carry penalties of 10 and 30 years imprisonment, respectively. The penalty for subsequent convictions is 25 years imprisonment for using a firearm, and life in prison for using a bomb....

     END Excerpt of CNS story

     To read the whole piece, go directly to:  http://www.conservativenews.org/InDepth/archive/199904/IND19990428b.html
     For the latest from CNS, go to: http://www.conservativenews.org

     As the CBS Evening News and CNN's The World Today briefly noted Wednesday night, earlier in the day a 14-year-old shot two students at a high school in Taber, Alberta, killing one. Canada has much tougher gun control laws that does the U.S., a point neither CBS or CNN raised. -- Brent Baker


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