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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Wednesday August 18, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 144)   

DOD Security & Pardon for Terrorists Skipped; GMA's Gibson Dozed Off

1) Tuesday's CBS Evening News picked up on a Washington Post story, relaying how a former DOE official insisted "there's not a 'shred of evidence' that [Wen Ho] Lee passed secrets to China and that race was 'a major factor' in naming Lee the prime suspect."

2) "In a stinging draft report," USA Today revealed Monday, the GAO disclosed that "the Defense Department has 'created risks to national security' by failing to conduct thorough security background investigations." But only FNC found it worth a story.

3) A federal judge ordered the government to pay a $625,000 fine because the Clinton administration failed to comply with his order to produce documents, but ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC ignored him.

4) Not a syllable yet on network television about Clinton's decision last week to pardon 16 Puerto Rican terrorists.

5) "America Under the Gun" announced Newsweek's cover for an issue crusading against guns and featuring a rare editorial blast.

6) Charlie Gibson appeared to nod off during Tuesday's Good Morning America, but ABC denied he did. Judge for yourself.


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Tuesday night all the networks led with multiple stories on the earthquake in Turkey and of the broadcast networks only the CBS Evening News picked up on an August 17 Washington Post story on how the former chief of counter-intelligence at Los Alamos doesn't think Wen Ho Lee is guilty and attributed Lee's plight to racism. CBS's news judgment is no surprise since the Post story matched the claims Lee made in a 60 Minutes profile last month.

     CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson explained: "New doubts are being cast on the government's case against Wen Ho Lee, the only person accused in the spy scandal at the nation's nuclear weapons labs. A former top investigator in the case claims there's no proof Lee gave away nuclear secrets while working as a scientist at Los Alamos. Robert Vrooman, who headed counter-intelligence at the lab, told the Washington Post there's not a 'shred of evidence' that Lee passed secrets to China and that race was 'a major factor' in naming Lee the prime suspect. In an exclusive interview with 60 Minutes' Mike Wallace, Lee also claimed investigators unfairly targeted him because of his heritage."
     After a clip of Lee, Attkisson showcased Henry Tang of the Committee of 100 who characterized the investigation as a "racist witch hunt."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) An upcoming General Accounting Office (GAO) report will document how Clinton administration indifference to security issues extends beyond the Energy Department to the Defense Department, USA Today disclosed on Monday, but the networks weren't interested. ABC's Good Morning America gave the revelation a few seconds in a Monday morning news brief and, MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth informed me, it got a full story from James Rosen on FNC's Fox Report Monday night. But not a word on the other evening or morning shows, not even CNN's Inside Politics.

     Here's an excerpt of the August 16 story on the front page of USA Today by Edward T. Pound headlined, "Report: 92% of security probes lax: Pentagon 'created risks,' congressional agency says."

In a stinging draft report, a congressional agency says the Defense Department has "created risks to national security" by failing to conduct thorough security background investigations on personnel requiring access to classified information.

Nine out of every 10 security investigations reviewed by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, were found to have been incomplete, according to government officials familiar with the preliminary report.

The officials say the GAO reviewed 531 background investigations and found that 488, or 92%, did not fully meet federal investigative standards. In 59 cases, or 12%, the Defense Department failed to follow leads on potentially serious issues involving criminal histories, alcohol and drug use, and financial problems, the GAO reported.

The figures could change. The GAO will issue its final report in October, and officials declined to comment, except to say their analysis is continuing.

Background checks are made by the Defense Security Service and are essential to keeping the nation's secrets out of the wrong hands. The service conducts 120,000 inquiries each year on people needing top-secret and secret clearances. They include military and civilian personnel in the Defense Department and defense contractor employees....

     The officials say the GAO blames many problems on poor management during the past three years. The service eliminated a key training program for agents, cut back on supervisors and installed a case-management computer system that didn't work. In its zeal to close cases, the service didn't follow through on all investigative standards required for background inquiries....

     END Excerpt


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) A federal judge last week ordered the U.S. government to pay a $625,000 fine because the Clinton administration's Interior Department failed to comply with his order to produce documents for an Indian group suing over mismanagement of trust funds. Judge Royce Lamberth, the August 11 Washington Post reported, "said he regretted that he could not hold the officials and lawyers personally responsible for the costs, adding, 'The court is aware of the unfortunate consequences of today's ruling on American taxpayers.'"

     Network coverage? FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume delivered a full story by Julie Kirtz, but the MRC team of analysts saw nothing, not even a few seconds on a morning show, on any ABC, CBS, CNN or NBC news show.

     Here's an excerpt from the Post's August 11 story by Bill Miller:

The Clinton administration has spent much time and money defending itself against a class action lawsuit alleging that government agencies have mismanaged billions of dollars in Indian trust funds. Yesterday a judge ordered it to spend $625,000 more -- to pay legal bills accrued by the Indians.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth said he imposed the penalties because government officials and lawyers repeatedly disobeyed his orders to turn over records critical to the Indians' case. As a result, he said, the government caused the Indians' attorneys to waste thousands of hours seeking documents.

The ruling was a follow-up to an order issued by Lamberth in February that found Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, Assistant Interior Secretary Kevin Gover and then-Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin in contempt of court.

The judge held them responsible for the failure to locate and produce records concerning trust fund accounts held by the government on behalf of Indians. He said government lawyers misled him by insisting the records were produced.

Yesterday Lamberth said he regretted that he could not hold the officials and lawyers personally responsible for the costs, adding, "The court is aware of the unfortunate consequences of today's ruling on American taxpayers.

"In this judge's view, the American taxpayers should not continue to be forced to bear the burden of these types of misdeeds. Instead, as is the case in the private sector, these attorneys and officials themselves should bear individual responsibility for their actions," he said in a 45-page opinion.

The Native American Rights Fund filed the lawsuit in 1996, alleging that the government has lost track of billions of dollars in trust funds because of mismanagement that dates back more than 100 years. Lamberth recently presided over a trial to determine what to do with roughly 350,000 trust accounts held by individual Indians. He has yet to announce a ruling but in court has openly explored the possibility of naming an outside expert to oversee reforms....

     END Excerpt


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) Clinton's offer to commute the sentences of 16 Puerto Rican terrorists is a big topic on talk radio, but don't think that means the networks care. Traveling last week I heard both Sean Hannity, filling in for Rush Limbaugh, as well as Michael Reagan, talking about it. So, upon my return I queried the MRC news analysts about how much TV coverage this seemingly controversial decision generated. The answer: Zilch. No one saw anything last week on any of the networks. (Tuesday night, August 17, this issue was a topic on FNC's Hannity & Colmes.)

     First, the basic facts as outlined in an August 11 AP dispatch by Kevin Galvin, and then some points from a Wall Street Journal editorial which show why this subject ought to be examined.

     Now to the AP story:

President Clinton offered on Wednesday to commute the sentences of 16 members of a Puerto Rican independence group if they sign agreements renouncing the use of violence. Their group staged some 130 bomb attacks on political and military targets in the United States from 1974 to 1983.

One administration official, who spoke on condition anonymity, said the prisoners were not involved in any deaths.

Eleven members of the group would be released immediately from prison if they agreed to Clinton's conditions; two others would have to serve additional prison time before release; and three would have the unpaid balance of their criminal fines canceled, according to a Justice Department announcement....

Justice Department spokeswoman Chris Watney declined to explain Clinton's reasons for the decision. She did say the Justice Department, as is customary, submitted a report and recommendation to Clinton, but declined to describe it.

The 13 original prison sentences for which Clinton offered reductions ranged from 35 years to 90 years. He offered to reduce them to a range of four years to 44 years. Watney could not immediately supply the amount of fines being waived.

Clinton's action was in response to a campaign by human rights advocates who have argued that members of the group known as FALN -- the Spanish initials for Armed Forces of National Liberation -- were punished too harshly in light of their crimes....

Bombings attributed to the FALN killed six people and wounded dozens, but the 11 offered clemency were not directly involved the deaths and injuries, officials said. The 13 didn't defend themselves at trial, saying they didn't recognize U.S. legal jurisdiction over them....

     END Excerpt

     A Friday, August 13 Wall Street Journal editorial attributed the move to helping Hillary capture Hispanic votes in New York. The Journal countered the idea that those to be pardoned didn't do anything all that bad and highlighted how Clinton has only pardoned three others in six-plus years:

     "Deputy White House Chief of Staff Maria Echaveste is quoted in yesterday's papers as saying that those offered clemency 'never killed anyone.' This is preposterous. No one died in the [1983 Hartford] Wells Fargo heist but innocent people lost their lives in more than 100 attacks carried out by the same terrorist group on U.S. facilities. Even if these 16 terrorists didn't murder anyone directly, they were part of a conspiracy that was to be extended by the funds stolen from the bank in Connecticut....
     "To understand how rare it is for a President to commute a sentence or offer remission of a fine, as Mr. Clinton did for the 16 Puerto Rican terrorists this week, consider the numbers supplied by the Office of the Pardon Attorney. From the time he took office in January 1993 until April 2, the date the Office prepared its last report, Mr. Clinton had received 3,042 petitions for clemency. Until Wednesday, he had granted a total of three."

     Sounds like a great hook for a television news story. If only someone would produce it.


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Newsweek crusades against guns. This week's MRC MagazineWatch, compiled by MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens, details how "Newsweek devoted almost their entire issue to flogging the gun control issue. 'America Under the Gun,' cried the cover." For only the fourth time is its history, Newsweek featured an editorial. This one demanded stricter gun rules.

     Here are some excerpts, about Newsweek's crusading in its August 23 issue, from the latest MagazineWatch:

Newsweek set the tone for their entire issue in the editorial: "America, or at least the sensible center where most of us stand, has had enough -- of this senseless violence, and of this circular debate. For more than a generation, we've watched as the great and the pedestrian have died in the line of fire. Though it won't do to act as though, in the emotional aftermath of yet another shooting, a sweeping ban or a single bill will keep more tragedies from happening, it also won't do to shrug off the deadly role guns play."

Newsweek asked, "So what must be done? It is time, as Franklin Roosevelt said long ago, to try something."

Among the measures Newsweek called for was a total ban on "assault weapons": "We've been here before, and the lessons from that battle shed light on the tricky terrain ahead. The Uzi Furrow probably used in Granada Hills can no longer be legally imported to the United States, but was obviously available. Gun control wouldn't have stopped him. Still, assault weapons have few sporting purposes."

Newsweek also called for licensing and registration of all guns: "To ears unaccustomed to the nuances of the gun debate, this could sound innocuous, or at worst bureaucratic. But proposals to establish a gun registry, either state by state or nationally, raise gun owners' most fundamental fears. Still, licensing could operate along the same lines as the DMV: to drive a car, you need to pass a minimal test. There are potential perils; authorities might be distant, or abusive, or inattentive. But licensing could improve gun safety, particularly for beginners."

The editorial demanded things would be better if only gun owners sacrificed some of their constitutionally protected rights: "The gun lobby says the government shouldn't know who owns a firearm, and on Second Amendment grounds it has a point. Bill Clinton isn't likely to confiscate guns, but some President in the distant future might. Still, all rights have to be balanced with the need for public order, and registration is one sure-fire way of shutting off a line of supply to criminals. Why? If all sales of firearms have to be logged in a registry, then the typical gun owner who gets his firearm legitimately knows the government has a record of his acquisition. He may then be much more careful about what happens to that gun for fear that crimes committed with it would bring the police to his door. Would it stop underground gun traffic altogether? No, and the NRA says the measure would create 'massive civil disobedience.' But registration could help keep guns from slipping, through a careless private sale or swap, into a criminal's grasp."....

In an interview with reporters Howard Fineman, Matt Bai and Jon Meacham, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre did get an opportunity to express the other side of the gun issue but was peppered with questions from the left:
-- "Are people right to be saying 'Why do we have guns? Why can't we do something about this violence? Why are you so opposed to licensing gun owners?'"
-- "How about stricter bans on assault weapons, like California just enacted?"
-- "Are you willing to compromise on gun laws?"....

Newsweek's guest editorialists both called for more gun control. First was Devon Adams, a student from Columbine High School and then Professor Robert Jay Lifton of John Jay College at the City University of New York wrote a column titled, "The Pysche of a 'Gunocracy'-- Firearms are icons of freedom and power, 'equalizers' in an egalitarian country. Can we change our myths and break this troubling bond?"

He blamed the actions of the Jewish Center shooter, Buford Furrow, on his access to guns. "Beneath the murderous behavior of Buford O. Furrow Jr. flows a dark undercurrent that deforms the American psyche: our unique bond with the gun. That bond readily lends itself to zealotry, the dangers of which become all the more terrifying in our age of high, unregulated technology. The historian Richard Hofstadter once said that after a lifetime studying the American experience, what he found most deeply troubling was the country's inability to come to terms with the gun and its association with the warrior subculture. Indeed, the gun has become close to a sacred object, revered by many as the essence of American life."

Newsweek allowed the professor to link gun rights to racism: "The contemporary resurgence of paramilitary groups has been accompanied by fierce resistance to political efforts to impose the mildest kind of gun control. And this is not surprising, since even God, as envisaged by these groups, is gun-centered ('Our God is not a wimp' is one popular slogan). The violence committed in his name is likely to be performed on behalf of a 'white race' supposedly endangered by Jews, blacks and homosexuals. Whatever the social dislocations that fuel such racist ideology, the gun is always available to provide an absolute solution. The gun is crucial, as well, to the enactment of vengeance, so central to the martyrology of the racial right."

Lifton concluded: "Besides fanatics and mentally disturbed people (Furrow appears to be both), many ordinary Americans have also become caught up in the cult of the gun. For them, it is not a jarring source of violence but as much an accepted part of the landscape as forests and rivers. Such people often resist controls over the objects they revere. But human beings are capable of modifying their own mythologies. After the tragedies in Littleton, Colo.; Atlanta, and now Los Angeles, Americans have shown signs of a change in their feelings about guns, seeing them increasingly as more dangerous than sacred. That kind of collective psychological shift is necessary if we are ever to transcend the crippling fraternity of the gun."

     END Excerpt

     Other topics covered in the August 17 MagazineWatch about the August 23 editions:

-- Newsweek noted the obvious. George W. Bush won big in Iowa and Steve Forbes spent a lot on his way to a strong second place finish. The Conventional Wisdom box referred to Gary Bauer as a "zealot."
-- Time took seriously speculation about a presidential bid by actor Warren Beatty, contending that "seasoned Washington figures," like Bill Moyers, "are already giving the actor a fighting chance at doing for grassroots liberalism what Reagan did for Goldwater conservatism."
-- Gloria Borger prayed at the altar of Bill Bradley in her U.S. News & World Report profile.

     To read MagazineWatch, go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/news/magwatch/mag19990817.html


gibson0818.jpg (9366 bytes)cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) Did Charlie Gibson doze off during Tuesday's Good Morning America? It sure looked that way, though ABC News officially denied it.

     Going first to the co-hosts for the "hot" story of the day before bringing in news reader Antonio Mora, the August 17 GMA opened with a series of reports and interviews about the earthquake in Turkey. After a report from Turkey, substitute co-host Nancy Snyderman interviewed by phone Energy Secretary Bill Richardson who was in Turkey and then she briefly talked with Bill Smith of the U.S. Geological Survey. When she finished with Smith she threw the show to Mora.

     Here's where Gibson comes in. For the ten seconds or so as she thanked Smith and introduced Mora the camera showed her beside Gibson, whose eyes were clearly not open as his head tilted to one side -- like someone who dozed off while sitting. As she looked past Gibson toward Mora you could see her developing a smirk as she glanced at Gibson.

     Tuesday night Paramount's syndicated Entertainment Tonight picked up on the incident and noted that Good Morning America cut this shot of Gibson out of the subsequent West Coast feed, but ET co-anchor Bob Goen reported that ABC denied Gibson was not awake: "GMA told us Gibson was absolutely not asleep, that he was listening to the report. The problem they say was he was not supposed to be on camera, so they corrected it for the West Coast."

     Maybe he was just resting his eyelids.

     Judge for yourself. Wednesday morning by 10am ET MRC Webmaster Sean Henry will post a still shot image of Gibson as well as a video clip, in RealPlayer format, of a few seconds before and after the shot of Gibson in whatever state he's in. If you squint real hard at your mini computer video frame you may be able to see Snyderman's smirk as she heads toward laughter. Go to the MRC's home page: http://www.mrc.org.
     Or, go to this item in the posted version on this CyberAlert.

     To be fair to Gibson, he is handling both GMA and World News Tonight this week so if he is getting up at 4am he's putting in a 16-hour day. But it's still humorous to see. -- Brent Baker


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