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The 1,920th CyberAlert. Tracking Liberal Media Bias Since 1996
10:10am EST, Wednesday February 23, 2005 (Vol. Ten; No. 34)
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1. ABC Treats Torture Allegation as Equal to Assassination Charge
ABC considered a lawyer's allegation that Ahmed Omar Abu Ali had been tortured just as important as the government's charge that the al-Qaeda member plotted to assassinate President Bush. Peter Jennings teased: "On World News Tonight, an Arab-American is charged with conspiring to assassinate the President. His lawyers say the U.S. let the authorities in Saudi Arabia torture him." Brian Ross began his story not with the charges but with how the suspect's "friends and family were at the courthouse in Virginia this morning, hoping for his release after 20 months in custody in Saudi Arabia" where he had voluntarily gone after graduating a high school in Fairfax County, Virginia. Ross quickly moved to how "his lawyer says his client was tortured into making a false confession" and Ross highlighted how "human rights lawyers say the issue will be one of U.S. tactics." A lawyer complained: "I think the term that's being used for this now is 'torture by proxy.'"

2. CBS's Roberts Blames Bush Hard Line on Iran for Summit "Chill"
ABC and NBC passed along mildly upbeat assessments Tuesday night about President Bush's meetings with European leaders, but not CBS's John Roberts. Picking up on Bush's comment that "this notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table," ABC's Terry Moran tagged it "a mixed signal" and NBC's David Gregory called it "a mixed message." Moran concluded that Bush "achieved mostly symbolic gains here. But, as one top U.S. official put it, after the past two years, we'll take the symbolism." Gregory characterized the U.S.-European relationship as "far from perfect. But at least, as one European official commented today, the U.S. and Europe have reconnected." But Roberts scolded: "Mr. Bush insists he wants a diplomatic solution, but just the mention of the war option was enough to throw a chill on this last night of the Brussels summit. The President says he came here to listen, but many Europeans were left to wonder just how much he heard."


 

ABC Treats Torture Allegation as Equal
to Assassination Charge

     ABC on Tuesday night considered a lawyer's allegation that Ahmed Omar Abu Ali had been tortured just as important as the government's charge that the al-Qaeda member plotted to assassinate President Bush. Peter Jennings teased: "On World News Tonight, an Arab-American is charged with conspiring to assassinate the President. His lawyers say the U.S. let the authorities in Saudi Arabia torture him." Brian Ross began his story not with the charges but with how the suspect's "friends and family were at the courthouse in Virginia this morning, hoping for his release after 20 months in custody in Saudi Arabia" where he had voluntarily gone after graduating a high school in Fairfax County, Virginia. Ross quickly moved to how "his lawyer says his client was tortured into making a false confession" and Ross highlighted how "human rights lawyers say the issue will be one of U.S. tactics." A lawyer complained: "I think the term that's being used for this now is 'torture by proxy.'"

     Jim Stewart on the CBS Evening News, Pete Williams on NBC Nightly News and Kelli Arena on CNN's NewsNight all managed to convey the torture charge without leading with it or letting it dominate their stories. Stewart noted how Ahmed Omar Abu Ali wished to go to Iraq to fight U.S. soldiers.

     Following the tease quoted above, with "Alleged Plot" as the on-screen heading, Jennings led the February 22 World News Tonight: "Good evening. We're going to begin tonight with an American who was indicted today for allegedly planning to assassinate the President. His lawyers said in a Virginia courtroom that he was tortured while being held in Saudi Arabia. And his family had already filed suit, claiming he was being held in Saudi Arabia at the behest of U.S. authorities. His name is Ahmed Omar Abu Ali. He's 22 years old. Here's ABC's Brian Ross."

     Ross began, as corrected against the closed-captioning by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "Abu Ali's friends and family were at the courthouse in Virginia this morning, hoping for his release after 20 months in custody in Saudi Arabia."
     Omar Abu Ali, father of assassination plot suspect, outside the federal court building in Alexandra, Virginia: "I am glad that Ahmed is back home. I thank Allah almighty."
     Ross: "But instead of freedom, the 23-year-old Abu Ali, raised in suburban Washington, was charged in a six-count federal indictment with conspiring to assassinate President Bush and providing material support to al-Qaeda."
     Omar Abu Ali: "All of that is lies. They lied to the court."
     Ross: "U.S. intelligence officials tell ABC News the Saudis picked up Abu Ali on electronic surveillance telling a suspected al-Qaeda member he wanted to join. Today's indictment alleges, with few specifics, Abu Ali had the 'intent to become a planner of terrorist operations like Mohammed Atta.' The alleged plot against the President involved Abu Ali getting close enough to either shoot him or blow him up with a car bomb."
     Ashraf Nubani, attorney for defendant: "He has no role in attempting or conspiring to assassinate anyone."
     Ross: "Abu Ali was studying Islam in Medina when taken into custody by Saudi authorities in June 2003 and held in this prison until Sunday. His lawyer says his client was tortured into making a false confession."
     Nubani: "He said that they whipped me. And I said, 'Where?' He said, 'On my back.' And I said, 'Show me.' He unbuttoned his jump suit from the front side, and he pulled up his T-shirt from the back, and I could see, you know, the marks. And he said that this was done a few months ago."
     Ross: "Prosecutors said Abu Ali had turned his back on America, but human rights lawyers say the issue will be one of U.S. tactics."
     Scott Horton, human rights attorney: "I think the term that's being used for this now is 'torture by proxy.'"
     Ross: "Meaning?"
     Horton: "Meaning that the U.S. can't aggressively interrogate or torture a detainee, so it relies on an ally that uses these practices to do the dirty work for it."
     Ross: "Further raising questions about the case, law enforcement officials told ABC News late today that the plans to assassinate President Bush never moved past the talking stage and may not have been seriously thought out. Which is why, Peter, prosecutors did not charge Abu Ali with the much more serious crime of actually assassinating the President."

     Or, maybe it's because the President wasn't actually assassinated.

 

CBS's Roberts Blames Bush Hard Line on
Iran for Summit "Chill"

     ABC and NBC passed along mildly upbeat assessments Tuesday night about President Bush's meetings with European leaders, but not CBS's John Roberts. Picking up on Bush's comment that "this notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table," ABC's Terry Moran tagged it "a mixed signal" and NBC's David Gregory called it "a mixed message." Moran concluded that Bush "achieved mostly symbolic gains here. But, as one top U.S. official put it, after the past two years, we'll take the symbolism." Gregory characterized the U.S.-European relationship as "far from perfect. But at least, as one European official commented today, the U.S. and Europe have reconnected."

     But Roberts held Bush culpable for poor relations, as he scolded: "Mr. Bush insists he wants a diplomatic solution, but just the mention of the war option was enough to throw a chill on this last night of the Brussels summit. The President says he came here to listen, but many Europeans were left to wonder just how much he heard."

     Here's how the three broadcast networks concluding their Tuesday night, February 22, stories on Bush's trip to Europe, as tracked down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:

     -- ABC World News Tonight. Terry Moran: "Later, meeting with European Union leaders, Mr. Bush continued his charm offensive here, but he may have sent some mixed signals when he was asked if he would act unilaterally against Iran."
     George W. Bush, at European Union news conference: "This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table."
     Moran: "The President leaves Brussels for Germany tomorrow having achieved mostly symbolic gains here. But, as one top U.S. official put it, after the past two years, we'll take the symbolism."

     -- NBC Nightly News. "U.S. officials claim this trip has erased the big trans-Atlantic row of two years ago. Truth is, many European leaders still believe the war was not worth the cost. And, though a page has been turned, there are new disagreements like Iran, where Europe and the U.S. are split over how best to convince that regime to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Mr. Bush insisted again today on sending a mixed message."
     George W. Bush: "This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table."
     Gregory: "And China. French President Chirac said today Europe plans to sell weapons to the Chinese despite Bush administration objections. Proof the relationship is still far from perfect. But at least, as one European official commented today, the U.S. and Europe have reconnected."

     -- CBS Evening News. Over video of a missile being launched, with this on-screen text, "Europeans' concern: U.S. hard line could lead to war," John Roberts warned: "Some Europeans are worried that America's much harder line on the nuclear threat from Iran could be the first step on another unilateral march to war. The President tried to assure them tonight it wasn't."
     George W. Bush: "This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. Having said that, all options are on the table."
     Roberts: "Mr. Bush insists he wants a diplomatic solution, but just the mention of the war option was enough to throw a chill on this last night of the Brussels summit. The President says he came here to listen, but many Europeans were left to wonder just how much he heard. President Bush is hearing plenty from another ally. Russian President Vladimir Putin fired back tonight against accusations that he's backtracking on democratic reforms, upping the rhetoric ahead of what may be a testy summit with President Bush on Thursday."


-- Brent Baker

 


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