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ABC Frets Over Lack of Civil Rights for Guantanamo Detainees --9/12/2003


1. ABC Frets Over Lack of Civil Rights for Guantanamo Detainees
ABC News decided to commemorate the September 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of two years ago by sending Claire Shipman to Guantanamo Bay -- not to look at how the detainment of dozens of potential terrorists has successfully prevented additional murderous attacks, but to fret over the lack of U.S. constitutional rights and international law protections afforded to the enemy operatives. Surveying the barbed wire-topped fence surrounding Camp Delta to keep the prisoners inside, Shipman lamented how "the wire is perhaps more significant for what it's keeping out -- lawyers, family members and the protections of U.S. and international law."

2. During Names Reading, Couric Relays How Bush Has Alienated World
Minutes after children at Ground Zero had begun reading the names of those killed two years ago at the site, NBC's Katie Couric chose the moment to highlight a New York Times story about how President Bush's policies have alienated the world. Over a live shot of the reading of the names, at about 9am EDT Couric quoted the Times story about how the U.S. had been seen "as a victim of terrorism that deserved the world's sympathy and support," but that "has given way to a widespread vision of America as an imperial power that has defied world opinion through unjustified and unilateral use of military force."

3. MSNBC's Olbermann Focuses on EPA's "Indefensible Deception"
NBC News is obsessed with a supposedly misleading EPA press releases about air quality around Ground Zero in the days after the attack. MSNBC's Countdown on Thursday night featured the claims of one man who says the poor air quality impaired his health. Keith Olbermann introduced a segment on the subject by declaring that "we know" that the assurance of air safety "was at best well-intentioned false reassurance, at worst indefensible deception."


ABC Frets Over Lack of Civil Rights for
Guantanamo Detainees

ABC's Claire Shipman ABC News decided to commemorate the September 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of two years ago by sending Claire Shipman to Guantanamo Bay -- not to look at how the detainment of dozens of potential terrorists has successfully prevented additional murderous attacks, but to fret over the lack of U.S. constitutional rights and international law protections afforded to the enemy operatives.

Surveying the barbed wire-topped fence surrounding Camp Delta to keep the prisoners inside, Shipman lamented how "the wire is perhaps more significant for what it's keeping out -- lawyers, family members and the protections of U.S. and international law."

Shipman allowed the commander to tout how "the treatment of the detainees here at Camp Delta reflects the very best traditions of how our nation treats her enemies," as Shipman noted "the cells are spartan but fairly cool." But before worrying about how "letters home" from the detainees "show despair," she declared that "many argue that humane treatment is no substitute for basic legal rights." She then featured the take of just one legal expert, who charged: "I think it's maybe the most lawless set of actions that the United States government has taken in my lifetime."

Peter Jennings set up the September 11 World News Tonight segment with Shipman live in Cuba, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
"The naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is where the U.S. keeps prisoners of war. Some from Afghanistan. Most, they say, from the campaign against terrorism. At last count, there were 660, including three teenagers. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says most of them probably will be held until the war against terrorism ends. ABC's Claire Shipman has been there for a couple of days, and she joins us live this evening. Claire?"

Shipman, live in front of the gate entrance: "Peter, even as the military here at Guantanamo Bay tries to show us that life behind these fences is more than humane, there are some top administration officials who like the idea that Guantanamo frightens and who are even investigating whether it would be possible to send some Iraqi prisoners here. The people who guard it call it simply 'The Wire.' Miles of razored coils wrap the Delta Prison Camp, binding the prisoners inside."
Unidentified male voice: "We use magnetic locks on our doors."
Shipman: "But the wire is perhaps more significant for what it's keeping out -- lawyers, family members and the protections of U.S. and international law."
Major General Geoffrey Miller, Commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo: "The treatment of the detainees here at Camp Delta reflects the very best traditions of how our nation treats her enemies."
Shipman: "The military prefers to keep the focus on the physical conditions here, which they've worked hard to improve. Cameras, though, are kept out. These are some of the few photos the military makes available. So ABC News decided to help illustrate its brief tour the old-fashioned way. [over drawings] The first independent glimpses of prison life here. The cells are spartan but fairly cool. The prisoners, all Muslims, are allowed to observe their religion. They have daily calls to prayer, among other things. Good behavior wins special privileges -- a place at Camp Four [drawing of compound with volleyball set up], where they have group meals outside. Still, many argue that humane treatment is no substitute for basic legal rights."
Stuart Taylor, National Journal: "I think it's maybe the most lawless set of actions that the United States government has taken in my lifetime."
Shipman: "Taylor and others say the Geneva Conventions require hearings to determine why the men are being held. Administration sources confirm a small number of the prisoners are here without good reason. There have been 31 suicide attempts to date. Letters home obtained by ABC News show despair. One Kuwaiti prisoner writes he wants, quote, 'to die as I cannot stand this place.' And, Peter, prison guards have told us that it's the uncertainty of their fate that is the worst punishment for prisoners here."

Nothing wrong with a little fear of the unknown as a motivator.

Just how bad are conditions in Guantanamo? A lot better than in a Russian prison. James Taranto reported in the August 8 edition of his "Best of the Web" column for OpinionJournal.com:
"A Reuters dispatch from Moscow offers a different perspective on the U.S. military's treatment of illegal-combatant prisoners: 'A Russian mother said that conditions in Russian jails are so awful that she would prefer her son remain in the 'humane' conditions of the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay.'
"Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has a priceless quote from the mother: 'He writes that he is treated kindly and with respect, that he has good food, cleanliness, and as he says in his letter, he feels better than if he was at the best Russian sanatoriums.'"

For that "Best of the Web" item with links to the other articles: www.opinionjournal.com

Shipman showed up again during the 8am news update on Friday's Good Morning America, providing a brief story from Guantanamo about the perspective of the U.S. soldiers who serve as the guards.

During Names Reading, Couric Relays How
Bush Has Alienated World

Minutes after children at Ground Zero had begun reading the names of those killed two years ago at the site, NBC's Katie Couric chose the moment to highlight a New York Times story about how President Bush's policies have alienated the world. Over a live shot of the reading of the names, at about 9am EDT Couric quoted the Times story about how the U.S. had been seen "as a victim of terrorism that deserved the world's sympathy and support," but that "has given way to a widespread vision of America as an imperial power that has defied world opinion through unjustified and unilateral use of military force."

One Russian quoted by Times reporter Richard Bernstein saw the U.S. as posing the same danger to the world as Nazis: "America's attempts to rebuild all the world in the image of liberalism and capitalism are fraught with the same dangers as the Nazis taking over the world."

Bernstein regretted: "Gone are the days, two years ago, when 200,000 Germans marched in Berlin to show solidarity with their American allies, or when Le Monde, the most prestigious French newspaper, could publish a large headline, 'We Are All Americans.'"

But as the MRC's Clay Waters pointed out on the TimesWatch.org Web site, Fouad Ajami noted in Foreign Policy magazine article, which serves as a useful corrective to the Times' credulous acceptance of foreign criticism, the level of post-9/11 sympathy was exaggerated.

More on that below, but first more on Couric and Today as caught by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens.

Couric, with Tim Russert, announced on the September 11 broadcast over the video of pairs of kids reciting the names of WTC victims:
"Tim, not only domestically but throughout the world September 11th was such a unifying event in many ways and there was an outpouring of sympathy from so many countries worldwide and I was noticing the front page of the New York Times this morning, an article: 'Foreign Views of U.S. Darken After September 11th. In the two years since the view of the United States as a victim of terrorism that deserved the world's sympathy and support has given way to a widespread vision of America as an imperial power that has defied world opinion through unjustified and unilateral use of military force.' Things have changed so dramatically in that arena as well."

Russert agreed: "They certainly have. After September 11th 2001 the President took his time in formulating a response against Afghanistan, which had been housing the Taliban. The world was so united in that effort. Iraq is much, much different. The President tried last week to say that this is the new central front on the war against terror. But that's no longer a uniformed view. Certainly not in this country or in the world. I'll be very interested to see how the events of today affect Americans. They certainly affect me watching them, trying to come to grips with my emotions as I see these young children talking about those who have left us. But my sense is Katie and Matt, that we'll return to the harsh political rhetoric much more quickly after this September 11th than we did in '01. Democrats are already accusing the President of exploiting September 11th by mentioning it constantly on the campaign stump. Republicans will counter that the Democrats are not being supported in a bipartisan policy. Let's hope that the feeling of Americanism and warmth and embracing of the American family that we're feeling today will carry on forward throughout the 2004 presidential campaign but I really don't think so."
Couric returned to the theme of the U.S. alienating the world: "But what about the world view though, Tim? As you know the administration is returning to the United Nations in an effort to have a multi-national force deployed which will be an important thing for Iraq and for the anti-American sentiment that has cropped up there very significantly. Do you think that old scars can be healed between the United Nations, particularly countries like France and Germany and the United States?"
Russert: "Very, very difficult. The President is going to go to New York, is going to the United Nations, will probably meet with the leaders of Germany and perhaps France and try to do just that. But Katie even if we get an international approval or a resolution for the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq, make no mistake about it, it will be primarily an American force. Less than 40,000 international troops total, compared to 150,000 American troops and this is even six months from now will try to change the coloration, will try to suggest it's an international operation but the world is extremely divided about the policy towards Iraq and it will take an awful lot of diplomacy, statesmanship and perhaps acknowledgment by the President, in dealing with the European nations who had been dubbed, 'Old Europe,' by the administration, in order to reconcile and, and come together in some form of world unity."

Thursday's TimesWatch.org, the MRC's Website devoted to documenting bias in the New York Times, featured this item by the MRC's Clay Waters on the Times story which so impressed Couric:

Everyone Hates Us, And It's All Bush's Fault

Thursday's front-page story by Richard Bernstein was headlined "Foreign Views of U.S. Darken After Sept. 11." Guess whose fault it is?

The story, written by Bernstein with contributions from ten (count 'em, ten) other Times reporters, opened: "In the two years since Sept. 11, 2001, the view of the United States as a victim of terrorism that deserved the world's sympathy and support has given way to a widespread vision of America as an imperial power that has defied world opinion through unjustified and unilateral use of military force....In interviews by Times correspondents from Africa to Europe to Southeast Asia, one point emerged clearly: The war in Iraq has had a major impact on public opinion, which has moved generally from post-9/11 sympathy to post-Iraq antipathy, or at least to disappointment over what is seen as the sole superpower's inclination to act pre-emptively, without either persuasive reasons or United Nations approval. To some degree, the resentment is centered on the person of President Bush, who is seen by many of those interviewed, at best, as an ineffective spokesman for American interests and, at worst, as a gunslinging cowboy knocking over international treaties and bent on controlling the world's oil, if not the entire world."

Among the several anti-Americans quoted is "a Frenchman, Jean-Charles Pogram, 45, a computer technician," who said: "The United States can't see beyond the axiom that force can solve everything, but Europe, because of two world wars, knows the price of blood.'" (For a country that knows nothing about the price of blood, the U.S. certainly shed a lot on France's behalf during World War II.)

Later Bernstein wrote: "Gone are the days, two years ago, when 200,000 Germans marched in Berlin to show solidarity with their American allies, or when Le Monde, the most prestigious French newspaper, could publish a large headline, 'We Are All Americans.'"

But as Fouad Ajami noted in the September/October Foreign Policy (in a useful corrective to the Times credulous acceptance of foreign criticism), such sympathy was exaggerated: "Much has been made of the sympathy that the French expressed for the United States immediately after the September 11 attacks, as embodied by the famous editorial of Le Monde's publisher Jean-Marie Colombani, "Nous Sommes Tous Américains" ("We are all Americans"). And much has been made of the speed with which the United States presumably squandered that sympathy in the months that followed. "But even Colombani's column, written on so searing a day, was not the unalloyed message of sympathy suggested by the title." Ajami goes on to note how by December, "There was nothing to admire in Colombani's United States, which had run roughshod in the world and had been indifferent to the rule of law. Colombani described the U.S. republic as a fundamentalist Christian enterprise, its magistrates too deeply attached to the death penalty, its police cruel to its black population."

Twice the Times suggested that going to the United Nations would boost the opinion of the U.S. overseas: "The subject of America in the world is of course complicated, and the nation's battered international image could improve quickly in response to events. The Bush administration's recent turn to the United Nations for help in postwar Iraq may represent such an event. Even at this low point, millions of people still see the United States as a beacon and support its policies, including the war in Iraq, and would, given the chance, be happy to become Americans themselves."

Later, Bernstein wrote the possible UN move indicates Bush may finally see the need for restraint: "'We would love to see America as a self-limiting superpower,' said Janusz Onyszkiewicz, a former Polish defense minister. Perhaps the administration's decision to turn to the United Nations to seek a mandate for an international force in Iraq reflects a new readiness to exercise such restraint. The administration appears to have learned that using its power in isolation can get very expensive very quickly."

For the rest of Richard Bernstein's story on how everyone hates the U.S.: www.nytimes.com

END of Excerpt from TimesWatch.org

For Ajami's Foreign Policy story: www.foreignpolicy.com

For the latest bias in the New York Times, check: www.timeswatch.org

MSNBC's Olbermann Focuses on EPA's "Indefensible Deception"

NBC News is obsessed with a supposedly misleading EPA press releases about air quality around Ground Zero in the days after the attack. MSNBC's Countdown on Thursday night featured the claims of one man who says the poor air quality impaired his health. Keith Olbermann introduced a segment on the subject by declaring that "we know" that the assurance of air safety "was at best well-intentioned false reassurance, at worst indefensible deception."

As recounted in the September 11 CyberAlert Extra, NBC's Today had already aired two segments on the subject before yesterday and on Thursday it raised it again in multiple interviews, including prompting Senator Hillary Clinton to sound off on it. Today also hectored current and former New York mayors on the issue on Thursday morning, and when they objected, co-hosts Matt Lauer and Katie Couric rebutted them.

But, as the Cato Institute's Steven Milloy asserted this week, in a point of view ignored by NBC: "There have been no credible reports that the ambient air quality near Ground Zero a week after the attacks, when the EPA made the statement, caused any significant, widespread or long-term harm to the public."

For more on Thursday's Today and earlier coverage: www.mediaresearch.org

Fast forward to Thursday night, and Olbermann plugged an upcoming segment on his Countdown show: "Countdown resumes in a moment. Our report from Ground Zero. Wishful thinking or outright deception? The EPA assured New York this toxic cloud was safe to breathe."

Olbermann introduced the segment, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "We continue now with Countdown, and our third focus tonight. Mysteries and deceptions. This week, for the first time since the early spring of 2002, these, the towers of light, the silent testimony to and remembrance of the World Trade Center and those who perished in it, have again stood tall and encouraging this evening, stark and heartbreaking over downtown Manhattan. And an unspeakable contrast they, to that which stood above a stricken city two years ago tonight, from the carnage of Ground Zero for fully three months came that smoke. We knew then that it represented shattered lives, toppled towers, security stripped mercilessly from a nation's very soul. But we were promised that the symbolism was far more damaging than the smoke itself. Today, as Countdown's Monica Novotny reports live from the World Trade Center site, we know that that promise was at best well-intentioned false reassurance, at worst indefensible deception. Monica, good evening."

Novotny played past audio clips of Olbermann in October 2001 interviewing John Graham, a man who at the time was complaining about the air quality. Olbermann set up the old radio interview: "But the nightmare didn't end with all that Graham lost. It surrounded him daily. An invisible enemy within the very air he breathed, air the government said was safe..."

After a soundbite of Graham claiming that "I never felt that, that the truth was being told. Where did all the asbestos go to? It had to go into the air," Novotny insisted: "It turns out Graham's suspicions and the results from that independent lab were well-founded. A recent report from the EPA's Inspector General charges the White House with changing EPA press releases, reassuring people the air was safe to breathe in the early days after the attack. The head of the White House environmental policy group that changed those releases says, quote, 'We used the best information available to us at the time.'"
Dr. Jacqueline Moline, Mount Sinai Medical Center: "When they made the more overreaching statements that the air quality was safe, they weren't measuring for everything. We relied on this information to be able to guide people. It's appalling."
Novotny: "Do you hold the government responsible for the health issues that you have now?"
Graham: "The government didn't make me come here. I'm just disappointed. I really feel that people that we pay to look out for our best interests really dropped the ball."
Novotny: "Today Mr. Graham is part of a study monitoring the health of more than 7500 workers and volunteers from the site. Data on the first 1100 reveals 48 percent still have respiratory problems."
Graham: "My lungs are supposed to be a 12 or a 13 in size when I breathe. And right now, when you do a chart, mine are at a 6. I have to breathe twice to your once."
Novotny: "Even his little girls know dad is different."
Daughter: "He had an attack, and he couldn't talk, and I was like, scared."
Graham: "We're just people with families who went down there to help out, and we asked our government to make sure that it was safe for us and they didn't. It's a horrible thing not to believe in your government."

Having based her case on one anecdote, Novotny then concluded: "A new study released this week from the University of California at Davis likens Ground Zero in those early months to a dangerous chemical factory. Researchers say they've identified four different types of pollutants that were in the air at the time. These are pollutants that the EPA defines as likely to cause harm to people. And the researchers say that they measured these pollutants at the highest levels they have ever seen anywhere. Now, for John Graham, this kind of news is vindication. It means that he was right. Of course, this is one of those situations where he wishes that he'd gotten it all wrong."

But the case isn't so clear-cut, as Steven Milloy, a Cato Institute adjunct scholar and author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams, explained in a September 10 op-ed for the New York Post. An excerpt:

Sen. Hillary Clinton says she'll block President Bush's nominee for chief of the Environmental Protection Agency because the EPA allegedly misled New Yorkers about health risks after the 9/11 attacks.

Overlooking the fact that the president's nominee, Mike Leavitt, was governor of Utah at the time and had no connection to the EPA's post-attack response, Clinton's criticism of the EPA's actions is groundless; she's using 9/11 as a smokescreen to attack the president's choice to head the EPA.

The EPA announced a week after the attacks that the air near Ground Zero was "safe" to breathe. Except for some rescue workers who were overexposed to fumes and dust from the wreckage, that assurance seems to have been correct.

While no one disputes that some overexposed and unprotected rescue workers in the immediate aftermath of the collapse experienced some health effects, there have been no credible reports that the ambient air quality near Ground Zero a week after the attacks, when the EPA made the statement, caused any significant, widespread or long-term harm to the public.

Moreover, an EPA risk evaluation completed a year after the attacks concluded that, after the first few days, ambient air levels were unlikely to cause short-term or long-term health effects to the general population.

But the EPA's inspector general reported in August that the agency "did not have sufficient data to make such a blanket statement" and that the agency gave New Yorkers misleading assurances about potential health risks from the air pollution generated by the World Trade Center collapse.

The IG says the White House Council on Environmental Quality "influenced the collaboration process, the information that EPA communicated to the public, through its early press releases when it convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones."

The report dismissed the EPA's year-after risk evaluation: The IG complains that the agency doesn't know how much air pollution people were exposed to, or the health status of the exposed population before the attacks.

But the IG's criticism is absurd because such data are impossible to obtain -- they're not even necessary, because there's no indication any health problems were caused by whatever exposures occurred....

END of Excerpt

For the column in its entirety, www.nypost.com

-- Brent Baker