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CyberAlert -- 01/23/2002 -- "Hue and Cry" Over Detainees

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"Hue and Cry" Over Detainees; U.S. the Real Threat to Human Rights; Chelsea for President!; Director Robert Altman: U.S. Flag "A Joke" -- Extra Edition

1) "There's been an international hue and cry and it continues over the condition of Afghan war detainees being held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba," CNN's Wolf Blitzer declared as Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings raised how there are "questions" about their treatment. If only reporters had more access, two argued during the Pentagon briefing, there wouldn't be such misinformation.

2) Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was hit with questions which assumed that the U.S. is the real threat to human rights in the world. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski: "Is there a concern that the U.S. will somehow lose the high moral authority in this war on terrorism by the treatment of these detainees?" AP's Thelma LeBrecht prompted a lively retort from Rumsfeld when she worried it will soon to too hot for the prisoners. And a Reuters story bawled that Rumsfeld "did not mention the disease-carrying mosquitoes on the Caribbean island."

3) Now with a Republican in the White House, the homeless are again on the media radar. On Tuesday's Today, weather reader Al Roker broadcast from a homeless shelter.

4) ABC was so excited by Chelsea Clinton's new hairstyle that they brought aboard E! Online columnist Ted Casablanca to rave. He claimed: "We're living vicariously through Chelsea because as a country we don't want to let a very popular former President out of our hands." He gushed: "This is Camelot, almost....So much for Hillary for President -- how about Chelsea?"

5) Film director Robert Altman charged: "This present government in America I just find disgusting, the idea that George Bush could run a baseball team successfully -- he can't even speak! I just find him an embarrassment." Altman added in a Times of London interview: "When I see an American flag flying, it's a joke."


1

If only the media had "more information" and the military would "provide more open access to the media," CNN's Jamie McIntyre and NBC's Jim Miklaszewski contended at Tuesday's Pentagon briefing, there would be less outrage over detainee treatment at Guantanamo Bay.

But on Tuesday night the networks showed again how they were plenty willing to give credibility to the "international human cry" about conditions for the Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners, treating that view as just as legitimate as the U.S. contention that they are being treated properly.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer proclaimed Monday afternoon on his 5pm EST show, Wolf Blitzer Reports: "There's been an international hue and cry and it continues over the condition of Afghan war detainees being held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, went on the offensive today, denouncing the critics and strongly defending the U.S. handling of the Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters."

Tom Brokaw opened the January 22 NBC Nightly News: "On a night when the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh, is headed back to the U.S. to stand trial in a federal court, the Pentagon today was defending the treatment of other Taliban prisoners who have been incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. In the case of Lindh and the others, there are other questions tonight as well."

On ABC's World News Tonight, anchor Peter Jennings announced: "The news being made at the Pentagon today is about prisoners. First, the American, John Walker, who was found with the Taliban, is on his way back to the states. Walker will be tried in a civilian court. The Secretary of Defense was being pressed about prisoners today, the ones being held at Guantanamo Bay. There have been questions about their treatment and their future. ABC's John McWethy is at the Pentagon tonight. John?"

McWethy checked in, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Peter, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld argued today in a very feisty manner that the prisoners, the captives, are being treated humanely, and he simply rejected all the criticism. American soldiers, he said, are just showing a proper level of caution when handling dangerous prisoners."
Rumsfeld: "I've seen in headlines and articles, words like 'torture' and one thing and another, which is just utter nonsense. When people are moved, they are restrained. That is true in prisons across the globe. It is not anything new. Is it inhumane to do that? No. Would it be stupid to do anything else? Yes."
McWethy continued, making a technical argument about the Taliban being a government: "Rumsfeld said he had no idea how long the men would be held and did not know when, if ever, they would face actual charges in a court of law. Today Germany's foreign minister joined a chorus of critics urging the U.S. to classify the captives as prisoners of war, giving them full rights under the Geneva Convention. The U.S. refuses to do that, arguing these are fighters from a terrorist organization, not a country. But some of the prisoners did fight for the Taliban, which was the government of Afghanistan."
Prof. Sean Murphy, George Washington University Law School: "If that's the case, then I think we've gone down a road that's inappropriate and illegal and may come back to bite us in future conflicts where our own military forces are at stake."
McWethy concluded: "Rumsfeld said he is now focusing on two things. That is, getting intelligence from the prisoners and keeping them in custody for as long as possible because he says that will prevent them from going back out and killing more people."

You'd think that might justify slightly stricter treatment.

Rumsfeld was forced to spend much of his slightly over an hour-long briefing on Tuesday defending the conditions imposed on the prisoners, mainly British complaints which were fueled by Pentagon-released photos of prisoners kneeling with their eyes and mouths covered. Rumsfeld explained those measures were imposed just during transport.

CNN's McIntyre and NBC's Miklaszewski tried to convince Rumsfeld that media access would have alleviated concerns about mistreatment:

McIntyre: "Mr. Secretary, you said it was unfortunate that that photograph was released. I would just argue that it was unfortunate that it wasn't released with more information."
Rumsfeld: "Maybe. Yeah. That's fair."
McIntyre: "The lesson here ought not to be-"
Rumsfeld: "I mean, I'm not blaming anyone for releasing it, but-"
McIntyre: "-less information or withholding photographs, but simply releasing more information-"
Rumsfeld: "Fair enough."
McIntyre: "-so we can make better judgments."
Miklaszewski: "And Mr. Secretary, would it be more beneficial to provide more open access to the media to allow the media to see for itself how these prisoners are being treated, to convey that information? You've spent now nearly an hour trying to explain what's going on there, when over the past couple of weeks, if the media would've had more open access, the stories that you're telling today would have been, perhaps, better told over the past couple of weeks."
Rumsfeld: "You mean the facts that I'm presenting-"
Miklaszewski: "Exactly."
Rumsfeld: "-as opposed, I thought that's what you meant."
Miklaszewski: "The facts as they've been conveyed to you, because you, yourself, have not been there yourself."
Rumsfeld: "That's right."
Miklaszewski: "So, do you think it would be more beneficial if there were more open access-"
Rumsfeld: "Aren't there a lot of people down there?"
Miklaszewski: "Well, but they're not allowed any access or any access to the detention facilities themselves."

If they are, they'll probably just find more to complain about. Like the terrorists having to contend with too many mosquitos or having to endure life without air conditioning. See item #2 below for proof.

2

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was hit with a series of hostile questions at Tuesday's Pentagon briefing which assumed that U.S. soldiers guarding the prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay are the real threat to human rights in the world.

ABC's John McWethy lamented that a "future entity could say to the U.S., 'You didn't abide by the Geneva Convention on this. You didn't call them prisoners of war. Why should we?'" NBC's Jim Miklaszewski worried: "Is there a concern that the U.S. will somehow lose the high moral authority in this war on terrorism by the treatment of these detainees?"

CNN's Jamie McIntyre, noting how the Pentagon argues the detainees were illegal combatants, not soldiers entitled to POW rights, contended U.S. operatives inside Afghanistan were the same as Al Qaeda terrorists inside the U.S.: "Weren't there times when U.S. troops, Special Forces and others, wore native garb in Afghanistan and did not display insignias and uniforms?"

In the ultimate complaint, AP Broadcast service reporter Thelma LeBrecht seemed to worry about the lack of air conditioning: "As you know, in a few months it's going to be very, very hot down there and there is going to be more complaints about them being held in open conditions like that." Rumsfeld shot down that concern in a way only he could.

The wackiest media complaint, however, popped up in a Reuters dispatch caught by James Taranto's "Best of the Web" column (http://opinionjournal.com/best/). An unbylined story, headlined, "Rumsfeld: U.S. Not Mistreating Afghan Detainees," included this recitation of facts:
"Rumsfeld also noted the climate in Cuba was warmer than in Afghanistan and so holding the detainees in open-air cells with roofs was not mistreatment.
"'Guantanamo Bay's climate is different than Afghanistan. To be in a eight-(feet)-by-eight (2.5-meters-by-2.5- meters) cell in beautiful sunny Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is not inhumane treatment,' he said. He did not mention the disease-carrying mosquitoes on the Caribbean island."

For the entire Reuters story:
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20020122/ts/attack_military_detainees_dc_2.html

Below are some of the odder questions posed at the January 22 briefing, a listing made possible by the MRC's Rich Noyes who compared the transcript to the videotape in order to provide accurate quotes:

-- A reporter named "Charlie" demanded: "Mr. Secretary, you intimated that people who criticize the condition of these detainees are charging that military people, that individual members of the U.S. military, are mistreating these people. Aren't these charges that U.S. policy is unfair and inhumane, in that these people are being kept in eight-by-eight outdoor cells for an indeterminate time? Do you plan any -- any -- immediate changes to address these charges?"

-- John McWethy of ABC News: "Mr. Secretary, two points: Why not call them prisoners of war? And you're indicating that that's just some legal debate which is up there. Are you not concerned that this could come back and somehow haunt the United States in potential future treatment of American soldiers who are taken in whatever kind of conditions, so that [a] future entity could say to the U.S., 'You didn't abide by the Geneva Convention on this. You didn't call them prisoners of war. Why should we?'"

-- Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News: "Mr. Secretary, last week, Friday, the U.S. military took into custody six Algerians in Bosnia not directly related to the combat underway in Afghanistan. In previous renditions, usually the civilian law enforcement agencies -- FBI and the like -- have done these renditions. Under what authority did the U.S. military have to take those six individuals into custody and then transport them to Guantanamo after they were released by the Bosnian government for lack of evidence against them?"

Miklaszewski followed up: "If, in fact, as you say, these prisoners are being treated humanely, that's certainly not the perception in some quarters. Is there a concern that the U.S. will somehow lose the high moral authority in this war on terrorism by the treatment of these detainees and any subsequent rendition, such as the one with the Algerians?"

Rumsfeld hoped: "Well, I guess I think the truth ultimately wins out, and the truth of the matter is, they're being treated humanely. And people down there are fine young men and women and the commanders are talented and responsible people. And the work that's being done to create facilities that are appropriate is moving forward with dispatch. And I think that the American people will see that, and indeed, I think the people of the world will."

-- Jamie McIntyre of CNN: "Mr. Secretary, you've mentioned a couple of times -- matter of fact, it's been the first criteria you've mentioned in making the distinction between lawful and unlawful combatants -- wearing uniforms and insignia. Weren't there times when U.S. troops, Special Forces and others, wore native garb in Afghanistan and did not display insignias and uniforms?"

-- Thelma LeBrecht, of the AP Broadcast service, a voice you may have heard on the radio: "You mentioned earlier that Cuba has a beautiful climate. But as you know, in a few months it's going to be very, very hot down there and there is going to be more complaints about them being held in open conditions like that. And also, again going back to some of the criticism, the criticism being the open-ended nature, that they are going to be there for an undetermined period, how would you, again, respond to that?"
Rumsfeld retorted: "I don't know how many times I've been to Guantanamo Bay, but it's a lot, and it frequently was in the summer when I was Navy pilot, and that was back in the days before air conditioning. And it's just amazing, but people do fine. [scattered laughter.] I mean, there are a lot of people in Cuba with no air conditioning. [more light laughter.] I know that will come as a surprise. But I was in Washington before there was air conditioning, and the windows used to open! It's amazing."

Rumsfeld added: "The worry for me is not that. I've been, also been in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in a hurricane and that is not a nice thing. But that's hard on anybody no matter where you're living, what you're in -- a cinder-block house or whatever. So that is a bigger worry for me, quite honestly, than the temperature."

Later, a reporter named Pam told Rumsfeld: "I grew up in South Florida, and my mom never turned on the air conditioning, and I'm here to tell you it was torture."
Rumsfeld joked: "Would you please refrain from using that word? [laughter.] Look at you. You've survived admirably."

For a photo of LeBrecht, go to this page and scroll down:
http://www.apbroadcast.com/AP+Broadcast/About+Us/Miscellaneous/More+Profiles.htm

On his FNC show Tuesday night Brit Hume relayed how a poll of 400 registered voters by Andrews-McKenna Research discovered that when asked to name an "obstacle to continuing the war on terrorism," 27 percent listed "the terrorists," but a statistically identical 26 percent cited the "American media."

Before playing, at the conclusion of Special Report with Brit Hume, the LeBrecht/Rumsfeld exchange about her worry that Guantanamo Bay will be too "hot" for the terrorists, Hume reminded his audience of the public suspicion of the media, ruminating: "Wonder why? Watch this."

Great minds think alike. Before Hume had shown the LeBrecht question I had decided it would make an excellent RealPlayer clip for the MRC home page. So, by late this morning EST the MRC's Mez Djouadi should have it posted at: http://www.mediaresearch.org

3

Now with a Democrat out of, and a Republican in, the White House, the homeless are again on the media radar.

All this week NBC's Today is running a series called "Lend a Hand" in which weather reader Al Roker travels the country to plug local charities.

On Tuesday morning, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, Roker showed up at a homeless shelter in Los Angeles. He asked Tanya Tull, of a group called Beyond Shelter: "Well you talk about homelessness. Since, with the economy turning have you, have you seen a rise in homelessness here in South Central L.A?"
Tull confirmed: "We've seen a rise in homelessness in Los Angeles in every city of the country. And this in particularly, in Southern California the recession, kind of the economy in the fall even before 9/11 there is definitely an increase and we are going to see more of it. We have not seen the peak yet, I can tell you."

Not as long as the news media can hype it.

4

NBC's Today showed photos on Tuesday morning of the made-over Chelsea Clinton, with a new hairstyle she debuted at a Paris fashion show. But ABC's Good Morning America was so excited about it the show brought aboard E! Online columnist Ted Casablanca, who seriously maintained that though "what we're talking about is a haircut," another "dynamic" is "that we cannot let the Clinton legacy go. We're living vicariously through Chelsea because as a country we don't want to let a very popular former President out of our hands."

Casablanca enthused: "This is Camelot, almost. We're trying to create another legacy here to hold on with with the Clintons, and you know, so much for Hillary for President -- how about Chelsea? I mean, I'm hearing some of that, have you?"

I sure haven't.

Diane Sawyer set up the 8am half hour segment, which MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught: "It's Fashion Week in Paris, but at the Versace show, couture was the last thing on anyone's mind. They had a surprise guest: Chelsea Clinton, soon to be just 22. She took the crowd of fashionistas by storm with a new look and a kind of last laugh at adolescence."

Over a photo of Chelsea sporting a new un-frizzed, straight hairstyle, Sawyer admired: "At the star-studded Versace fashion show in Paris, a new face stole the show. Not Madonna, not Gwyneth, not the supermodels. The star of the night was former first daughter Chelsea Clinton." Sawyer was awestruck: "What a transformation. Gone the shy 12-year-old in her father's shadow; the gangly teen, behind mom at a presidential function; and the 18-year-old, trying to make her way privately at college."
In a soundbite, Lisa Kramer of People magazine opined: "We've all watched her grow up from that girl with braces to this incredibly poised young lady."
Sawyer agreed: "Yes, we watched as the Clintons vetted their beloved daughter in style for her 21st birthday and as they beamed with pride when she graduated Stanford with honors. And when she helped her mother win a seat in the Senate, she did it with elegance, grace and a sense of self that no family turmoil or scandal could ruffle."
Michael Beschloss, historian: "Had she not stood by that father or had she, let's say, given an interview saying how humiliated and hurt she had been by what had happened in that scandal, I think public opinion would have been much less on Bill Clinton's side."
Sawyer concluded her set up piece: "Chelsea's transformation is now complete. A sheltered first daughter emerging as a worldly young woman, confident enough to sit in a room with some of the world's most celebrated celebrities and all the eyes on her."

GMA viewers then saw Sawyer discuss Chelsea with Lesley Jane Seymour, Editor of Marie Claire magazine, who was in studio, and via satellite from Los Angeles, E! Online columnist Ted Casablanca. (What are the chances that's his real name?)

Sawyer soon asked Casablanca: "So Ted, I know over the years, you've watched a lot of people grow up in the public eye. What can you tell us about watching Chelsea Clinton make her way through childhood, adolescence, all the way to this new stage?"
Casablanca responded by seeing evidence that we all miss Chelsea's father: "Well, I think what's going on is we forever have the image of a gawky 12-year-old in the Oval Office playing around with her dad, much like Amy Carter, and it's stunning to see this transformation into this beautiful woman who's been remade. But basically what we're talking about is a haircut and I think another dynamic that we're living through is that we cannot let the Clinton legacy go. We're living vicariously through Chelsea because as a country we don't want to let a very popular former President out of our hands, and here's another chance with Chelsea."

That was even too much for Sawyer, though she didn't counter him, just demurred as she moved back to Seymour: "Well, the most talked about presidency, without question..."

Getting back to Casablanca, Sawyer wondered: "So Ted, this world of the fashionistas and celebrity, how quickly can you get lost in it?"
Casablanca showed he has a one-track mind, this time elevating the Clintons to liberal hero status and suggesting Chelsea for President, all because she got a new hairstyle: "Well, a bad haircut, you know, we're not going to be talking about it quite as much, but I think this is, you know, this is Camelot, almost. We're trying to create another legacy here to hold on with with the Clintons, and you know, so much for Hillary for President -- how about Chelsea? I mean, I'm hearing some of that, have you?"

Sawyer didn't take him up on his bizarre question. At that point she ended the interview by thanking both guests for appearing.

As for Casablanca's claim about hearing talk about Chelsea for President, it's just more evidence that Hollywood is every bit as wacky as you feared. Definitely a fantasy land.

Casablanca writes "The Awful Truth" column for E! Online:
http://www.eonline.com/Gossip/index.html

To see the photo of the new Chelsea, sitting next to actress Gwyneth Paltrow, go to:
http://www.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/News/01/22/fashion.celebs/index.html

5

Famed film director and producer Robert Altman, who directed the presently-playing movie Gosford Park, rebuked America's election choice: "This present government in America I just find disgusting, the idea that George Bush could run a baseball team successfully -- he can't even speak! I just find him an embarrassment."

In Times of London interview, which James Taranto's "Best of the Web" column (http://opinionjournal.com/best/) highlighted on Tuesday, Altman snarled: "When I see an American flag flying, it's a joke." As for moving to London permanently, the Kansas City-born Altman declared: "There's nothing in America that I would miss at all."

An excerpt from the interview with Altman by Stephen Dalton in the January 21 Times of London:

....Although Gosford Park takes a largely dispassionate stance on class, Altman has long been considered a left-of-centre voice since coming to prominence during the halcyon days of the American New Wave with such counter-culture classics as MASH. However, aside from tapping into generalised social themes, his films have rarely made concrete political statements.

"I am a political person," Altman says, "but I don't have to put a strong debate into a film. This present government in America I just find disgusting, the idea that George Bush could run a baseball team successfully -- he can't even speak! I just find him an embarrassment. I was over here when the election was on and I couldn't believe it -- and I'm 76 years old. Then when the Supreme Court came in and turned out to be a totally political animal, the last shred of any naivety that was left in me has gone. When I see an American flag flying, it's a joke."

An enraged Altman suddenly checks himself, aware that he is on sensitive ground in our post-September 11 world. But, controversially, he thinks that Hollywood may have inspired the World Trade Centre attacks. "We gave them the ideas -- it was a movie," he fumes. "We should be ashamed of ourselves."

Altman also disagrees with bombing Afghanistan, even though he flew B-24 bombers in the South Pacific during the Second World War. "I don't think there was a moral choice then," he argues. "But this thing we're involved in now -- these people don't even have a country, and maybe that's the problem."...

END of Excerpt

To read the entire interview, go to:
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,62-2002032543,00.html

For a photo of Altman, access the Internet Movie Database page on him:
http://us.imdb.com/Name?Altman,+Robert

The same page lists his credits as a director or producer. Amongst the better known: Gosford Park (2001), Dr. T & the Women (2000), The Player(1992), Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982), Popeye (1980), Nashville (1975), M*A*S*H (1970), Bonanza (1959) TV series and Maverick (1957) TV series.

Asked by Dalton in the Times of London interview about shooting another film in Britain, as he did Gosford Park, Altman replied: "If you asked would I live in London the rest of my life, yeah, I'd be very happy to stay here. There's nothing in America that I would miss at all."

Speaking for every American, except probably for Phil Donahue and Susan Sontag, we wouldn't miss him. -- Brent Baker


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