CyberAlert -- 05/03/1999 -- Networks Ignored How Clinton Warned; Time's White: Ban All Guns

Networks Ignored How Clinton Warned; Time's White: Ban All Guns

1) Tim Russert asked Jesse Jackson if in light of his success in freeing the POWs he would "reconsider" and run for President.

2) The CBS, CNN and NBC evening shows all ignored another New York Times bombshell, this time about how the Clinton team was warned about espionage last November but waited months to take action. ABC's World News Tonight gave the revelation 40 seconds.

3) On Meet the Press Tim Russert showed how the Times story contradicts Clinton. On This Week, George Will pressed Eric Holder about why his office refused the FBI's request to wiretap Lee.

4) Chris Cox told the LA Times that the espionage "continues to this very day" and the paper speculated about the motivation of the Chinese citizen who revealed the spying.

5) Media Bias Quiz. Since Chinese espionage at Los Alamos was disclosed on March 6, how many interviews on this subject have aired on the three morning shows: 22, 13, 34, 9 or 1?

6) Newsweek's Evan Thomas: "I don't think that gun control is going to have much impact. But I think we ought to do it anyway." Time's Jack White: "Why not just ban the ownership of handguns when nobody needs one?"

>>> May 3 Notable Quotables now online. Topic headings include "Protect Parents & Kids from Republicans and Guns," "Quayle's Wrong. It Should Be An Excuse for Gun Control," "Rosie's Representative Public Pulse: Total Ban on Guns," "Starr's Murderous Team," "Ken Starr Not Like a Virgin," "Koppel's Assessment: Hillary Would Make a 'Great' Senator," and "Liberal Columnist: Those Who Pray Are 'Fatheads.'" To read the issue: <<<


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes) Leading Question of the Weekend. Tim Russert via phone to Jesse Jackson on Sunday's Meet the Press: "Finally Reverend Jackson, in light of this diplomatic success will you now reconsider your decision not to run for President in the year 2000?"

Jackson, less enamored of the idea than some leading media figures, replied no.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes) For the second time in five days the front page of The New York Times on Sunday delivered a bombshell on Chinese espionage that provided a further illustration of administration bungling and offered evidence contradicting Bill Clinton's claim that he did not know about any spying during his term. While the story generated some questions on three Sunday interview shows (see item #3 below for details), Sunday night all but ABC ignored it, and ABC's anchor-read item failed to inform viewers about how the revelation contradicted Clinton's position.

On the May 2 World News Tonight, ABC anchor Carole Simpson read this 40-second item:
"Another tremor in the nuclear spy scandal today. The New York Times reports that top officials in the Clinton administration were warned in a secret report last November that China might be trying to spy on America's nuclear weapons labs, but took no action for six months. There were calls today for someone to be fired -- even some Democrats."
Chris Dodd outside WRC-TV/NBC News Washington bureau: "My view is people ought to be fired who are responsible in some way. I don't know who that is yet but it seems to me over the next several days or weeks we ought to find out who is and heads ought to roll."
Simpson: "Senator Chris Dodd. An administration official responded today saying the FBI is investigating."

ABC could only manage 40 seconds for espionage, though 40 seconds more than the other networks, but viewers were treated to over two minutes on the retirement announcement by football player John Elway and two minutes plus about "controversial" ads by online brokerage firms that worry regulators because they suggest people could make money by investing in the stock market. (Viewers heard Marc Beauchamp of the North American Securities Administration Association warn: "The main message of these ads is trade, trade, trade, you'll make money, you may even get rich. That's the wrong message for the vast majority of Americans who ought to be saving patiently for the long term." Or shelling out $200 to a traditional broker instead of $15 or $20 to make an online trade.)

Not a word on the New York Times story on the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, which allocated 2:40 to how the health community is "raising America's consciousness about skin cancer," or CNN's The World Today at its new 10pm ET time. It should be noted, however, that while the broadcast networks ignored China Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, on Friday's The World Today CNN's Candy Crowley looked at how Senators in both parties are upset about the latest revelations and lack of FBI aggressiveness. I've not had access to FNC for several days so do not know what they've done.

(The April 28 New York Times revealed how suspected spy Wen Ho Lee had transferred critical nuclear design files to an unsecured computer accessible to any outsider. As noted in the April 30 CyberAlert, that generated at least some coverage by every network, but not a syllable on the NBC Nightly News.)

Here's an excerpt of the May 2 New York Times exclusive by the duo of choice for those leaking info in this story, Jeff Gerth and James Risen of the paper's Washington bureau:

A secret report to top Clinton administration officials last November warned that China posed an "acute intelligence threat" to the government's nuclear weapons laboratories and that computer systems at the labs were being constantly penetrated by outsiders.

Yet investigators waited until March to search the computer of a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who had been under investigation for nearly three years, suspected of spying for China. And it was not until April that the Energy Department shut down its classified computer systems to impose tighter security over their data.

Meanwhile, in February, the scientist, Wen Ho Lee, tried to delete evidence that he had improperly transferred more than 1,000 files containing nuclear secrets, officials said.

The classified report contains numerous warnings and specific examples showing that outsiders had gained access to the computer systems at United States weapons labs as recently as June 1998.

Lawmakers from both parties have raised questions about why the Clinton Administration failed to address security breaches at the laboratories sooner, and the report, which has been shared with Congress, is certain to fuel the debate.

The report, the first comprehensive review of its kind, was prepared by United States counterintelligence officials throughout the government. It confirmed and elaborated on longstanding concerns about the vulnerability of the weapons laboratories to espionage.

The report was distributed to the highest levels of the government, including Bill Richardson, the Secretary of Energy; William S. Cohen, the Secretary of Defense; Janet Reno, the Attorney General; President Clinton's national security adviser, Samuel R. Berger, and three dozen other senior officials at law enforcement, defense and intelligence agencies. A government official gave a copy of the report to The New York Times.

According to the report, the Energy Department recorded 324 attacks on its unclassified computer systems from outside the United States between October 1997 and June 1998, including instances when outsiders successfully gained "complete access and total control to create, view modify or execute any and all information stored on the system."....

The 25-page counterintelligence report contains many examples of lax security and serious intelligence breaches at the labs that have not been previously disclosed, involving more than a dozen foreign countries....

The secret November report, some officials believe, is the latest sign that the Clinton Administration and investigators moved too slowly and repeatedly missed opportunities to address the problems.

President Clinton has said his administration acted quickly once it learned of security problems at the nation's nuclear weapons laboratories. White House officials cite the President's February 1998 directive to beef up security. That directive called for an assessment of the security threat against nuclear weapons and technology secrets at the Energy Department which was completed last November.

But in recent days, with new disclosures about the extent of Lee's improper transfers of secret weapons data, the Clinton administration is facing intensified questions about how his actions, which jeopardized secrets to virtually the entire United States nuclear arsenal, could have gone undetected for so long....

In 1997, the Justice Department declined an F.B.I. request to ask a court for authority to monitor Lee's phone and to gain access to Lee's office computer. Justice Department officials argued there was insufficient evidence to convince a judge to approve the surveillance....

END NY Times excerpt.

Oddly, the New York Times never identified the agency which prepared the much cited "report."
To read the entire Times story, go to:
You'll have to be a registered user of the online edition of the New York Times to access this page.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes) Guests on Meet the Press and Fox News Sunday were asked about the New York Times story and how it contradicts Clinton's denial of knowledge about spying during his tenure. Plus, George Will on ABC's This Week gave the first broadcast network air time to the issue of how the Justice Department turned down a wiretap request from the FBI for Wen Ho Lee.

-- Meet the Press. NBC News VP Tim Russert once again raised Chinese espionage on his show, though as item #2 above documented, that has no impact on the rest of NBC News. Neither Today in the morning or Nightly News in the evening on Sunday broached the subject.
After talking about the war with Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen, on the May 2 Meet the Press Russert put on screen this from Clinton at his March 19 press conference: "Can I tell you that 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."
Russert, referring to the report disclosed by the New York Times, demanded of Cohen: "This is a 1998 report. You got a copy, the President got a copy, identifying very clearly that there had been espionage at the nuclear labs. Did the President mislead the American people?"
Cohen lamely claimed he doesn't know what Clinton was told.

Later, Russert asserted to Democratic Senator Chris Dodd: "Senator Dodd, you saw when the President was asked about this in March, his answer was basically 'not on my watch.' The fact is it did occur in part on his watch."

-- Fox News Sunday was the only show of the day to devote a whole segment to China, interviewing Senator Richard Shelby of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The usually liberal Juan Williams raised the possible overlap of two scandals with him, asking: "Is this in any way tied to the fundraising investigations years ago into the Clinton administration?"
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Orrin Hatch were subsequently pressed for their reaction to the New York Times exclusive.

-- ABC's This Week. At the very end of an interview with Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder devoted to gun control, George Will slipped in this last inquiry:
"Quick question about the alleged spying of Wen Ho Lee. It is reported that in 1997 the FBI sought your office's help in getting a court's permission to monitor Mr. Lee's telephone and computer. It's rare that such FBI requests are turned down in national security cases, but your office did refuse. Why?"
Holder maintained that "our office is generally not in the loop," that it was only an informal request and that "it's not even clear that I was the Deputy Attorney General at the time."

This is the first network mention I can recall for a bit of information revealed in a March 30 Investor's Business Daily editorial cited in the March 31 CyberAlert. IBD revealed:
"As part of the probe, the bureau [FBI] requested a wiretap on Lee. Justice denied it, arguing it did not have sufficient grounds to take to a federal court to get the tap approved. But a look at the Justice Department's record on wiretaps calls that argument into serious question. From 1993 to 1997, federal officials requested 2,686 wiretaps. For all its concern for probable cause and legal standards, the Justice Department turned down one request in those four years -- Lee's in 1996."

I can't explain the Will versus IBD discrepancy about whether the request came in 1996 or 1997, but I'm pretty sure they are both referring to the same thing.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) "Spying by China Ongoing in U.S., Panel Chief Says," read the headline over an April 28 Los Angeles Times exclusive quoting Chris Cox which failed to generate any network attention. Reporter Bob Drogin wrote:

A high-profile congressional committee investigation into Chinese spying in the United States concludes not only that China stole "the crown jewels of our nuclear arsenal" over the last two decades but that the espionage "continues to this very day," according to the panel's Republican Chairman.

Rep. Christopher Cox of Newport Beach said an unclassified version of the House committee report, due to be released early next month, will document "literally scores" of cases where China illicitly acquired sensitive U.S. military and commercial know-how, from supercomputers and satellites to design details for America's most modern nuclear warheads.

"These are not isolated incidents," he said in a telephone interview that provided new details of the committee's still-secret probe. "This is a very deliberate pattern of action." Cox said that the pilfering of secrets from America's nuclear weapons laboratories, which was publicly confirmed last week for the first time in an assessment by the U.S. Intelligence Community, was broader than previously revealed and relied on a network of Chinese agents and other visitors....

The Cox committee's classified report was unanimously approved by its five Republican and four Democratic members in late December after a six-month probe, and Cox and Dicks briefed President Clinton last Thursday for the first time.

Declassification of the report has been delayed for more than a month as committee staffers and officials from the CIA, FBI, Energy Department, Justice Department, White House and other agencies have reviewed every sentence for potential security problems. But the committee spokesman, Brent Bahler, said the final report would be almost as voluminous as the original, with about 700 pages, 12 chapters and 38 recommendations....

Another riddle is the motivation of the Chinese double-agent who first confirmed that China had obtained details of America's most modern nuclear warhead. The agent walked into a U.S. government office in Asia in 1995 carrying what a U.S. intelligence official called "a big stack, I mean pounds and pounds" of documents, all in Chinese, on Beijing's military, missiles and nuclear weapons programs.

Analysts soon determined that nearly all the material was old, already known or irrelevant. And after several meetings with "The Walk In," as he was dubbed, the CIA determined in 1996 that he had been under control of China's chief spy agency, the MSS.

That only made the case more perplexing. Buried in the mound of paper was a single report, dated 1988, containing design secrets from several U.S. nuclear weapons. "We still don't know his motivation," the official said. "Was it a screw-up that he gave us that one document? Did they know what he had? Was it disinformation to distract us from something else, to translate tons of useless documents, or even to send us a signal? We don't know."

END LA Times excerpt.


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) Media Bias Quiz. Since the original Saturday, March 6 New York Times story disclosed the Chinese espionage at Los Alamos, how many interviews on this subject have aired on ABC's Good Morning America, CBS's This Morning and NBC's Today in total through Friday, April 30?

a) 22
b) 13
c) 34
d) 9
e) 1

If you picked A or C then you are a naive believer that the networks care about espionage. If you chose E, then you get a star as a true media bias expert who attentively reads each CyberAlert.

That's correct, consulting the MRC's News Tracking System, I learned that in the 135 broadcast network mornings shows aired from Sunday, March 7 through Friday, April 30, a single interview segment on the March 9 Today represents the totality of network morning show interview segments. Not one interview segment yet on ABC or CBS. (135 derived from 55 airings of Today across seven days a week, plus 40 each of GMA and This Morning Monday-Friday.)

On that March 9 show Katie Couric talked with Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and suggested the know-how China gained really isn't a big deal since they would have figured it out soon enough anyway:
"The allegation is, Mr. Secretary, is that China worked with this stolen data to make a major leap in developing nuclear warheads with much smaller warheads but isn't there a possibility that China could have done this on its own? After all you've got the U.S., the British, the French and the Russians all able to make these warheads without spying."

Not only have the morning shows not aired interviews, they have even refused to raise the subject when top Clinton foreign policy appointees have come aboard to talk about the war or when Janet Reno appeared post-Littleton.

For an overview of all the major newspaper disclosures disregarded by the networks, check out the MRC's Special Report released last week: "All The News That's Fit to Skip: Network Apathy Toward Chinese Contributions and Espionage." Go to:


white0503.jpg (13008 bytes)cyberno6.gif (1129 bytes) Forget gun control, let's just ban all guns and confiscate them, suggested Time magazine's Jack E. White who quickly earned support on Inside Washington from NPR's Nina Totenberg.

Inside Washington, the weekend PBS roundtable show produced at and aired on Washington's CBS affiliate, started off its look this past weekend at the Columbine tragedy with this irrational reasoning from Newsweek's Evan Thomas: "Since there are 200 million guns already out there, I don't think that gun control is going to have much impact. But I think we ought to do it anyway just to make a statement as a society and even if you save a couple of lives then it's worth it."

It won't do any good but we should do it anyway.

Time magazine national correspondent Jack E. White then made Thomas seem reasonable:
"Whatever is being proposed is way too namby-pamby. I mean for example we're talking about limiting people to one gun purchase, or handgun purchase a month. Why not just ban the ownership of handguns when nobody needs one? Why not just ban semi-automatic rifles? Nobody needs one."

Nobody "needs" a lot of publications, so does that mean White would urge they be banned if they are pornographic or violent? Somehow I bet he believes in a very liberal interpretation of the First Amendment.

Host Gordon Peterson then observed: "First of all, we're Americans and when something awful happens we want to pass a law. That's what Americans do. But to speak to what Jack has to say, politically it's impossible isn't it?"
Nina Totenberg of NPR and ABC News actually tried to get the others to realize "there is this thing called the Second Amendment, which is the right to bear arms." She suggested that while the consensus among scholars is that you can regulate guns, she was not sure you could ban them.
White piped in: "You could ban, for example, sawed off shotguns."
Totenberg helpfully agreed: "You could ban semi-automatics."
White yearned: "You could write legislation in such a way that certain kinds of weapons which are most often used in crimes are banned and can be confiscated and ownership of them should be a prima facie case that that's a criminal act. The guns ought to be confiscated and the person ought to do some time."
Totenberg: "You expect me to argue with you about this?"
White: "Nope."
Totenberg: "Okay."

Columnist Charles Krauthammer disagreed, but amongst the three members of the mainstream media -- Thomas, White and Totenberg -- there was uniform agreement that guns must go. Not much "diversity" in this set of journalists.

+++ Watch the gun banning media mantra. Monday morning the MRC's Sean Henry and Kristina Sewell will post a RealPlayer clip of this exchange. Go to: -- Brent Baker


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