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Nets Label Assisted-Suicide Critics But Don't Tag Far-Left Group --1/18/2006


1. Nets Label Assisted-Suicide Critics But Don't Tag Far-Left Group
The broadcast network evening newscasts on Tuesday night refrained from applying any ideological tag to the far-left group of lawyers, who represent terror suspects at Guantanamo and elsewhere, which filed a lawsuit against the NSA's program to eavesdrop on communications between terrorists abroad and people inside the U.S., but none hesitated to place a conservative label on those opposed to Oregon's assisted-suicide law (which the Supreme Court upheld). The network reporters avoided labeling the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which was founded by the radical-left William Kunstler, and whose President, Michael Ratner, declared last month: "Every American should be in political rebellion against the criminals now running this country." CBS's John Roberts reported how "the NSA spying program was branded a violation of the Constitution by two civil liberties groups." ABC anchor Bob Woodruff teased: "Two major civil rights groups sue to shut down the Bush administration's secret eavesdropping program." NBC's Brian Williams announced how "today, civil rights lawyers filed the first lawsuit to challenge the government's program of monitoring the overseas phone calls of some Americans."

2. Time Mag's Anti-Death Penalty Cover Boy Proven Guilty By DNA Test
Way back in 1992 Roger Keith Coleman of Virginia was Time magazine's cover boy against the death penalty. Time ran the following over a photo of Coleman in chains: "This Man Might Be Innocent, This Man Is Due To Die." Fast forward to 2006 and DNA tests proved Coleman was in fact rightfully convicted of raping and killing his 19-year-old sister-in-law, but while this week's Time, the January 23 edition, acknowledged the finding, the magazine didn't come close to matching the prominence of the 1992 cover story. The "Milestones" section of the magazine gave it a sentence: "DNA testing -- which last week confirmed the guilt of Roger Keith Coleman, executed in Virginia in 1992 for the murder of his sister-in-law -- did not exist at the time of his 1982 trial." After that 35-word update, Time went on to excerpt a portion of the original article.


Nets Label Assisted-Suicide Critics But
Don't Tag Far-Left Group

The broadcast network evening newscasts on Tuesday night refrained from applying any ideological tag to the far-left group of lawyers, who represent terror suspects at Guantanamo and elsewhere, which filed a lawsuit against the NSA's program to eavesdrop on communications between terrorists abroad and people inside the U.S., but none hesitated to place a conservative label on those opposed to Oregon's assisted-suicide law (which the Supreme Court upheld). The network reporters avoided labeling the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which was founded by the radical-left William Kunstler, and whose President, Michael Ratner, declared last month: "Every American should be in political rebellion against the criminals now running this country."

On CBS, Wyatt Andrews related how, in ruling against the assisted-suicide law, former Attorney General John Ashcroft "was answering to conservatives pushing the Bush administration to protect life." Andrews added: "This ruling also brought the first big case vote by the new chief justice, John Roberts, who sided with the conservative minority." But, without any labeling, John Roberts reported how "the NSA spying program was branded a violation of the Constitution by two civil liberties groups." ABC's Lisa Stark pointed out how "the court's two most conservative members, Scalia and Thomas, disagreed" with the majority ruling. Anchor Bob Woodruff, however, had teased the newscast: "Two major civil rights groups sue to shut down the Bush administration's secret eavesdropping program." Pierre Thomas made those suing seem innocuous, relaying how the "attorneys, along with authors, scholars and Muslim support groups, claim unauthorized government eavesdropping will limit their ability to do their jobs." Over on NBC, Pete Williams noted how "Christian conservatives today called the ruling dangerous," yet anchor Brian Williams announced how "today, civil rights lawyers filed the first lawsuit to challenge the government's program of monitoring the overseas phone calls of some Americans."

[This item is a slightly modified version of a Tuesday night posting on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To post your comments, go to: newsbusters.org ]

None of the stories ever tagged as liberal any supporter of the Oregon law (some conservatives support the law, but certainly many supporters are liberal), and all three broadcast network evening shows found the lawsuits, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union, worthy of a full story.

(Not all major print media outlets were as excited about the lawsuits, but both the New York Times and Washington Post also refused to apply any ideological labels. While Tuesday's New York Times naturally played up the follow-up to their original revelation, with a Tuesday story about "two leading civil rights groups," headlined "Two Groups Planning to Sue Over Federal Eavesdropping," the Washington Post didn't have a Tuesday preview article and on Wednesday held the lawsuit coverage to four paragraphs in a longer story on page A-6. "White House Disputes Gore on NSA Spying: 2 Groups File Suit to Close Program," read the headline. Reporter Peter Baker's lead: "The White House fired back at critics of President Bush in unusually tough terms yesterday as a pair of civil liberties organizations went to court in an effort to shut down the administration's domestic spying program as unconstitutional."
For the January 17 New York Times article: www.nytimes.com
For the January 18 Washington Post story: www.washingtonpost.com )

Earlier in the day Tuesday, television network correspondents also refrained from applying labels to the lawyers for terror suspects. On ABC's Good Morning America, Jessica Yellin previewed how "today two civil liberties organizations plan to file lawsuits challenging" legality of the eavesdropping. And on NBC's Today, news reader Ann Curry alerted viewers: "In the news today, civil rights lawyers are filing the first lawsuit aimed at shutting down the government's domestic wiretapping program."

A December 21 CCR press release quoted President Michael Ratner: "The Bush administration has moved us from a government responsible and accountable to the people to one that dictates to the people. Every American should be in political rebellion against the criminals now running this country." See: www.ccr-ny.org

CCR's home page features its "Guantanamo Action Center." The home page also provides an innocuous description of the group: "The Center for Constitutional Rights (originally 'Law Center for Constitutional Rights') was founded in November 1966 by attorneys Morton Stavis, Arthur Kinoy, Ben Smith and William Kunstler, whose legal work representing civil rights activists in Mississippi convinced them of the need for a privately funded legal center to undertake innovative, impact litigation on behalf of popular movements for social justice." CCR's home page: www.ccr-ny.org

A July 31, 2002 piece on FrontPageMagazine.com by John Perazzo, "CCR: Fifth Column Law Factory," offers an overview of the organization's agenda: www.frontpagemag.com

Transcripts of some of the January 17 coverage quoted above:

# NBC's Today. News reader Ann Curry:
"In the news today civil rights lawyers are filing the first lawsuit aimed at shutting down the government's domestic wiretapping program. The attorneys who represent several suspected enemy combatants believe their phone calls and emails may have been secretly monitored. On Monday former Vice President Al Gore speaking publicly about the surveillance program accused President Bush of breaking the law."

Earlier in the program, Pete Williams, the MRC's Geoff Dickens noted, had reported:
"Because the eavesdropping by the National Security Agency is secret it's virtually impossible for someone whose calls were monitored to find out and sue but some lawyers in New York say they believe there's a strong chance it happened to them. The lawyers represent suspected enemy combatants detained in Guantanamo Bay. Immigrants swept up after 9/11 and since deported and a Canadian man picked up by the U.S. and sent to Syria where he claims he was tortured. The lawyers say they talk often by phone and email with their overseas clients, many once suspected of having connections to al Qaeda so it's highly likely, they say their phone calls were secretly monitored."
Bill Goodman, Center for Constitutional Rights: "We believe that we fit the profile that's been identified by the, by the attorney general and President of the United States like a glove. We fit it perfectly."
Williams: "They claim the monitoring program was illegal and they're asking a federal judge to shut it down and disclose any records if it turns out they were recorded. In a speech Monday Vice President Al Gore was strongly critical of the monitoring program."


# CBS Evening News.

On assisted-suicide ruling:
Wyatt Andrews: "This legal controversy began with politics. As the new attorney general in 2001, Ashcroft was answering to conservatives pushing the Bush administration to protect life. Those supporters will now ask Congress to ban assisted suicide."
James Bopp, National Right to Life: "I mean, there's a lot of opposition to assisted suicide. I mean, there's something just wrong about having patients being killed by their own doctors."
Andrews: "This ruling also brought the first big case vote by the new chief justice, John Roberts, who sided with the conservative minority. Roberts joined a dissent filed by Justices Scalia and Thomas who argued that Ashcroft had it right. Wyatt Andrews at the Supreme Court."

On the lawsuits:
Anchor Bob Schieffer: "Opponents of President Bush's domestic eavesdropping program are going to court. They filed lawsuits today to try to stop the National Security Agency from listening without warrants to the phone calls of U.S. citizens suspected of ties to terrorists. Here's John Roberts."
John Roberts: "The NSA spying program was branded a violation of the Constitution by two civil liberties groups today who demanded the federal courts shut it down. The White House response? The program is vital, the lawsuits frivolous, without merit."
Scott McClellan: "If you're not talking to a known al-Qaeda member or a member of an affiliated organization, you don't have to worry about this."
Roberts: "The plaintiffs find plenty to worry about. They're not suspected terrorists. They're attorneys and journalists who believe the government may have targeted their contacts with clients and sources overseas. While they have no proof of that, they argue the NSA is so powerful it needs to be held in check. One of the plaintiffs, James Bamford, wrote the definitive book on the spy agency."
James Bamford, plaintiff: "They can virtually get into your mind. They can intercept your e-mails to your friends, your families and to your cell phone if you're driving your car, listen to your home phone, they can listen to all that communications and put this huge dossier of you together."
Roberts: "The White House insists the program is limited in scope and legal. Senate hearings next month may help determine that. Republican Senator Sam Brownback, who believes the President's in a very gray area, says new laws may be needed."
Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS): "I think that's a clear possibility, particularly given the era we're in of the vast communications, the different type of communications, the different type of war we're in."
Roberts: "Between the lawsuits and the pending congressional hearings, the White House is beefing up its defense. CBS News has learned that the Justice Department is aggressively working to expand the legal justifications for the NSA spying program and may make public those arguments later this week."


# ABC's World News Tonight.

On assisted-suicide:
Lisa Stark: "In its ruling, the court found former Attorney General Ashcroft had overstepped his authority. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that the attorney general had tried to make a 'radical shift' of power from the states to the federal government when it comes to local medical practices. The court's two most conservative members, Scalia and Thomas, disagreed, as did Chief Justice John Roberts in his first dissent. Justice Scalia wrote that the federal government's use of the law 'to prevent assisted suicide is unquestionably permissible.'"

On the lawsuits:
Bob Woodruff's tease: "Spy suits: Two major civil rights groups sue to shut down the Bush administration's secret eavesdropping program."

Elizabeth Vargas introduced the subsequent story: "Now, to the administration's legal battle over its secret domestic spying program. The ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed lawsuits today to stop the National Security Agency from spying on people without warrants. President Bush says the program has uncovered potential terrorists, but the lawsuits claim it's doing more harm than good. ABC's Pierre Thomas reports now from the Justice Department."
Pierre Thomas: "Attorneys for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay believe their telephone conversations and e-mails with clients have been illegally tapped by the secret NSA spy program."
Rachel Meeropol, Center for Constitutional Rights: "I'm really outraged at having to go back and think about the fact that conversations you had with your clients, that you thought were absolutely confidential, that were privileged, that those were probably, you know, are now the property of the U.S. government."

Thomas: "In today's lawsuits, those attorneys, along with authors, scholars and Muslim support groups, claim unauthorized government eavesdropping will limit their ability to do their jobs."
Arsalan Iftikhar, Council on American-Islamic Relations: "If you feel as though you're being wiretapped or placed under surveillance, it would obviously place a chilling effect on your First Amendment right to free speech."
Thomas: "Investigative journalist James Bamford is concerned his sources on international terrorism may now be unwilling to talk."
James Bamford, plaintiff: "They will be very inhibited from communicating with me from now on knowing that I may be subject to NSA eavesdropping. That greatly affects the way I write, the quality of my writing, the course of my employment and so forth."
Thomas: "But will these lawsuits hold up in court? Some legal scholars believe that potential victims will have to prove they were spied on, something the government is not likely to confirm."
Brad Berenson, former Associate White House Counsel: "It's really questionable whether the courts are going to allow a major lawsuit to go forward based on vague and speculative allegations like that."
Thomas: "Even those filing the lawsuits admit they have no hard evidence they were spied on and want the government to provide the proof."
Meeropol: "We want confirmation that we were wiretapped or else confirmation that we weren't."
Thomas: "Today, the Bush administration called these lawsuits baseless."
Scott McClellan: "I think that the frivolous lawsuits do nothing to help enhance civil liberties or protect the American people."
Thomas concluded from in front of the Justice Department: "Even if these lawsuits fail, expect critics of the NSA spy program to try other tactics to hold the government accountable."


The MRC's Tim Graham reminded me of how, when Kunstler died in 1995, the media described him as a "civil libertarian." A "Newsbite" from the September 1995 MediWatch, a newsletter published by the MRC until 1998:

Notices of radical attorney William Kunstler's death portrayed him as a civil libertarian. On the September 5 Today, NBC anchor Matt Lauer announced: "Controversial attorney William Kunstler is being remembered today as a champion of the underdog and a defender of the Constitution." Reporter Pete Williams added: "He once explained his choice of unpopular clients by saying he wanted to keep the government from becoming too powerful." On the same day, Peter Jennings noted in his ABC Radio commentary that Kunstler "was respected for his belief in justice and his commitment to the rights of the defendant...Kunstler always represented the underdog, pitting the individual against the government, he said, keeping the state from becoming all-powerful." Jennings noted "what makes his life an important one" is "his belief in justice, because of his commitment to the constitutional right to a defense."

These tributes did not consider Kunstler's contempt for limited government and the legal system. In 1970, the newspaper Human Events noted Kunstler told students: "You must learn to fight in the streets, learn to revolt, learn to shoot guns...You may ultimately have to take that final step. You may ultimately be bathed in blood." In 1971, he declared: "We have to bring an end to the economic system in this country," adding about the legal system that "any criminal trial in this country is an oppression." In 1976, Kunstler said "Although I couldn't pull the trigger myself, I don't disagree with murder sometimes, especially political assassinations." In 1979, Kunstler told the Village Voice Joan Baez should not have criticized the communist government of Vietnam since he "would never join in a public denunciation of a socialist country."

END of Excerpt from MediaWatch

Time Mag's Anti-Death Penalty Cover Boy
Proven Guilty By DNA Test

Way back in 1992 Roger Keith Coleman of Virginia was Time magazine's cover boy against the death penalty. Time ran the following over a photo of Coleman in chains: "This Man Might Be Innocent, This Man Is Due To Die." Fast forward to 2006 and DNA tests proved Coleman was in fact rightfully convicted of raping and killing his 19-year-old sister-in-law, but while this week's Time, the January 23 edition, acknowledged the finding, the magazine didn't come close to matching the prominence of the 1992 cover story. The "Milestones" section of the magazine gave it a sentence: "DNA testing -- which last week confirmed the guilt of Roger Keith Coleman, executed in Virginia in 1992 for the murder of his sister-in-law -- did not exist at the time of his 1982 trial." After that 35-word update, Time went on to excerpt a portion of the original article.

As Friday's Washington Post reported, the DNA test results have hit anti-death penalty advocates hard: "The results stunned and disappointed those who have fought a 25-year crusade to prove that Roger K. Coleman was innocent. They also dashed hopes among death penalty foes that the case would catalyze opposition to capital punishment across the country." See: www.washingtonpost.com

[This item is adopted from two NewsBusters blog postings by the MRC's Geoff Dickens. To see the 1992 Time cover, check either posting: newsbusters.org Or: newsbusters.org ]

In the May 18th, 1992 edition of Time, reporter Jill Smolowe wrote breathlessly about how the legal system was failing this supposed innocent man. Inside the pages of Time the headline read: "Must This Man Die? Roger Keith Coleman says he didn't kill anybody, but the courts are tired of listening. That could be a tragic mistake." Right after Smolowe's byline, Time stressed the solemnity of the story with this old quote: "'Our procedure has been always haunted by the ghost of the innocent man convicted. It is an unreal dream.' -- Judge Learned Hand, 1923."

Smolowe's article was full of such hand-wringing statements, such as: "If in essence, Coleman's supporters have sought to stage a new trial through the press, the tactic is understandable: the courts have so far failed miserably. It is quite possible he will die, the victim of a justice system so bent on streamlining procedures and clearing dockets that the question of whether or not he actually murdered Wanda McCoy has become a subsidiary consideration." Smolowe added: "It was never supposed to work this way. Back in 1976 when the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty, it signaled in a series of decisions that utmost vigilance must be applied in capital cases....But under Chief Justice William Rehnquists's leadership, the Supreme Court seems more concerned with finality than fairness."

The rest of the article presented the defense's case offering various alibis. Smolowe even went as far to play the poverty sympathy card: "An experienced defense team might have poked holes through the prosecution's case. But Coleman was a poor coal miner, with no spare cash to hire an attorney."

For the 1992 article, a shot of Time's cover: www.time.com

-- Brent Baker