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Lauer Stirs Scandal Over How Water Boarding Saved Lives --12/12/2007


1. Lauer Stirs Scandal Over How Water Boarding Saved Lives
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who was part of the team which interrogated captured al Qaeda leader Abu Zubayda, appeared Tuesday on the CBS and NBC morning shows, but while CBS's Harry Smith was most interested in how water boarding led Zubayda to reveal future attack plans, on NBC's Today show Matt Lauer focused on fueling political scandal over the use of torture: He zeroed in on getting Kiriakou to confirm the authority to water board came from the White House and to contradict President Bush's insistence the U.S. does not use torture while Lauer contended the videos were destroyed to eliminate "incriminating evidence." Lauer wanted to know: "Where was the permission given, in your opinion? The highest levels of the CIA? Was the White House involved in that decision?" Lauer soon played 2006 video of President Bush telling Lauer the U.S. doesn't employ torture and then prodded Kiriakou to disagree with Bush. Wrapping up the segment, Lauer wondered: "Can you think of any reason why the CIA would have destroyed the tapes of those interrogations other than to destroy valuable and incriminating evidence in a possible torture investigation?" When Kiriakou suggested a more innocent explanation that "somebody just wasn't thinking and they went ahead and did it without thought," Lauer countered: "That's somewhat naive."

2. MSNBC's Shuster: Water Boarding Equivalent to Shooting Off Legs
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough and reporter David Shuster squared off in a heated battle on Tuesday over whether waterboarding constitutes torture. Scarborough appeared exasperated with his left-leaning guest and, at one point, derided him: "Are you an expert? When did you decide and when did the liberal media decide and when did all of us in Manhattan, Georgetown and West Hollywood decide that water boarding was torture?" Later in the segment, Shuster began wildly comparing water boarding to violent acts: "If you believe that America should torture, fine! Water board them! Drill them in the kneecaps. Shoot, shoot their legs off! Whatever you want to do." Scarborough responded by laughing and, in a nod to the 24 TV show, announced: "I'm not Jack Bauer."

3. AP Sycophantically Relays Bill's Praise for Hillary's Intellect
In his Tuesday "Best of the Web Today" posting/e-mail for OpinionJournal.com, James Taranto mocked an AP dispatch by Mike Glover in Ames, Iowa which sycophantically relayed Bill Clinton's praise for his wife's intellect and how she's "the most gifted person of our generation."

4. Boston Legal: Iraq Spending Could 'Convert Every Car to Ethanol'
Tuesday night on ABC's farcical drama, Boston Legal, the firm represented a client suing the National Guard for failing to protect his pizza shop from a flood because the soldiers were deployed in Iraq, providing a chance for lawyer "Alan Shore," played by James Spader, to launch into a courtroom rant about "what the $450 billion dollars we spent on Iraq could buy us." He offered a litany of left-wing talking points, from "free health care" to ending hunger to -- seriously -- converting every car to run on ethanol: "How about free health insurance for every uninsured family, $124 billion. Convert every single car to run on ethanol, $68 billion. Primary education for every child on the planet -- all of them -- $30 billion. Hey, end hunger in America, $7 billion....We have to talk about the cost of this war in terms of human lives." For this, Hollywood needs writers?


Lauer Stirs Scandal Over How Water Boarding
Saved Lives

Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who was part of the team which interrogated captured al Qaeda leader Abu Zubayda, appeared Tuesday on the CBS and NBC morning shows, but while CBS's Harry Smith was most interested in how water boarding led Zubayda to reveal future attack plans, on NBC's Today show Matt Lauer focused on fueling political scandal over the use of torture: He zeroed in on getting Kiriakou to confirm the authority to water board came from the White House and to contradict President Bush's insistence the U.S. does not use torture while Lauer contended the videos were destroyed to eliminate "incriminating evidence."

Lauer wanted to know: "Where was the permission given, in your opinion? The highest levels of the CIA? Was the White House involved in that decision?" Lauer soon played 2006 video of President Bush telling Lauer the U.S. doesn't employ torture and then prodded Kiriakou to disagree with Bush. Wrapping up the segment, Lauer wondered: "Can you think of any reason why the CIA would have destroyed the tapes of those interrogations other than to destroy valuable and incriminating evidence in a possible torture investigation?" When Kiriakou suggested a more innocent explanation that "somebody just wasn't thinking and they went ahead and did it without, without thought," Lauer countered: "That's somewhat naive."

In contrast, on CBS's The Early Show, Harry Smith asked: "This technique was used on Zabayda to what result?" Kiriakou answered: "The result was that he opened up and cooperated fully." Smith added: "Right, he literally cracked like an egg." Smith soon pushed Kiriakou to elaborate: "So he's water boarded, he cracks like an egg, the next morning he gets up, he says he has a vision, what kind of information did he impart then?" Kiriakou: "He gave us detailed information on planned al Qaeda attacks."

(In soundbites aired in a story from David Martin later on Tuesday's CBS Evening News, Kiriakou recalled that in 2002 "we were so worried that there was some major attack being prepared" and how "it was that information that he provided after the water boarding that allowed us to disrupt so many different terrorist operations...there was a truck loaded with explosives that we were able to intercept.")

[This item was posted late Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

In the September of 2006 Oval Office interview with Bush which Lauer highlighted with Kiriakou, Lauer had lectured the President about the type a facility used to hold Zubayda: "The head of Amnesty International says secret sites are against international law."

The September 12, 2006 MRC CyberAlert item, "Lauer Worries With Hillary, Then Pounds Bush on Interrogations," recounted (with video):

While NBC's Matt Lauer baited Senator Hillary Clinton on Monday's Today to admonish the administration and to say we're not safer, he attacked the President for, in fact, trying to make the nation safer. Lauer prompted Clinton: "Are you comfortable that the United States did not break the law in conducting that kind of interrogations in those secret sites?" Then later in the program, Lauer repeatedly pressed Bush over interrogation methods used on terrorists: "The head of Amnesty International says secret sites are against international law." Lauer worried: "Are you at all concerned that at some point, even if you get results, there is a blurring the lines of, between ourselves and the people we're trying to protect us against?"

The September 11 CyberAlert recounted: Friday's NBC Nightly News previewed an exchange between President Bush and Matt Lauer in the Oval Office, part of a longer session that will air on Monday's Today show, in which Lauer cited Amnesty International as the authority to undermine Bush's assertion that secret prisons to hold al-Qaeda operatives are legal. When Lauer indicted Bush, painting Bush as guilty of some kind of misdeed -- "You admitted that there were these CIA secret facilities" -- Bush scoffed: "So what? Why is that not within the law?" Lauer then retorted: "The head of Amnesty International says secret sites are against international law." Bush countered: "Most American people, if I said that we had who we think's the mastermind of the 9/11, they would say, 'Why don't you see if you can't get information out of him without torturing,' which is what we did."

For the September 12, 2006 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

For the September 11, 2006 CyberAlert: www.mrc.org

The MRC's Kyle Drennen corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the December 11 Early Show segment on CBS:

HARRY SMITH: The Director of the CIA testifies behind closed doors on Capitol Hill today about the controversial destruction of videotapes that recorded the interrogations of two terror suspects. John Kiriakou is a former CIA officer who led the raid which captured the Al Qaeda operative Abu Zabada. And he joins us this morning in New York. Good morning.
JOHN KIRIAKOU: Good morning.
SMITH: Let's talk about this a little bit, because we have done segments on water boarding before on this show, shown what it's about. Many, even former CIA officials, say that this is in fact torture. This technique was used on Zabayda to what result?
KIRIAKOU: The result was that he opened up and cooperated fully.
SMITH: Right, he literally cracked like an egg.
KIRIAKOU: It was quite dramatic.
SMITH: Yeah, how long in the process of the water boarding did it take before he divulged his information.
KIRIAKOU: He lasted about 30 or 35 seconds-
SMITH: 35 seconds.
KIRIAKOU: And then he said he couldn't take it anymore.
SMITH: Right.
KIRIAKOU: The next morning, he said Alla had come to his cell and told him to cooperate because it would make it easier on the other brothers who had been captured.
SMITH: Right, and how long had he been in the interrogation process before the water boarding took place?
KIRIAKOU: Well, he wasn't interrogated for about four weeks at first, because he was so severely wounded in the capture. But then it was about, I guess, four or five weeks before he was finally water boarded.
SMITH: Right, so he's water boarded, he cracks like an egg, the next morning he gets up, he says he has a vision, what kind of information did he impart then?
KIRIAKOU: He gave us detailed information on planned al Qaeda attacks. Once that information became a little bit dated, he began providing information on al Qaeda's leaders and different kinds of operations that they might be conceptualizing.
SMITH: Right, right. This controversy and discussion continues in this country about water boarding. Do you consider water boarding torture?
KIRIAKOU: I do consider it torture. This is something that I have struggled with for several years, because even though I do believe it's torture, I think that it was necessary at the time. Because the information was so -- was so important. And we were so worried about another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil, we had no other way of getting the information in a short period of time.
SMITH: Right, alright. Thank you very, very much John.

The MRC's Geoffrey Dickens provided this transcript of the December 11 Today show session on NBC:

MATT LAUER, TOP OF SHOW TEASE: Also members of Congress are gonna have some very tough questions for the head of the CIA this morning. Among them, why did the CIA destroy videotapes of the interrogation and water boarding of a top al Qaeda operative. This, as a former CIA agent, directly involved in the capture of that operative contradicts the White House and the Justice Department saying that, in fact, the United States used torture to get that al Qaeda operative to crack. We'll talk to that CIA agent in just a couple of minutes.

LAUER, SETTING UP A STORY: Now to the CIA under fire today. Did it try to cover up the harsh tactics used to get al Qaeda suspects to talk? NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell has more on that. Andrea, good morning to you. [On screen headline: "CIA Under Fire, Former Agent Defends Torture"]

LAUER, AFTER THE MITCHELL PIECE: The former CIA agent, you just saw in Andrea's piece, John Kiriakou led the team that captured al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah. Now he calls the water boarding that was used on Zubayda, torture. Mr. Kiriakou, good morning, nice to see you.
JOHN KIRIAKOU: Thanks for having me.
LAUER: Let's compare and contrast. When, when Zubayda was arrested in Pakistan and you were the first person to question him back in 2002 what was his level of cooperation? What information did he give you?

KIRIAKOU: He was in terrible physical condition when we first captured him. He had been shot in the operation to capture him and he was in a coma for, for much of the first several days. He finally came out of it and at first was just speaking nonsensically. He wanted a glass of red wine, for example. Then he asked me if I would smother him with a pillow. But once he really came out of it and began talking he expressed regret for the, for the attacks and things like that.
LAUER: Fast forward and Zubayda is sent to one of these secret locations somewhere. You will not disclose that and I understand why and he was questioned using these so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques."
KIRIAKOU: Correct.
LAUER: Were you actively involved in the decision to use those techniques?
KIRIAKOU: I was not.
LAUER: Where was the permission given, in your opinion? The highest levels of the CIA? Was the White House involved in that decision?
KIRIAKOU: Absolutely. This is, this isn't something that's done willy-nilly. It's not something that, that an agency officer just wakes up in the morning and decides he's going to carry out an enhanced technique on a prisoner. This was a policy decision that was made at the White House with concurrence from the National Security Council and Justice Department.
LAUER: Was it blanket permission for this particular prisoner? In other words, use it no matter what, or did there have to be permission before each interrogation?
KIRIAKOU: Before each interrogation but more than that before each technique was used. For example, if, if you want to water board someone, you have to come in with a cable with a, with a well laid out, well thought out reason for wanting to do something like this.
LAUER: Alright so water boarding the guy is laid on his back, a cloth over his face, water is poured on that cloth, it simulates the feeling of drowning. Fair description?
KIRIAKOU: It does.
LAUER: In your opinion torture or not torture?
KIRAKOU: I think, yes, torture. I'm, I'm not saying that it wasn't necessary at the time and I'll let the lawyers decide if it's legal or not. But at the time I think it was necessary to disrupt terrorist attacks.
LAUER: But it was torture, in your opinion?
KIRIAKOU: I believe it was.
LAUER: Let me play you something that President Bush said to me about a year-and-a-half ago on this very subject in the Oval Office.

[BEGIN CLIP FROM SEPTEMBER 2006 INTERVIEW]
GEORGE W. BUSH: Matt, I'm not gonna talk about techniques and I'm not gonna explain to the enemy what we're doing. All I'm telling you is that you've asked me whether or not we're doing things to protect the American people and I want the American people to know we are doing so. [edit jump] I told our people get information without torture and was assured by our Justice Department that we were not torturing.
[END CLIP]

LAUER: You disagree.
KIRIAKOU: I disagree. I know that there was a high level policy debate on whether or not this was torture and that the Department of Justice and the White House Counsel and the National Security Council decided that it was not, at the time.
LAUER: The, the criticism is this, John. That under no circumstances should we cross the line, in this country, and resort to torture. Yours is somewhat of a nuanced opinion on that.
KIRIAKOU: It is and it's something that, that a lot of us at the agency struggled with as these decisions were being made and implemented. We, we wanted to do anything we could to disrupt future terrorist attacks especially on American soil. But at the same time you have to sleep with yourself at night.
LAUER: And yet I understand that today you would not agree, you would not agree that it's proper. However, so if we were to get another top level al Qaeda operative and learned that an attack might be imminent you would say, today, we shouldn't use this?
KIRIAKOU: Well we, we've had six years since September 11th to develop sources of information inside al Qaeda. We've had six years to, to work our relationships with foreign governments and foreign intelligence services to help them work their sources in al Qaeda.
LAUER: But if you've got that guy in front of you has the valuable information on potential threat coming, an attack coming, you can't be half-pregnant.
KIRIAKOU: No you can't be but I think enough time has passed and we've, we've been able to make enough in-roads into some of these groups that we don't need enhanced techniques to really get that nugget of information.
LAUER: Finally do you see any reason, can you think of any reason why the CIA would have destroyed the tapes of those interrogations other than to destroy valuable and incriminating evidence in a possible torture investigation?
KIRIAKOU: I want to believe that, that somebody just wasn't thinking and they went ahead and did it without, without thought for-
LAUER: You've been 14 years in the CIA.
KIRIAKOU: I know, I know.
LAUER: That's somewhat naive.
KIRIAKOU: It is, it is and I want to think the best but I think it was just a terrible mistake, at the very least, for the historical record.
LAUER: And it destroyed evidence.
KIRIAKOU: I think it did.
LAUER: John Kiriakou, Mr. Kiriakou, thanks for your time this morning.
KIRIAKOU: Thanks for having me.

MSNBC's Shuster: Water Boarding Equivalent
to Shooting Off Legs

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough and reporter David Shuster squared off in a heated battle on Tuesday over whether waterboarding constitutes torture. Scarborough appeared exasperated with his left-leaning guest and, at one point, derided him: "Are you an expert? When did you decide and when did the liberal media decide and when did all of us in Manhattan, Georgetown and West Hollywood decide that water boarding was torture?"

Later in the segment, Shuster began wildly comparing water boarding to violent acts: "If you believe that America should torture, fine! Water board them! Drill them in the kneecaps. Shoot, shoot their legs off! Whatever you want to do." Scarborough responded by laughing and, in a nod to the 24 TV show, announced: "I'm not Jack Bauer."

[This item, by Scott Whitlock, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Shuster, a regular correspondent for Hardball and other MSNBC programs, repeatedly sparred with Scarborough over whether water boarding, which amounts to simulated drowning, is torture. Showing frustration with both Shuster and his "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski, Scarborough wondered: "David, what would you have us do? My God....I am at this point getting very frustrated because you two are in the distinct minority in America. What would you have our CIA agents, what would you have our interrogators do?"

Scarborough's guest also saw nefarious motives to the revelation that videotapes showing CIA interrogations of detainees have been destroyed. He heatedly asked: "Why did somebody feel it was necessary to destroy the tapes?...If it's in such a controlled environment, if it's so successful and if it's something we can all be proud of, let's show the tapes, let's show the American people, here's what we're doing."

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 6:40am EST on December 11:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Let's go to Des Moines, Iowa right now and David Shuster. He's an NBC political correspondent. How are you doing, David Shuster?
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Hi, David.
DAVID SHUSTER: Hi, good morning. You know, Joe, I didn't realize you were there when Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was being water boarded. You said, when we were water boarding him. You were there? That's news to me. You know, Joe, how do you know -- How do you know-
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on, David. David, I wasn't there but you know what? Thank God I was able to read Newsweek magazine in 2002 who described it, who talked about how the United States did water board him, and talked how about Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the mastermind of September 11 that killed over 3,000 Americans, started talking like a little pansy and started telling-
SHUSTER: And how did they know, Joe, that the information he was providing was accurate? How did they know, first of all, that it was the waterboarding that caused him to talk?
SCARBOROUGH: Because it -- Because -- Okay.
SHUSTER: Secondly, how do they know the information he was providing was accurate until they checked it out? It is just as likely that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad could have made up some information.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, you know, we, five years later, we know and the intelligence agencies tell us that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad provided us a treasure-trove of intelligence and gave us a lot of information that actually helped us make more arrests, helped to save more lives, and helped us -- again, it led to other trails. So, and-
SHUSTER: Right and they're not talking about all the people who provided false information and false leads and all the time we wasted chasing down ridiculous information because we were waterboarding people
SCARBOROUGH: David, what would you have us do? My God. I seriously -- I am at this point getting very frustrated because you two are in the distinct minority in America. What would you have our CIA agents, what would you have our interrogators do?
SHUSTER: I think there are plenty of techniques that are out there that are short of torture that are just as effective.
SCARBOROUGH: Are you an expert? When did you decide and when did the liberal media decide and when did all of us in Manhattan, Georgetown and West Hollywood decide that waterboarding was torture? Because, I have got to tell you, I wasn't at that meeting.
SHUSTER: Well, you know, Joe, I have actually seen a tape of water boarding. I have actually read about the guy from the Justice Department who went over and had himself water boarded to examine whether it is torture and said without a doubt water boarding is torture.
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, he didn't say that. No. David-
SHUSTER: He did. And, of course, he was forced out of the Justice Department.
SCARBOROUGH: If you are going to be on my show, David, you have got to provide accurate information. He did not say that water boarding was torture. When he did say was that he was afraid without the proper guidelines and without the proper techniques applied, the way the Bush administration was administering it, that it could possibly be torture.
BRZEZINSKI: But that's, that's the closest we have gotten to answer as to whether the administration has a stand on whether or not this is torture.
SHUSTER: So, in other words, if they're pouring one gallon of water down a guy's throat as opposed to three gallons of water, that's a distinction and therefore it's possible the Bush administration could misuse it. Come on, Joe! You know better than that.
SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, I do know a lot better than that because I've talked to interrogators that have interrogated some very bad people and what they tell me is that the biggest danger when we start talking about interrogation and harsh interrogation techniques, is that we have happened what happened at Abu Ghraib, where you have a bunch of people that don't have proper training and that haven't been in this business for 15, 20 years and that don't know how far you can push somebody before serious bodily harm or serious mental harm occurs with them. And, yes, you -- you -- the way you apply water boarding, the way that you apply sleep deprivation and the way that you, you apply sensory overload, all of it has to be in a very measured way or even the top interrogators will say then it does become torture.
SHUSTER: Well, then if it's so measured, why are we so afraid to release the tapes then? Why did somebody feel it was necessary to destroy the tapes? Obviously, they felt something was problematic with it. If it's in such a controlled environment, if it's so successful and if it's something we can all be proud of, let's show the tapes, let's show the American people, here's what we're doing.
SCARBOROUGH: But, David, you are making the suggestion that whatever the United States government does, whatever our army does, whatever interrogators do, that we have a responsibility to release it to the world. Listen, at the end of World War II, after the Germans were already ready to surrender, we firebombed Dresden. We killed tens of thousands of little children and mothers. We didn't have to do that. But we were sending a message to Germany. You brought us into war. We are going to incinerate your town. We are going to burn your little children up. We are going to burn babies up. We are going to burn mothers up. We are going to burn grandmothers up. We are going to burn grandfathers up. Whether it is immoral? Probably so. Did we do it because we were in the middle of an ugly war against Adolf Hitler? Yes. Were we trying to send a signal? Yes. Do I want to see videos -- Do I wish I had seen videos of these people being burned in the streets of Dresden at the end of World War II when we really didn't have to firebomb Dresden? No, I do not.
SCHUSTER: The point of this is that Americans are better than this, that Americans stand for something better than torturing their enemies. First of all, torture doesn't work. And secondly, American military-
SCARBOROUGH: You define water boarding as torture. I do not.
SHUSTER: All right. Well, then that's the difference. That's the difference. I think water boarding is torture. I think anybody who has taken a serious look at this, even Michael Mukasey probably had some doubts which is why he had such a difficult time answering this. But anybody who seriously looked at this understands water boarding is torture. If you believe that America should torture, fine! Water board them! Drill them in the kneecaps. Shoot, shoot their legs off! Whatever you want to do.
SCARBOROUGH [Laughing] You just, you just, you just redefined water boarding as torture and then just said and suggested that I wanted to shoot people in the kneecaps! I'm not Jack Bauer!
SHUSTER: Yeah, why not? Why stop at water boarding?
SCARBOROUGH: I'm not Jack Bauer. I'm not going to say, "Hey, you know what? I'm going to shoot your wife if you don't tell us where the nuclear weapon is." What I'm saying-
SHUSTER: But Joe, what you're saying is if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had that information and somebody shot him in the kneecaps and that would have caused him to provide that information, that would be just fine.
SCARBOROUGH: I didn't say that, David, what I said was that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was interrogated by the very best people of the United States government had and the CIA had and intelligence agencies had to interrogate Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. And they did it in a very measured way. And, you know, we keep talking about water boarding. If you talk to David Ignatius, if you talk to most people that really know how these interrogations go and everybody likes the Jack Bauer scenes and everybody likes to talk about waterboarding, the way they get the most information is from sleep deprivation.

AP Sycophantically Relays Bill's Praise
for Hillary's Intellect

In his Tuesday "Best of the Web Today" posting/e-mail for OpinionJournal.com, James Taranto mocked an AP dispatch by Mike Glover in Ames, Iowa which sycophantically relayed Bill Clinton's praise for his wife's intellect and how she's "the most gifted person of our generation."

Taranto's December 11 item:

Accountability Journalism Strikes Again!

From Ames, Iowa, the Associated Press brings us the latest in hard-hitting campaign coverage:

Campaigning for his wife, former President Clinton says that when they were starting out he was so struck by her intellect and ability he once suggested she should just dump him and jump into her own political career.

That didn't happen, of course, and on Monday he gave an Iowa crowd his version of why it didn't.

"I thought it would be wrong for me to rob her of the chance to be what I thought she should be," said [Mr.] Clinton. "She laughed and said, 'First I love you and, second, I'm not going to run for anything, I'm too hardheaded.'"...

"She has spent a lifetime as a change agent when she had the option to do other things," he said.

"I thought she was the most gifted person of our generation," said Clinton, who said he told her, "You know, you really should dump me and go back home to Chicago or go to New York and take one of those offers you've got and run for office."

END of Excerpt of AP story

As we noted in June, the Associated Press has adopted a new journalistic ethos called "accountability journalism," whose goal, according to an internal newsletter, is "to report whether government officials are doing the job for which they were elected and keeping the promises they make."

If the AP's coverage of Mrs. Clinton's campaign isn't an example of bravely speaking truth to power, we don't know what is.

END of Taranto's item

For the AP article in full: www.breitbart.com

For the December 11 "Best of the Web Today," go to: www.opinionjournal.com

Boston Legal: Iraq Spending Could 'Convert
Every Car to Ethanol'

Tuesday night on ABC's farcical drama, Boston Legal, the firm represented a client suing the National Guard for failing to protect his pizza shop from a flood because the soldiers were deployed in Iraq, providing a chance for lawyer "Alan Shore," played by James Spader, to launch into a courtroom rant about "what the $450 billion dollars we spent on Iraq could buy us." He offered a litany of left-wing talking points, from "free health care" to ending hunger to -- seriously -- converting every car to run on ethanol: "How about free health insurance for every uninsured family, $124 billion. Convert every single car to run on ethanol, $68 billion. Primary education for every child on the planet -- all of them -- $30 billion. Hey, end hunger in America, $7 billion....We have to talk about the cost of this war in terms of human lives."

For this, Hollywood needs writers?

[This item was posted Wednesday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

This is hardly the first time David Kelley, Executive Producer of the show, has used it to promote liberal causes and ridicule conservatives. An episode last season was packed full of political jabs at congressional Republicans and Vice President Cheney and in a show the season before that Shore railed against the bias on the Fox News Channel ("You need to change the channel. The awful things you speak of never happen on the 'fair and balanced' newscasts") and the war on terrorism: "When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out not to be true, I expected the American people to rise up....And, now it's been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens -- you and me. And I at least consoled myself that finally, FINALLY, the American people will have had enough. Evidently, we haven't." Shore soon compared the current climate to that of the McCarthy era.

Last season ended on a bit of an embarrassing note: Nearly eight weeks before six medical doctors were arrested for their involvement in the late June terrorist attempted car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow, ABC aired an episode which derided the idea a doctor could be a terrorist.

ABC's page for Boston Legal: abc.go.com

The bio of the "Shore" character: abc.go.com

IMDb's page on Kelley: www.imdb.com

The September 25 CyberAlert item, "ABC's Boston Legal Ridiculed Idea Doctor Could Be a Terrorist," recounted:

Nearly eight weeks before six medical doctors were arrested for their involvement in the late June terrorist attempted car bomb attacks in London and Glasgow, ABC's Boston Legal drama -- which has its 90-minute season premiere tonight (Tuesday) -- aired an episode which ridiculed the idea a doctor could be a terrorist. In the May 8 episode, titled "Guantanamo by the Bay," attorney "Alan Shore," played by James Spader, takes up the case of British citizen "Benyam Kallah" suing the government, oddly in state court, over Kallah's torture at the Guantanamo Bay facility after he was picked up in Afghanistan where he claims he was doing "humanitarian" work. On the witness stand, Kallah describes the torture and how a friend detained with him couldn't take the torture any longer and so committed suicide. Concluding the scene meant to show the silliness and incompetence of the military for detaining such obviously innocent men, Shore asked: "Was your friend a terrorist?" Kallah replied: "No, he was a doctor."

Pressed by the Massachusetts state court judge about jurisdictional questions, Shore launched into a political diatribe: "Okay. I realize the jurisdictional barriers are prohibitive but, your honor, we don't let the little things like the law stand in our way in this great country. The law, for example, recognizes the Geneva Convention but we say, 'the Hell with it.' The law has very strict regulations on domestic wiretapping and we say, 'the Hell with it.' The law says if you shoot somebody with a shotgun mistaking him for a quail you really should call the police."

For the rundown in full: www.mrc.org

The January 18 MRC CyberAlert posting, "ABC's 'Boston Legal' Takes Cheap Shots at GOP and Dick Cheney," began:

Tuesday's Boston Legal prime time drama on ABC was packed full of political jabs at congressional Republicans and Vice President Cheney. Buffoonish conservative lawyer "Denny Crane" (played by William Shatner) was placed on the "No Fly List" and when liberal lawyer "Alan Shore" (played by James Spader) asked if Crane had called for help, he responded: "Well, I can't get anybody. I called Tom DeLay, his number's disconnected. Foley has got his hands full, Frist said, "Don't take it personally." I called Clarence Thomas; his office said he was indisposed." Shore then asked, "Have you tried going right to the top?" Crane replied: "Cheney?" Shore also linked being "red, white and blue" with not reading newspapers and got in a slap at Cheney in a quip about avoiding "the rich friend who will take you to his quail ranch and let you shoot him."

For the entire posting: www.mrc.org

The March 21, 2006 MRC CyberAlert article, "ABC's Boston Legal Airs Anti-Bush Tirade that Raises McCarthy Era," reported (with video):

Another episode of ABC's prime time drama Boston Legal will air tonight (Tuesday). Last week's episode featured a plot line with over-the-top lawyer "Alan Shore," played by James Spader, delivering a five-minute-long closing argument, in defense of a woman who wouldn't pay income taxes, railing against the war on terrorism. Earlier, explaining to Shore her reasoning, the woman, "Melissa Hughes," cited how her grandfather, who fought in World War I, would be "embarrassed" by "what's happening today."

She listed "us torturing people, spying on our own people, squashing everybody's civil liberties. My grandfather would weep." To which Shore got in an obvious slap at FNC: "You need to change the channel. The awful things you speak of never happen on the 'fair and balanced' newscasts." In his closing, Shore cited a litany of misdeeds, including: "When the weapons of mass destruction thing turned out not to be true, I expected the American people to rise up....And, now it's been discovered the executive branch has been conducting massive, illegal, domestic surveillance on its own citizens -- you and me. And I at least consoled myself that finally, FINALLY, the American people will have had enough. Evidently, we haven't."

Shore soon compared the current climate to that of the McCarthy era, recalling what he read in a book by Adlai Stevenson: "Too often, sinister threats to the bill of rights, to freedom of the mind, 'are concealed under the patriotic cloak of anti-communism.' Today, it's the cloak of anti-terrorism."

For the complete CyberAlert article: www.mrc.org

Now back to the December 11 episode, the exchange between "Shore," an attorney at an imaginary Boston law firm full of quirky characters, and a judge irritated by Shore's ridiculous case against the National Guard, which somehow has made it into court:

ALAN SHORE: My point: We're not getting services at home. The people in New Orleans didn't after Katrina, my client didn't here. And by the way, I don't think I'm that much of a complainer given all there is to complain about: education, Social Security, inflation, unemployment, health care, homeland security, the war, the fact that Osama and Britney keep pumping out new videos, there's global warming. Nothing, nothing is going right, judge, and you simply cannot put a positive spin on it no matter how many times you say "General Petraeus."
JUDGE: Thirty seconds from a jail cell.
SHORE: This war has cost us $450 billion dollars and still counting. Add to that the Afghanistan invasion, it goes up to $650 billion. Add all the indirect costs, it goes up to two trillion.
JUDGE: Twenty seconds!
SHORE: Let's just consider what the $450 billion dollars we spent on Iraq could buy us. How about free health insurance for every uninsured family, $124 billion. Convert every single car to run on ethanol, $68 billion. Primary education for every child on the planet -- all of them -- $30 billion. Hey, end hunger in America, $7 billion.
JUDGE: You are not an accountant!
SHORE: No, I'm a town crier, judge. We have to talk about the cost of this war in terms of human lives. It's in the thousands. And by that I mean American soldiers since the Pentagon doesn't seem to count Iraqis, but that's a small point. The actual cost is much, much more.
JUDGE: Suing our government, suing a branch of our military in a time of war cannot help but add to it. No, your case against the National Guard is dismissed...

-- Brent Baker