Right-wing media are criticizing the Obama administration for bringing Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged leader of the Benghazi attacks, to trial in a U.S. criminal court. But federal civilian courts have proven significantly more successful at convicting terrorists than military commissions, give terrorists tougher sentences, deprive terror suspects of the "honor" of being considered enemy combatants, and do not prevent the gathering of intelligence.
Fox News attacked a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that allows certain inmates to be enrolled in Medicaid as "ridiculous and unfair to every taxpayer." But according to health care and correctional experts, increasing access to health services reduces both the costs associated with incarceration and decreases inmates' chances of being incarcerated again.
From the January 7 edition of MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes:
From the April 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Fox News used the supervised release of immigrants to fearmonger about public safety, ignoring the fact that the vast majority of released immigrants have no criminal conviction or that for those with aggravated felony convictions under immigration law can mean crimes that are neither aggravated nor considered a felony.
A Miami Herald article highlighting the release of immigrant detainees reported that 225 immigrants were released in the Miami deportation unit that includes Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands but remained under supervision.
Discussing the story on Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto argued that the fact that some of the immigrants were considered "aggravated felons" contradicted the government's claim that no one released was dangerous. Conservative pundit Katie Pavlich of Townhall.com stated that the decision "shows a gross disregard for public safety," while falsely claiming that a third of the immigrants released had aggravated felony convictions.
In fact, as the Miami Herald reported, only two immigrants released in the Miami deportation unit had such convictions -- and the nature of their crimes was not divulged. Moreover, immigrants who have been convicted of such crimes are automatically subject to deportation, without a court hearing, and face the harshest penalties under immigration law -- which immigration experts argue are more severe than even criminal convictions.
As immigration expert David Leopold, General Council of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, explained to Media Matters, an aggravated felony under immigration law can include more than violent offenses like murder and sexual assault:
Determining whether a crime is an aggravated felony under the immigration law requires a confusing analysis of state and federal statutes and precedent court decisions. Some crimes, such as theft or assault, are considered aggravated felonies based of the length of the jail sentence imposed by a federal or state court -- even if the entire sentence is suspended.
Other crimes, such those involving fraud and deceit, are considered aggravated felonies if the amount of loss to the victim exceeds $10,000, whether or not the money has been paid back. A state controlled substance offense is considered an aggravated felony if it would be a felony under the federal law. States are sovereign political entities with their own set of civil and criminal laws.
Fox News fearmongered over reports that suspected terrorist Sulaiman Abu Ghaith will be tried in a Manhattan civilian court by downplaying the court's ability to convict terrorist suspects and baselessly advocated for a Guantanamo military trial.
On March 7, the Justice Department released an indictment charging Abu Ghaith with conspiring to kill Americans. Abu Ghaith, who previously served as a spokesman for Al Qaeda and is a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, will face trial at a U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson suggested that a civilian court trial could more likely result in Abu Ghaith's acquittal and possible release "back into our society" than if he were tried "at Gitmo." Co-host Steve Doocy echoed these concerns and cited a 2010 case in which a terrorist suspect faced 282 charges, but was acquitted on most of them, to stoke fears:
What happened? He was convicted. On one charge. And he was acquitted on 281 other counts, which boosts the suggestion and the argument that there's a completely different standard when you're talking about terrorists. They should be tried at Gitmo.
In a later segment on America's Newsroom, Fox contributor Erick Erickson expanded on Doocy and Carlson's comments. Erickson suggested:
Now, in Gitmo they have been able to do it quite successfully. There are number of military trials down there and convictions. They've sent others home. There's no reason he couldn't go down there other than there is an ideological opposition to keeping Gitmo open rather than come here.
In their advocacy of military tribunals, Carlson, Doocy and Erickson failed to report the New York courts full record of dealing with terrorist suspects.
Doocy based his disregard of the federal court system on a case that resulted in conviction, which was only one of many convictions to come out of the Manhattan civilian court system. In his focus on the dropped charges, Doocy failed to note that the detainee received a life sentence without parole, "the same maximum sentence... that he would have faced had he been convicted on all counts," according to The New York Times. In fact, the New York court that will be handling the Abu Ghaith trial has a 100 percent conviction rate. CNN reported: "Of the 81 jihadist terrorism suspects who have gone to trial since 9/11 in cases involving an undercover agent or informant, every single one has either been convicted or pleaded guilty."
According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. officials have said that federal courts "are often a faster and surer way to try suspected terrorists." The Journal additionally noted:
An Obama administration official said national security officials--including those at the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the Department of Justice--unanimously agreed that Mr. Abu Ghaith should be prosecuted in federal court.
In contrast, convictions at Guantanamo Bay are rare and have proven "vulnerable on appeal," the Los Angeles Times has reported. Of the thousands of detainees held since 2001, only seven convictions have come out of Guantanamo military tribunal, while "the vast majority have been sent back overseas, either for rehabilitation or continued detention and prosecution," according to an NPR report. Of the seven convictions, five were essentially nullified. The remaining two cases were both overturned by the court of appeals, one in October 2012 and the other in January 2013.
Fox misused a report by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office finding that the federal government may be able to safely transfer all the prisoners currently detained at Guantanamo Bay to prisons on U.S. soil to manufacture a conspiracy theory that the Obama administration wants to release terrorists onto American streets.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) -- a non-partisan independent agency that works for Congress -- issued a report finding that six Department of Defense detention facilities and 98 Department of Justice prisons may, with modifications, be able to hold the detainees the Department of Defense is currently holding at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
During the December 1 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-hosts Dave Briggs and Juliet Huddy interviewed Republican Party activist and former Justice Department attorney J. Christian Adams to react to the report. Fox has repeatedly given Adams a platform to push his vendetta against the Obama administration's Department of Justice, including the utterly discredited claim that the Justice Department has a policy of not pursuing certain cases against African Americans.
Adams wasted little of Fox's airtime before pushing an anti-Department of Justice conspiracy theory. After discussing how dangerous some of the detainees in Guantanamo are, Huddy asked what would happen if Guantanamo Bay detainees are brought to the U.S. prison system. Adams responded by falsely claiming that the administration had previously attempted to release terrorists into Northern Virginia and suggested that the administration's long-term goal was to release terrorists into the United States:
ADAMS: Well, look what happened with the Uighurs. The Uighurs were these Chinese terrorists. The administration tried to release them into Northern Virginia before Congressman Frank Wolfe [R-VA] found out about it and said you can't do this. I think the long-term plan here is to integrate them into the regular prison population where they can radicalize the other prisoners. And eventually, these people -- some in the administration -- want to just release them into the United States.
In fact, the Uighurs the administration sought to release were not terrorists seeking to harm the United States. The Uighurs at Guantanamo were Chinese Muslims. According to The Washington Post, the Bush administration determined that a number of them were people who had been wrongfully detained by bounty hunters. The Post reported that the rest "were deemed low-risk detainees whose enemy was China's communist government -- not the United States."
Indeed, according to the Post, the Bush administration had cleared all of them for release by 2005, but they could not find a country willing to take them and could not send them back to China where they might have faced persecution. In October 2008, a federal judge had ruled that the U.S. government had to release the Uighurs still being held, which led to redoubled efforts to find a place to release them.
From the November 20 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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In a June 19 Detroit Free Press opinion piece, guest writer Gary Wolfram advocated for the privatization of Michigan's prison system. The Free Press editors provided a rather innocuous description of Wolfram's credentials: "Gary Wolfram is the William Simon Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Hillsdale College." An honest description of Wolfram, however, would also note that he is an adjunct scholar at the right-wing Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the "largest conservative state-level policy think-tank in the nation." While the Free Press has in the past identified Mackinac connections to their contributors, Wolfram's affiliation appears to have been overlooked.
Accurately describing Wolfram's credentials is vital to a reader's ability to judge whether Wolfram's opinions are academically objective and trustworthy or tainted by an agenda and background that should temper expectations of accuracy. Here, the latter is certainly the case -- the Mackinac Center has been described as "tied at the hip with the Republican Party establishment," and its donors include the hyper-conservative Charles G. Koch Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. Mackinac was integral to Michigan's controversial Public Act 4, which "lets the governor name appointees to take over financially troubled cities." (In fact, the Republican governor appointed a former Mackinac scholar to one of these "emergency manager" positions in Pontiac, MI.)
Mackinac Center research is often of low quality and because of this it should be treated with considerable skepticism by the public, policy makers and political leaders. Indeed, much of the work of the Mackinac Center may have cause more confusion than clarity in the public discussion of the issues that it has addressed by systematically ignoring evidence that does not agree with its proposed solutions.
On the issue of prison privatization specifically, the Mackinac Center has been pushing a privatization agenda for years, hand in hand with ALEC and the private incarceration industry. Mother Jones highlighted some of Mackinac's conflicts of interest (emphasis added):
A cause underlying much of the [Mackinac Center's] work is privatization. Its scholars have called for privatizing Amtrak, prisons, and even the state's flagship university, the University of Michigan. The center publishes the Michigan Privatization Report, and offers how-tos on privatizing school districts and suggests local contractors available for hire to replace existing public services.
The Mackinac Center is also connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council, the private organization that allows corporations and lobbyists to craft legislation for use at the state level. For instance, as NPR reported last fall, Arizona's draconian immigration bill was based on a "model bill" written by private industry, including the Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's leading private prisons company that operates corrections facilities around the country.
In other words, Wolfram is part of an extensive network of right-wing ideologues pushing an agenda for the benefit of their private industry funders. But as far as the Free Press readers know, Wolfram is just a professor of economics and public policy at a small, local college.
Civil-liberties advocates have expressed serious concerns about the defense-funding bill that is working its way through Congress, which at one point contained a provision that would have authorized the indefinite military detention of U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism. Another provision in the bill would mandate that the detention of non-citizen terrorism suspects be handled by the military.
Fox Business host Andrew Napolitano discussed this story on his December 2 show. His segment was a case study in Fox's journalistic malpractice and how Fox pushes its viewers toward extremism.
Napolitano presents himself as a staunch defender of our liberties, so much so that he is not only willing to call vast swaths of the federal government unconstitutional, but part of the Constitution itself, as well. Napolitano is possessed of such a powerful anti-government paranoia that he believes the government is lying about 9-11.
Given this attitude, it makes sense that Napolitano's guest for the segment wasn't a legitimate civil-liberties advocate or a constitutional lawyer. Rather, it was Richard Mack, a member of the board of directors for Oath Keepers.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Oath Keepers are an organization that encourages "members of the military and law enforcement to pledge not to follow certain hypothetical 'orders' from the federal government" if they believe these orders don't comport with the Constitution. The New York Times described the Oath Keepers as "a new player in a resurgent militia movement," and the group was part of the "Friends for Liberty," a coalition that included the far-right John Birch Society and an anti-vaccination activist group.
Mack used the segment to suggest that local officials shouldn't obey orders from the federal government: "I hope every American is watching your show today and especially every sheriff and local official and governor that realize now that we cannot depend on our politicians in Washington D.C., and our leaders in Washington D.C., to do a simple thing and that is keep their oath and follow and defend the United States Constitution."
Not only did Napolitano host Mack to discuss a subject that deserves a much more serious examination than a leader of the anti-government fringe could possibly provide, but the actual news content of the segment was amazingly misleading.
J. Christian Adams, the right-wing storyteller whose works include the many-times debunked New Black Panther scandal, is back with a gripping tale about Eric Holder's "peculiar tendency to set loose militant black panthers." Writing on Andrew Breitbart's Big Government, Adams proclaims: "Leftist Activists Convince Eric Holder's DOJ to Set Violent Marxist Free." The violent Marxist in question is Marilyn Buck, who was incarcerated in 1985 for her roles in the Black Liberation Army's 1981 armed robbery of a Brinks armored car and the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Senate.
Take it away, J. Christian:
Yet Holder's DOJ unlocked Buck's jail cell and set her free last summer. Justice concluded that Buck "expressed a dramatic change from her previous political philosophy." Releasing Buck reflects an alien attitude that has caused the Obama years to be characterized by an ideological disconnect with most Americans.
The letters which persuaded the Justice Department were stuffed with crackpot arguments and have yet to be reported over the last year. They are full of lawlessness and arguments from extreme fringes of political thought. What's worse, the letters are on the letterhead of government and private institutions, institutions most Americans incorrectly think are worthy of respect.
Got it? Crazy people wrote crazy letters to free their terrorist friend, and Holder loves crazy terrorists so much that he unlocked her cell and let her scamper off into the summer breeze.
Now, let's explore what really happened and look at three key facts that Adams omitted from his piece: 1) the groundwork for Buck's early release was laid during the Bush administration; 2) Buck was ultimately released because she had late-stage terminal uterine cancer; and 3) she passed away less than a month after her parole.
From the May 24 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the May 13 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the April 6 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the March 8 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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