Over the objections of their own legal experts, right-wing media continue to argue the alleged Boston bomber should be denied constitutional rights unlike the hundreds of terrorists before him who have been successfully tried and convicted.
Prominent right-wing media figures have advocated a wide range of unconstitutional treatment for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old U.S. citizen accused of complicity in the Boston marathon bombing and subsequent murder of a police officer. Echoing GOP politicians from Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) to Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-MN), right-wing media have called for Tsarnaev to be denied the constitutional protections regularly given to domestic or foreign terrorists in this country, both before and after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Fox News hosts have suggested using torture on Tsarnaev because not all American citizens are "worthy of the constitutional rights that we have." The Wall Street Journal joined the dangerous clamor (fueled by Graham and Bachman) to indefinitely detain Tsarnaev in military custody as an "enemy combatant." Conservative pundit Ann Coulter told Fox's Sean Hannity she wanted authorities to "shoot up the boat" when they found Tsarnaev unarmed and "get him an automatic death penalty there."
When the Department of Justice initiated criminal proceedings against Tsarnaev, right-wing media turned their ire upon Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama for not preventing the federal judge from following the law. National Review Online's John Yoo accused the president of the "elevation of ideology over national security." Fox host Megyn Kelly continues to pretend "the public safety exception to Miranda lasts only 48 hours." A Washington Times columnist called for President Obama's impeachment because he is "unwilling" to protect America.
The ties between conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and right-wing megaphone Matt Drudge remain strong, with Jones revealing that he spent time yesterday with one of Drudge's employees and crediting Drudge with pushing one of his conspiracy theories "into the mainstream media."
Matt Drudge, who has described 2013 as the "year of Alex Jones," promoted Jones' website, Infowars, 244 times over the last two years and 50 times since the year began on The Drudge Report. Conservatives have urged Drudge to stop linking to Jones after the latter suggested the Boston Marathon bombings were a "false flag" attack perpetrated by the federal government.
On his radio show today, Jones said he was "hanging out" with The Drudge Report's Joseph Curl at a hotel in Houston, Texas where the pair tried "to crash the private Bush-Cheney party" being held in concert with the dedication ceremony for President George W. Bush's presidential library.
Fox News accused MA Gov. Deval Patrick of "playing politics" by refusing to release details of welfare benefits reportedly used by the Boston Marathon bombing suspects. But as Patrick has noted, state and federal law prevents the release of this information.
On April 24, an article in the right-leaning Boston Herald reported that the Boston Marathon bombing suspects had received some government assistance as children and that deceased suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev's family received some welfare benefits until 2012. The paper later reported that Massachusetts state officials had "clamped down the lid" on the Herald's requests for more details on Tamerlan Tsarnaev's government benefits.
Fox hosts seized on this to criticize Gov. Patrick on the April 26 edition of Fox & Friends. Co-host Steve Doocy said that "the governor told all the state agencies to clam up" and on-air text asked if Patrick is "playing politics."
Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson said:
CARLSON: Well, apparently Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts won't exactly explain what taxpayer assistance the bombers actually received because he says it's a matter of protecting their personal privacy. Well, that's interesting because one of those suspects is dead, and so what kind of personal privacy would be at hand to not be able to at least release what should be public knowledge if the taxpayers actually were financing these two people and their families for the last 10 years.
Fox failed to note that state and federal laws prohibit the government officials from releasing such information, a fact that Patrick had pointed out after facing questions about why the government had not released more details. On April 25, the Boston Herald reported:
Gov. Deval Patrick defended his administration's refusal to release financial aid, welfare, unemployment and other information about the suspected Boston Marathon bombers today.
"It's not about a right to privacy, it's about abiding by the law," said Patrick in Jamaica Plain today. "We'll do what we can do within the law. I'm curious, too. I understand people's curiosity."
Patrick added that he would be "happy" to release whatever information the law allows.
The Associated Press reported that the Massachusetts welfare agency later acknowledged that it had been a "mistake" to release the information to the media, saying it "inappropriately confirmed" media inquiries on the issue. The agency further stated: "Disclosing such information is not allowed by law. Regardless of the circumstances, we are obligated to follow state and federal law."
Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post's Fact Checker blog further discredited "absurd" claims by congressional Republicans, pushed by Fox News, that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally approved a reduction in security at a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that was attacked on September 11, 2012.
Fox News has spent days promoting a GOP attack on Clinton based on a partisan House report released April 23 that claims Secretary Clinton had seen and denied requests for more security at the Benghazi facility. Special Report host Bret Baier hyped it as a "scathing indictment" the night the report was released and national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin quoted the report's attacks on Clinton. On April 24, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade interviewed GOP House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrel Issa about the report, claiming that it "sharply contradicts [Clinton's] sworn testimony" that she had not seen any cables about security concerns regarding the Benghazi facility. Fox News also conducted a poll that coincided with the release of the GOP report, which asked voters how they felt about Clinton saying she had not seen the Benghazi security cables.
Kessler examined Kilmeade's interview of Issa over the issue, and explained that the State Department's Foreign Affairs Manual stipulates that the department's communications centers add the secretary's names to all messages that go out to overseas posts. Former senior State Department officials who worked under Republican secretaries also confirmed this procedure:
"A very small fraction would be seen by the Secretary of State," said R. Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat who was undersecretary of state for political affairs under Rice.
Burns said he would only show a cable to Rice if it had very sensitive instructions for an ambassador and he wanted to be sure she agreed with his draft language. But generally he said the secretary is much too busy and would never see the cables. He added that sometimes even assistant secretaries would not view cables that are sent out under the secretary's "signature."
Burns noted that the confusion over "signature" is a common misunderstanding about State Department cables. He frequently has to correct historians from overseas who mistakenly believe the secretary's name at the bottom of the cable has much meaning.
"I can say that from being there with one secretary and reviewing the work of many other secretaries in my academic research, there are many, many cables the secretary never sees," said Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Colin L. Powell. "From time to time, the deputy may 'chop' [approve], the undersecretary may 'chop', or the assistant secretary or office director may 'chop' -- and the cable goes."
Kessler concluded: "At this point, Issa has no basis or evidence to show that Clinton had anything to do with this cable," and awarded the claim Four Pinnochios, the highest rating for a false claim.
Other news reports had already undermined this Fox-based smear against Clinton, with The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and a Foreign Policy national security reporter explaining that official cables are routinely sent out bearing the secretary's name. A member of the independent State Department Accountability Review Board that examined the Benghazi attack said that it's "total bullshit" to claim that Clinton saw or sent a specific cable because it bore her signature, as "[m]illions of cable come into" the State Department every year, all addressed to the secretary, and it's "the normal procedure" that "[e]very single cable going out is signed 'Clinton.' "
Fox News contributor Judith Miller wrote a highly speculative Wall Street Journal op-ed that claimed New York City police surveillance practices "may well have... prevented" the Boston bombing, ignoring that the constitutionality of these programs is currently being challenged in court and their efficacy is questioned.
In the April 24 op-ed, Miller lauded the New York Police Department (NYPD) for its blanket surveillance of American Muslim communities, which has extended beyond the jurisdiction of New York City. According to Miller, this extensive spying program "is a model of how to identify and stop killers like the Tsarnaev brothers before they strike" and should be emulated by other cities. From the WSJ:
[T]he city has developed a counterterror program that is a model of how to identify and stop killers like the Tsarnaev brothers before they strike. The 1,000 cops and analysts who work in the NYPD's intelligence and counterterrorism divisions, for instance, would likely have flagged Tamerlan Tsarnaev for surveillance, given Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's insistence on aggressively monitoring groups and individuals suspected of radicalization.
The NYPD maintains close ties to Muslim preachers and community leaders, as well as a network of tipsters and undercover operatives.
Once the department had Tamerlan under surveillance, the NYPD's cyberunit might have detected his suspicious online viewing choices and social-media postings. Other detectives might have picked up his purchase of a weapon, gunpowder and even a pressure cooker--an item featured in an article, "How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom," in the online al Qaeda magazine Inspire.
Even if the NYPD hadn't been watching Tamerlan, it might have been tipped off to such suspicious purchases thanks to its Nexus program. Since the program's launch in 2002, the department has visited more than 40,000 businesses in the metropolitan area, encouraging business owners and managers to report suspicious purchases or other activities potentially related to terrorism.
The right wing media's promotion of a widely-debunked Alex Jones conspiracy theory about the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) ammunition acquisitions prompted House Republicans to hold a hearing to investigate. The theory, which assigns some sinister motivation behind the recent ammo purchases, first gained traction on the websites of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones before finding its way to Fox News and Fox Business and finally to the halls of Congress.
On April 25, Republican Reps. Jim Jordan (OH) and Jason Chaffetz (UT) held a joint hearing "to examine the procurement of ammunition by the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General." The hearing followed right wing media reports speculating about the reasons for the acquisitions.
The conspiracy theory picked up steam in March 2012 after a series of reports were posted to Alex Jones' InfoWars.com, including one that claimed "it's not outlandish" to conclude that the government, "is purchasing the bullets as part of preparations for civil unrest." An opinion piece at The Daily Caller cited the reports to suggest that the Obama administration is planning to kill thousands of American citizens. The DHS purchases were brought up on Fox News, prompting Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade to ask, "why they need all those bullets." And while covering the story, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs wondered why the government was "arming up" while trying to "disarm American citizens."
Forbes contributor Ralph Benko wrote that "It's Time For A National Conversation," and called for Congressional action:
If Obama doesn't show any leadership on this matter it's an opportunity for Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, to summon Secretary Napolitano over for a little national conversation. Madame Secretary? Buying 1.6 billion rounds of ammo and deploying armored personnel carriers runs contrary, in every way, to what "homeland security" really means.
Reps. Jordan and Chaffetz answered that call.
As Media Matters has previously noted, the claim that DHS is stockpiling ammunition for some ominous purpose is simply wrong. In reality, the Associated Press reported that while DHS did buy 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition, the government bought the bullets in bulk to save money on ammunition used in training and in the field. As the AP noted, "More than 90 federal agencies and 70,000 agents and officers used the department's training center last year." On a separate occasion, Media Matters reported that DHS responded that ammunition purchases are lower than in previous years and that while the law allows DHS to set purchase contracts of billions of rounds in order to reduce prices and save money, the government hasn't actually purchased nearly that many rounds.
Alex Jones, who has called President Obama the "global head of Al Qaeda," and claimed that the terrorist attacks in Boston, New York City, and Oklahoma City were carried out or sponsored by the government, has gained influence with the right wing media. Recently, Drudge Report's Matt Drudge promised that 2013 would be "year of Alex Jones."
UPDATE: The hearing on Alex Jones' conspiracy theory inspired new legislation that's now before Congress. On April 26, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) introduced bills in both chambers of Congress in order to limit federal agencies from stockpiling ammunition. From Inhofe's statement (emphasis added):
"President Obama has been adamant about curbing law-abiding Americans' access and opportunities to exercise their Second Amendment rights," said Inhofe. "One way the Obama Administration is able to do this is by limiting what's available in the market with federal agencies purchasing unnecessary stockpiles of ammunition. As the public learned in a House committee hearing this week, the Department of Homeland Security has two years worth of ammo on hand and allots nearly 1,000 more rounds of ammunition for DHS officers than is used on average by our Army officers. The AMMO Act of 2013 will enforce transparency and accountability of federal agencies' ammunition supply while also protecting law-abiding citizens access to these resources."
Since last year's attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News has pushed several conspiracy theories in an attempt to damage President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. At the same time many of those conspiracies found a new outlet in the form of a House GOP report, Fox issued poll findings critical of the Obama administration.
From the day after the September 11, 2012, attack on the Benghazi facility, the right-wing media has attempted to use the incident to inflict political damage on Obama. Fox News has led the charge on this campaign, spending months inventing new ways to target the president for the attacks. Fox's campaign resulted in a report by congressional Republicans that echoed many of the conspiracy theories that have been promoted by Fox and the right-wing media.
But this smear campaign has fallen apart at every turn. In December 2012, the independent Accountability Review Board further dismantled many of Fox's attacks, including the claim that the Obama administration refused to send reinforcements during the Benghazi attack. The most recent attack to fall flat is that Clinton denied requests for heightened security based on a cable that bore her name. As several media outlets pointed out, "every single cable sent from Washington to the field is sent over the secretary of state's name," even if she wasn't directly involved.
Just days before the report was issued, Fox News conducted a poll that asked respondents questions about Benghazi, including about Clinton and the security cable. The release of the poll coincided with the issuing of a report from House Republicans.
The report, which was released on April 23, claimed that "in a cable signed by Secretary Clinton in April 2012, the State Department settled on a plan to scale back security assets for the U.S. Mission in Libya, including Benghazi." On April 20-22, Fox News was polling this exact issue: "Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she did not see a cable from the U.S. consulate in Benghazi asking for reinforcements for its security detail and warning the Obama administration about the dangerous situation the consulate was facing -- How do you feel about that?"
While the fact that the House GOP was publishing an attack on the Obama administration at the same time Fox was conducting a poll on the GOP report's contents could be coincidental, the timing raises questions about collaboration. Fox has been caught in the past acting as the communications arm of the GOP.
Fueled by a report from the conservative Boston Herald, right wing media outlets such as Fox News, the New York Post, and the Washington Times, are demonizing government assistance programs by tying them to the heinous terror attacks committed at the Boston Marathon. Conservative blogs used sensationalized headlines and rhetoric to make their attacks, like RedState's "Does The US Welfare System Benefit Jihadists?" and Monica Crowley's "Nice Return on Our Investment, Huh?"
On April 24, 2013, the Boston Herald published a report that claimed, "Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism."
On the April 24 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, host Bill Hemmer hyped the report and complained that "taxpayers were giving money to at least one of the bombing suspects."
In reality, the right-wing smear uses an absurd guilt-by-association non sequitur in an attempt to smear government spending programs. But where does this logic end? The Tsarnaev brothers presumably used taxpayer funded roads to physically reach the Boston Marathon finish line. Will right wing media next attack government spending on highway maintenance for literally paving the way for the Boston terror suspects to commit their crimes?
Conservatives are trying to take advantage of the horrific attacks to taint the public perception of yet another policy they dislike. Since the terrorist attack on April 15, the right wing media has exploited the tragedy in Boston to smear Islam, immigration reform, education, a member of Congress, the Obama administration's foreign policy, and even the constitutional rights of American citizens.
UPDATE: During his radio program, Rush Limbaugh also jumped on this bandwagon. Limbaugh claimed the Herald's report shows "another great example of your tax dollars at work."
LIMBAUGH: Now we hear that the entire Tsarnaev family was on welfare. How could he not be an Obama supporter?
So we have another great example of your tax dollars at work. Your tax money helped to pay for the explosives, as well as Tamerlan's at least two trips back to Dagestan, his late model Mercedes, his $900 shoes. No wonder this guy hated America.
Fox News' latest attempt to use the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya to blame Hillary Clinton for the deaths of U.S. personnel has been undermined by several news outlets.
Fox has claimed that a new Republican report on the Benghazi attack proves that Clinton falsely claimed she was unaware of requests for additional security at the Benghazi compound because she personally read and signed off on a cable responding to one such missive. Reporting from The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Foreign Policy, however, demonstrates that all such messages from the State Department to diplomatic facilities abroad are sent out over the secretary's signature.
On April 23, Republican congressional committee chairmen released a report on the September 11, 2012, attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others. The report claimed that an "April 2012 cable from Secretary Clinton" was a "critical cable" that responded to the U.S. ambassador's request for additional security resources by calling for reductions in security. The GOP's evidence that this cable came personally from Clinton is that it bore her signature [emphasis in original]:
State Department officials in Washington acknowledged that the Benghazi Mission lacked sufficient resources to protect its personnel in a deteriorating security environment. However, in a cable signed by Secretary Clinton in April 2012, the State Department settled on a plan to scale back security assets for the U.S. Mission in Libya, including Benghazi. Specifically, despite acknowledging Ambassador Cretz's March 2012 cable requesting additional security assets, the April plan called for the removal of the two remaining MSD teams, the third initially deployed MSD team having been previously removed.
Fox News, which has spent months pushing falsehoods and conspiracies in an attempt to politically damage the Obama administration, subsequently seized on the report to claim that it undermines then-Secretary Clinton's January 23 testimony that the cables requesting additional security did not reach her desk and were handled by subordinates.
But several news outlets have reported that it is routine for outgoing messages from the State Department to be sent under the secretary's name without the secretary's direct involvement. An Associated Press article on the House Republican report stated that "every cable from Washington to the department's field offices is sent over the secretary of state's name." Foreign Policy concurred, reporting:
It's not clear who in the State Department sent the April 19 response. But as a general rule, "every single cable sent from Washington to the field is sent over the secretary of state's name," a former State Department official noted, adding, "Though they are trying to make this new, it's not. After 30+ hearings and briefings, thousands of pages, this has all been addressed."
And The Washington Post similarly reported: "Many State Department cables routinely go out with the secretary of state's name, and it was not immediately clear whether this one was personally written by Clinton."
But Fox News has repeatedly treated the House report's claims credulously. In an April 23 segment on Fox News' Special Report, national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin quoted the section of the report that claims then-Secretary Clinton personally approved of security reductions, and that the action contradicts her prior testimony. On April 24, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed during an interview of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) that the GOP report "sharply contradicts [Clinton's] sworn testimony."
While calling for profiling of American Muslims, Fox News host Eric Bolling attacked Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), calling him the "Muslim apologist in Congress" and describing him as "very dangerous."
On Fox News' The Five, Bolling called for profiling of Muslims following the attacks of the Boston Marathon. During the segment, Bolling criticized Ellison, asserting that he's "very dangerous" and has been "the Muslim apologist in Congress for a long time." After calling him dangerous, Bolling noted that Ellison "raised his right hand and took the oath of office on the Quran":
Bolling's attack is part of a long line of smears directed at Ellison. Fox host Sean Hannity attempted to link Ellison to Louis Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam. Hannity also compared Ellison's use of the Quran for his swearing-in ceremony to using "Hitler's Mein Kampf, which is the Nazi bible."
During Rep. Peter King's anti-Muslim hearings in 2011, Ellison delivered testimony which included attacking false rumors that had been spread about Mohammed Salman Hamadi, a first responder who died during the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Fox attacked his testimony, suggesting his story was not accurate and accusing him of stretching the truth.
Fox News is leading the right-wing media chorus baselessly claiming Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the apparent bomber in the Boston Marathon attacks, should be indefinitely detained as an "enemy combatant," even though legal experts maintain it is unlikely he qualifies for this designation.
Militarily detaining U.S. citizens apprehended in this country as "enemy combatants" for acts of terror is extremely rare and constitutionally questionable. Former President George W. Bush transferred the last U.S. citizen held in such a fashion to federal criminal court rather than have the Supreme Court rule on the matter. President Barack Obama, while not explicitly disavowing his authority to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens as "enemy combatants," has publicly determined the practice to be unwise and contrary to American tradition and law.
Despite the legal uncertainty of the practice, Fox News host Sean Hannity declared that Tsarnaev should be held as an "enemy combatant" because "the evidence is obviously out there." From an interview with right-wing commentator Ann Coulter on the April 22 edition of Hannity:
All three cable news networks failed to highlight a West, Texas, fertilizer plant's storage of 270 tons of ammonium nitrate -- 1,350 times the amount allowed without disclosure to the federal government -- in reporting on the April 17 explosion at that plant. The networks also virtually ignored the plant's history of violating state and federal regulations.
An April 20 Reuters report noted that fertilizer plants and depots must report to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) whenever they hold 400 pounds or more of ammonium nitrate, a potentially explosive chemical that can be used in bomb making. Reuters reported, however, that the plant that owned the company, West Fertilizer, "did not tell [DHS] about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do, leaving one of the principle regulators of ammonium nitrate ... unaware of any danger there."
Reuters quoted Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) as saying, "It seems this manufacturer was willfully off the grid. ... This facility was known to have chemicals well above the threshold amount ... yet we understand that DHS did not even know the plant existed until it blew up."
A Media Matters study found that following the Reuters report, CNN's coverage of the explosion never mentioned that West Fertilizer violated federal regulations by failing to disclose their storage of 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, and MSNBC and Fox News rarely mentioned the violation.
In reporting on the factory explosion in West, Texas, cable news virtually ignored the fertilizer company's storage of 270 tons of ammonium nitrate at the plant, which is 1,350 times the amount that is allowed to be stored without disclosure to the federal government.
From the April 23 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan attacked President Obama for "having a problem with the levers of power" after the Senate failed to pass background checks for gun sales despite the legislation receiving majority support -- the final vote was 54-46, with 41 Republicans voting against the measure. Previously Noonan has dismissed concerns about historic Republican obstruction in Congress with a sarcastic "boo hoo."
Appearing on Meet The Press, Noonan responded to the Senate's inability to pass background checks by referring to "a problem" when "90% of the American people" supported it but President Obama "can't make anything move."
Noonan neglected to mention that the measure required 60 votes in response to a Republican-led filibuster, so even though the vote was 54 to 46 in favor, the legislation failed.