Fox News exploited the Obama administration's accidental exposure of a CIA operative's identity, using it as an opportunity to minimize the Bush administration's culpability in deliberately exposing former CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity as political retribution in 2003.
On May 26, the Washington Post reported that the White House press office had mistakenly revealed the name of the CIA Chief of Station in Afghanistan when it distributed a list of officials scheduled to participate in a military briefing with Obama at the Bagram Air Base during the president's surprise Memorial Day visit to Afghanistan. The list had been provided to the administration communications staff by military officials.
Fox News used the oversight as an opportunity to absolve the Bush administration and former Bush advisor Lewis "Scooter" Libby for deliberately exposing the identity of then-covert CIA operative Valerie Plame in 2003. On May 27, Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade referenced Libby, noting that this time, "Scooter Libby cannot be blamed or imprisoned" for the oversight. Co-host Steve Doocy seized on the comment as an opportunity to draw a false equivalence between the two cases and downplay the severity of the Plame leak:
DOOCY: Okay, so you mentioned Scooter Libby, he was all part of that Valerie Plame thing. Valerie Plame has tweeted out. She writes simply: "Astonishing, White House mistakenly identifies CIA Chief in Afghanistan." Keep in mind, you know, people are talking about, well remember when it happened during the Bush years with Valerie Plame. Valerie -- President Barack Obama at the time wanted to know, called an investigation were any laws broken and stuff like that. Keep in mind that, big difference. Valerie Plame had a desk job in suburban Washington, D.C., at the CIA. This guy is actually over there. So for them to put out a list -- and I've got the memo on my iPhone right now. There's his name plain as day with Chief of Staff right after it. Doesn't anybody at the White House know what they're doing right now? It looks like a -- either they're not paying attention to details or they simply don't care.
Later on America's Newsroom, Fox contributor and former Bush administration official John Bolton made the specious claim that Plame's identity was "made public by Rich Armitage, Secretary Colin Powell's deputy," and argued that the disclosure "resulted in some very unfair treatment of a lot of other people in the Bush administration like Scooter Libby." Bolton argued that the Plame disclosure was "just a malicious piece of gossip," while the Obama administration's disclosure was "utter incompetence."
These cases are not comparable. While the Obama administration's release of the CIA Chief of Station's name is a serious oversight, reports of the incident are clear that the disclosure was accidental. As the Washington Post noted, the mistake was immediately recognized and the list was withdrawn.
In contrast, the exposure of Valerie Plame's identity was a calculated move that that demolished her career after her husband wrote a New York Times op-ed critical of the Bush administration's justifications for taking the nation to war in Iraq. During the leak investigation, former Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper identified former White House senior adviser -- current Fox contributor -- Karl Rove as the original source revealing Plame's identity and pointed to Scooter Libby as the corroborating source. Libby, who then served as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was found guilty of perjury in the leak investigation, but his sentence was later commuted by Bush.
Hosts of the network Sunday news shows treated Benghazi myths and facts with false equivalence, an approach that hides the truth about the tragedy.
The right-wing's manufactured hysteria over the release of new White House memos and the House GOP's announcement that it would form a special select committee brought the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya back into the spotlight on the May 4 Sunday news talk shows. The latest charge from conservative media is that a newly-released email from Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes preparing then-UN Ambassador Susan Rice for the September 16, 2012 Sunday talk shows -- where she suggested that the terror attacks had grown out of spontaneous protests -- was part of a deliberate effort to deceive the American people about the cause of the attacks.
In a seeming effort to provide false balance between the facts and the myths, the network news hosts lent credence to evidence-free claims by their guests, giving them equal weight with the truth.
From the February 28 edition of Fox News' Special Report:
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Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich smeared Hillary Clinton by claiming that she lied in a speech honoring the victims of the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. But Pavlich is distorting Clinton's remarks.
Fox & Friends covered the announcement that NBC's entertainment division is planning to air a new mini-series focused on Hillary Clinton's "life as a wife, mother, politician and cabinet member" sometime before 2015. Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich used the segment as an opportunity to smear Clinton, saying:
PAVLICH: Although Diane Lane is a fantastic actress, I doubt she can act as well as Hillary Clinton did when she lied about that YouTube video in front of flag-draped caskets of Americans as they came home from being killed in Benghazi. So it's going to be really hard for her to top that performance.
But in her remarks, Clinton mentioned the wave of protests at U.S. embassies in the region, which repeated news reports said were in response to an anti-Islam video that was posted on YouTube. From Clinton's remarks [emphasis added]:
In the days since the attack, so many Libyans - including the Ambassador from Libya to the United States, who is with us today - have expressed their sorrow and solidarity. One young woman, her head covered and her eyes haunted with sadness, held up a handwritten sign that said "Thugs and killers don't represent Benghazi nor Islam." The President of the Palestinian Authority, who worked closely with Chris when he served in Jerusalem, sent me a letter remembering his energy and integrity, and deploring - and I quote - "an act of ugly terror." Many others from across the Middle East and North Africa have offered similar sentiments.
This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We've seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We've seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful internet video that we had nothing to do with. It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable.
Pavlich's description of Clinton's "performance" is a reference to is the administration's early contention that an anti-Muslim YouTube video played a role in sparking the Benghazi attacks, which Fox has long attacked as a "lie" and some sort of cover-up. But unclassified talking points produced by the intelligence community linked the video to the Benghazi attack, and The New York Times reported that the Benghazi attackers "did tell bystanders that they were attacking the compound because they were angry about the video."
No act in modern media culture can create as instantly polarizing a figure as the leaking of classified information. Daniel Ellsberg, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and now Edward Snowden -- the complexity of their human psyche was instantly reduced to binary choices by opposing extremes tugging to set a narrative.
They must be canonized or villainized.
Creating a media narrative focused on battles over the moral character of imperfect individuals inevitably draws the public away from necessary debates about our fundamental rights.
Bob Schieffer's commentary Sunday night on CBS was jarring, because after acknowledging, "I don't know yet if the government has overreached since 9/11 to reinforce our defenses, and we need to find out," the veteran newsman then turned his fire: "I think what we have in Edward Snowden is just a narcissistic young man who has decided he is smarter than the rest of us."
Schieffer's statement followed former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw belittling Snowden as a "military washout" and Richard Cohen of The Washington Post describing him as a "cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood."
Whether or not Edward Snowden is a narcissist is inconsequential. Was the information he leaked to The Guardian and The Washington Post accurate? What are the boundaries between the surveillance abilities our 21st century telecommunications infrastructure provides agencies like the NSA, and a free and open society?
Who Edward Snowden is as a person is insignificant to the question of whether or not we as a society should be having a debate - facts in hand - about the level of surveillance we are willing to tolerate.
There are legitimate grounds of inquiry into how individuals obtain clearances, the use of private contractors by the intelligence community, and if the disclosure of this information constitutes a criminal act. But the majority of attacks on Snowden don't seek answers to these questions. They attempt to distract us with a chorus of voices more interested in a conversation better suited to the naming of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's baby than the most significant discussion about our right to privacy of the past decade.
Snowden has been called a "hero," "traitor," "dropout," "narcissist," and "washout." He has been attacked by elites from all ends of the ideological spectrum in government and the media. And yes, he has put himself forward for these attacks. But just as the conversation the Pentagon Papers promoted was ultimately far more significant than the personality of Daniel Ellsberg, the conversation Edward Snowden has begun is far more important than any defects - or heroic qualities - he may possess.
From the June 17 edition of Current TV's Talking Liberally With Stephanie Miller:
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Broadcast and cable Sunday political talk shows featured previously debunked myths about the September 11, 2012 attacks on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
From the February 6 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland has again claimed that Iran is on the verge of having nuclear weapons, despite the fact that there are significant questions as to whether Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons at all.
During an appearance on Fox's "straight news" program America's Newsroom, McFarland told co-host Bill Hemmer that "Iran is an expansionist country on the verge of getting nuclear weapons."
However, there are significant questions about whether Iran is even planning to acquire nuclear weapons. Indeed, 2007 and 2011 National Intelligence Estimates found no conclusive evidence that Iran is trying to build a bomb. According to Greg Thielmann, former State Department intelligence analyst and former Senate Intelligence Committee senior staffer, and Benjamin Loehrke, senior policy analyst at Ploughshares Fund (a global security foundation), the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) November 8, 2011 report is consistent with that finding.
Moreover, in January 31 testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reiterated the fact that the U.S. intelligence community does not know whether Iran will try to build a bomb.
Of course, the claim that Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons is particularly rich coming from McFarland, as she has been warning for years that Iran is just around the corner from having nukes. In December 2008 McFarland said, "Iran is probably two years away from a nuclear weapon. Now, that's really frightening. But that's two years." In April 2010 she said that "in a couple of months time -- 6 months, 9 months -- we're going to be faced with this choice: bombing Iran or letting Iran get the bomb." And just earlier this year she distorted comments by Secretary of Defense and former CIA director Leon Panetta to claim that "Iran will have a nuclear weapon in a year or sooner."
Fox News contributor Dick Morris told Sean Hannity that "one world government" is "happening." His evidence consists of false statements about a series of treaties, some of which enjoy bipartisan support, are important for U.S. national security, and protect children from exploitation.
Sean Hannity devoted his Fox News show Friday to furthering misleading attacks on President Obama's record on national security.
Hannity opened his show by playing a misleading political ad from a right-wing political activist that deceptively edited statements President Obama made about the Osama bin Laden raid to make it look like Obama took all the credit for the success of the raid himself. Hannity then asked audience members whether they agreed that Obama "politicized the killing of bin Laden this week":
The reality is that President Obama has repeatedly thanked and praised the American troops and other military and intelligence individuals who participated in the mission.
Hannity later turned to birther and less than ethical Fox military analyst Gen. Thomas McInerney to criticize the Obama administration for attempting to negotiate with the Taliban. McInerney said "you can't negotiate with them." However, CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and many other national security experts have said that it is in America's interest to negotiate with the Taliban.
Perhaps the most disgraceful part of Hannity's special was when he brought up the topic of waterboarding and said that "President Obama calls that torture." Fox national security analyst KT McFarland then offered a full-throated defense of the practice:
McFARLAND: No, it's not torture. And there's a second issue, which is: Did it work? And it worked. And if it worked, it's kept the United States safe for this last 10 years -- even if it's torture, it's probably worth doing.
In fact, former interrogators, intelligence officials, and experts have stated that torture did not lead to bin Laden's whereabouts, and furthermore, that it doesn't provide trustworthy information.
And it's not just President Obama that "claims" waterboarding is torture.
Right-wing media have defended the New York Police Department's (NYPD) surveillance of American Muslims throughout the Northeast, engaging in anti-Muslim rhetoric and dismissing concerns of civil rights groups while doing so. But law enforcement experts have said that the program has a "negative impact" on the ability to gather counterterrorism intelligence, and lawmakers from across the political spectrum have criticized the program.
In a November 2 Wall Street Journal column, Douglas Feith, former Under Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush, claimed that President Obama's policies and actions related to Israel were "cold treatment" and that Obama has displayed "antagonism toward Israel and feckless courting of its enemies."
Feith's op-ed is just the latest in the right-wing media narrative that Obama is "anti-Israel" because of his policies toward Israel - even though these policies are often ones that were advocated for or articulated by the Bush administration or echoed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself.
Additionally, Netanyahu has thanked Obama for, among other things, Obama's support during the last U.N. General Assembly meeting; U.S. help in extracting six Israeli security guards from the Israeli embassy in Cairo; U.S. funding of missile defense for Israel; and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
Moreover, Israeli Defense Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said in August that he "can hardly remember a better period of ... American support" than "right now."
That's a lot of thanks and praise for Obama, particularly in light of his supposed "antagonism toward Israel."
From the September 22 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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From the August 14 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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