National Security & Foreign Policy

Issues ››› National Security & Foreign Policy
  • Amid Economic Turmoil, Right-Wing Media Spin Brexit As Good For Trump

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ & NINA MAST

    Right-wing media are reacting to the U.K. referendum to leave the European Union -- commonly referred to as Brexit -- by labeling the result a “very, very ominous sign for Democrats in the United States,” saying Donald Trump “looked like a genius” for saying the U.K. should leave the European Union, and claiming that “Hillary [Clinton] lost and Trump won.” Meanwhile, mainstream media warn of economic ramifications from the vote.

  • Fox Business Makes The German Cinema Standoff All About Donald Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In the middle of an unfolding standoff between police and a gunman at a movie theater in Germany, Fox Business host Stuart Varney repeatedly pivoted to promoting Donald Trump, calling the incident “a plus” for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

    On the June 23 edition of Varney & Co., Varney dedicated two segments to the developing situation, speculating in each that the situation might benefit Trump’s campaign. First, Varney and Fox News contributor Monica Crowley, a Trump apologist,  agreed that the situation -- initially reported as a “mass shooting” -- would “absolutely” benefit the GOP front-runner because he has “emphasized the need for strong national security policy.” 

    Next, Varney asked Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News judicial analyst, what impact the incident might have on U.S. immigration policy. Napolitano responded, “When a crisis like this happens, it should benefit Donald Trump,” because “he portrays himself as the stronger, sterner protector of our shores.” He advised Trump to “express outrage and … determination” to “one up Mrs. Clinton.” Napolitano has a history of pushing conspiracy theories and recently used the horrific mass shooting in Orlando to promote debunked right-wing media myths about gun violence. He is also reportedly a likely Supreme Court nominee, should Trump become president.    

    Trump foreign policy adviser Walid Phares echoed Fox’s promotion of the GOP candidate, saying that if the shooting was “politically motivated terrorism,” it will benefit Trump because it will prove that “terrorism is active in Europe.”

    Varney has track record of inserting praise of Trump’s foreign policy positions into his reporting. On May 19, when an EgyptAir flight crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, the Fox Business host framed the tragedy as “a plus” and “politically good for Donald Trump.” On March 22, he also let Phares erroneously claim the United States doesn’t have a vetting process for Syrian refugees, whom Trump has incorrectly labeled as a threat to national security.  

  • CNN Helping Trump Push His Lie That He Opposed The Libya Intervention

    ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    Following presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump's speech targeting his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, CNN hosts and analysts repeatedly hailed Trump's attack on Clinton for intervention in Libya's civil war as a line of attack "with substance," failing to mention that Trump "full-throatedly endorsed intervening in the country's civil war" before he started running for president.

  • Trump’s Benghazi Lies Came From Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump used his June 22 campaign speech to parrot Fox News’ lies about presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s response to the 2012 attack on diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

    In his speech, Trump claimed Ambassador Chris Stevens was a “victim” of Clinton’s actions while she served as secretary of state, claiming that she was asleep throughout the September 11, 2012, attack at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi. He later claimed that “to cover her tracks,” she “lied about” whether an anti-Islam YouTube video -- which led to widespread protests throughout the Middle East at the time -- inspired the attack.

    DONALD TRUMP: Among the victims of our late Ambassador Chris Stevens, I mean, she, what she did with him was absolutely horrible. He was left helpless to die as Hillary Clinton soundly slept in her bed. That's right. When the phone rang, as per the commercial, at three o’clock in the morning, Hillary Clinton was sleeping. Ambassador Stevens and his staff in Libya made hundreds and hundreds of requests for security. They were desperate. They needed help. Hillary Clinton’s State Department refused them all. She started the war that put them in Libya, denied him the security he asked for, then left him there to die. To cover her tracks, Hillary lied about the video being the cause of death, the famous video, all a lie, another Hillary lie.

    Fox News has long pushed the myth that both Clinton and President Obama were not responsive during the attack. But the fact is, congressional testimony has confirmed that Clinton was in close contact with military officials and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon throughout the night of the attacks. The former deputy chief of mission in Libya testified in 2013 that Clinton called him during the attack to be briefed on developments. Clinton also testified in 2013 that she spoke with administration officials and President Obama from her office at the State Department throughout the night.

    Fox also spent years denying the role the inflammatory anti-Islam YouTube video had in inspiring the attack and suggesting that administrations drawing such a link were politically motivated. But the intelligence community initially indicated that the video played a role in the attack, and interviews with some of the attackers revealed that the attack was “fueled in large part by anger” over the video. Fox News itself even reported -- the night that the attack occurred -- that the attack was “triggered by a movie produced in the United States that … is anti-Muslim.”

  • Media Help Trump Rehab His Comments That Clubgoers Should Have Guns

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    Reporters are helping presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump to rehabilitate his extreme comments that armed clubgoers could have stopped the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, Florida. They are erroneously portraying as a clarification his new statement that he was really talking about armed “guards or employees,” when in fact he has completely contradicted his prior remarks. 

  • Former CIA Director Deflates Trump’s Conspiracy Theory That Obama Supported Terrorists

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Former CIA director and CBS contributor Michael Morell debunked the “old conspiracy theory” pushed by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump that President Obama has supported terrorist groups. In a Politico Magazine article, Morrell slammed Trump for reviving “inaccurate renditions of history” that have “no place in our public discourse.”

    On June 15, Trump tweeted a Breitbart News article claiming that in 2012, “Hillary Clinton received a classified intelligence report stating that the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq.” Trump claimed that the Breitbart article vindicated his previous suggestions that Obama may be sympathetic to terrorists -- a charge that was buoyed by a host of conservative pundits, but drew strong rebuke from several other media figures.

    In a June 16 Politico Magazine article, Morell swatted down Trump’s “charge against President Obama and his administration” as a “simply not true” “conspiracy theory.” Detailing from first-hand accounts that “[a]t no time … did the administration make a policy decision—either explicitly or implicitly—to support the Islamic State or its predecessor, Al Qaeda, in Iraq,” Morell explained that “in fact, the policy focus was quite the opposite.” Morell noted that both the 2012 intelligence report and the interpretation of it suggesting that the president supported extremists were “simply wrong in its facts,” and ultimately wrote that “we should not let our understanding of that threat [of terrorism] be hijacked by inaccurate renditions of history”:

    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, seeking to make the case following the Orlando shootings that the Obama administration was somehow sympathetic to terrorists, resurrected an old conspiracy theory Thursday about the Islamic State, one that has no place in our public discourse. In a tweet, Trump pointed his followers to an article about the 2012 memo titled “Hillary Clinton Received Secret Memo Stating Obama Admin ‘Support’ for ISIS.”

    This is, of course, quite a charge against President Obama and his administration at a time when Clinton was still serving as secretary of state. The problem with the charge is that it is simply not true. I know this, since in my role as deputy director and acting director of the CIA, I participated in nearly every meeting in the Situation Room at the time of the supposed memo regarding the deteriorating situation in Syria.

    [...]

    At no time in any of these meetings did the administration make a policy decision—either explicitly or implicitly—to support the Islamic State or its predecessor, Al Qaeda, in Iraq. In fact, the policy focus was quite the opposite. The administration went to great lengths to ensure that any aid provided by the United States to the opposition would not fall into the hands of extremists, including the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

    [...]

    [H]ere is the truth about the DIA report and the Flynn interview. The report was written by a DIA official in Iraq. It was his take on the early days of the insurgency in Syria. It was just one person’s view. It was written by an individual who was far from the policy discussion in the Situation Room. And, it was simply wrong in its facts when it indicated that the West was supporting extremists in Syria.

    Most important, when the cable was written in early August 2012, the United States was not yet providing any tangible assistance to the Syrian opposition, and when it began to do so later that fall, the assistance went only to the opposition deemed by the United States to be “moderate.”

    What about the Flynn interview? It is actually worth watching the interview, as opposed to reading the commentary of others about it. When I watched it, I did not see Flynn agree with the interviewer’s assertion that the United States was deliberately supporting extremists. Flynn was critical of the Obama administration on a number of issues, but he did not accuse it of willfully supporting the rise of ISIS.

    The threat posed by the Islamic State to the United States and to our interests is a serious one. But we should not let our understanding of that threat be hijacked by inaccurate renditions of history.

    Other media have also noted that Trump and Breitbart’s interpretation of the 2012 memo is “a faulty reading” that has been “widely debunked.”

  • Pushing For Mosque Surveillance, Fox News Is Fighting The Last War

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Reaching for one of its favorite War on Terror talking points, Fox News is leading a charge in the wake of the Orlando gun massacre to push for surveillance of mosques in America. Convinced that a pressing response to the attack on a gay nightclub is for law enforcement to keep close tabs on Muslims at prayer, Fox News continues to hype the initiative as a solution to pending terror threats in the United States -- and specifically, to stem the tide of ISIS recruitment in America.

    But there’s no indication domestic mosque surveillance uncovers useful terror information. Just ask the New York Police Department, whose extensive, post-9/11 Muslim surveillance program turned out to be a “failure by any reasonable standard,” according to the Cato Institute.

    And now with ISIS focusing its recruitment online and hoping for self-radicalization among converts, the notion that law enforcement can round up ISIS sympathizers meeting and plotting inside American mosques runs counter to the facts.

    Nonetheless, Fox News is pushing for the divisive, Bush-era tactic to be revived and embraced. “How stupid is it to pull police officers out of the mosques? Absolutely stupid,” Rudy Giuliani complained on Fox News this week, while Greg Gutfeld compared Islam to biker gangs and suggested both needed to be watched closely to head off crime sprees.

    Not surprisingly, Fox News is echoing allegations often made by members of the Republican Party about how mosques are a breeding ground for homegrown terrorism and need to be spied on.

    "I want surveillance of certain mosques if that's OK," Republican Party presumptive nominee Donald Trump told a crowd in Birmingham, Ala. last November. That same week Trump announced he’d "strongly consider" shutting down mosques in the U.S. Trump raised the idea again earlier this week at a rally in Atlanta, saying, "We have to maybe check, respectfully, the mosques and we have to check other places because this is a problem that, if we don't solve it, it's going to eat our country alive." 

    For years, New York Republican Congressman Peter King, with the help of Fox News, led an anti-mosque crusade, complete with congressional hearings that were denounced as being McCarthy-like.

    Today’s endorsement of mosque surveillance represents Fox News’ long-running attempt to collectively criminalize Islam in America and to often portray Muslims as would-be terrorists. (Recall the open hysteria Fox News helped foment in its opposition to the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in 2011.)

    But Fox News’ advocacy for mosque surveillance, and its suggestion that it would help ferret out dangerous ISIS sympathizers, runs counter to recent events and counter to research that indicates those handful of American Muslims who embrace deadly violence are mostly self-radicalized and they become that way online, not by listening to sermons from radical Imams in U.S. mosques.

    In the wake of recent terror attacks in Boston, San Bernardino and Orlando, there were no findings that the bombers and gunmen were radicalized in their local mosques or planned their attacks there; that the mosques were in any way directly connected to the acts of violence. There were no sweeping indictments made by law enforcement.

    In fact in Boston, bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been threatened with expulsion from his mosque after he angrily interrupted a speaker who compared Prophet Muhammad with Dr. Martin Luther King. “The congregation shouted him out of the mosque,”said a spokesman for the mosque.

    And that fits what researchers have been reporting in recent years.

    Last December, George Washington University’s Program on Extremism issued a report, “ISIS in America: From Retweets to Raqqa.” It showed “how social media plays a crucial role in the radicalization and, at times, mobilization of U.S.-based ISIS sympathizers,” according to the university.

    Key points from the report included:

    • "Several thousand Americans consume ISIS propaganda online creating what has been described as a 'radicalization echo chamber.' "
    • “Twitter is ‘by far the platform of choice’ for American activists to connect. Other routes include Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr, along with messaging services like ‘Kik, Telegram, surespot, and the dark web.’”

    Additionally, the report noted that jihadist radicalization in the United States is “significantly smaller” than in most European countries, in part because of fewer “radicalizing agents” in America, such as “radical mosques, extremist preachers, and recruiting networks.”

    Also last year, Scott Atran, co-founder of the Center for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford University, reported his research indicated, “More than 80 per cent who join the Islamic State do so through peer-to-peer relationships, mostly with friends and sometimes family. Very few join in mosques or through recruitment by anonymous strangers.”

    The Associated Press reported that Atran told a meeting of the United Nations’ Security Council's counter-terrorism committee that "radicalization rarely occurs in mosques.”

    Meanwhile, a 2010 study by researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that the number of radicalized Muslims in the U.S. was relatively low and that Muslim-American communities effectively prevent radicalization. 

    Rather than being a spawning ground for extremism, there are indications mosques are actively working to thwart it. That same 2010 study found “48 of the 120 Muslims suspected of plotting domestic terrorist attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, were turned in by fellow Muslims, including parents, mosque members and even a Facebook friend,” The New York Times reported.

    Last year, the Times examined ISIS’ recruiting efforts in the United States and detailed one example of a local Imam dissuading a possible convert named Amir: 

    Amir then had some long talks with Imam Magid, who pointed him to passages in the Quran that forbid killing other Muslims, innocent women and children. Amir concluded that the Islamic State was only sowing chaos and hatred, which the Prophet Muhammad abhorred.

    That kind of pushback against extremism from mosque leaders might be one reason why the NYPD’s massive surveillance program produced so little useful information. The operation, which remained secret for years, not only infiltrated mosques, but assigned detectives to map out entire Muslim communities, as well as track Muslims’ daily activities, and investigate college students.

    The goal was to “sniff out would-be terrorists before they could launch attacks,” according to the Cato Institute.

    Fox News likes to pretend it was an intelligence success, which is why it must be resuscitated. “We broke so many, so many plots by eavesdropping on these radical mosques,” Fox News’ Bo Dietl claimed last year.

    In fact, the exact opposite was true.

    “In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department's secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday,” the Associated Press reported.

    Correct. Six years of mosque surveillance in New York City in the wake of 9/11 did not produce a single lead or trigger one terrorism investigation for the NYPD.

    But now Fox News thinks in an age of online recruiting, snooping on U.S. mosques is the answer to unearthing terror threats?

  • Trump Claims Obama Supports Terrorists, Echoing Breitbart’s Debunked Talking Point

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump hyped a debunked talking point from a Breitbart News article to claim that he was correct to insinuate that the Obama administration supports terrorists. However, the memo cited in the Breitbart article never says that the U.S. and Al Qaeda worked together, and in fact Breitbart News' interpretation has been “widely debunked.”