In another devastating blow to the purported separation between Fox's "news" and "opinion" programming, Fox Business host Stuart Varney today used an appearance on Fox News' America Live to delve into one of the most paranoid, race-baiting myths of the right-wing fever swamp: the entirely baseless claim that on assuming office, President Obama returned a bust of Winston Churchill to the British government because his family "disliked" the British colonial government in Kenya.
A variant of this highbrow birther conspiracy theory is a favorite of Glenn Beck and Dinesh D'Souza, among others. While Varney attributes the return of the bust to how "Obama's father, being a native Kenyan, disliked the British colonial rule in Kenya," Beck and D'Souza have instead cited the torture of Obama's paternal grandfather by the British during the Mau Mau Uprising. These claims are ridiculous, baseless, and an obvious attempt to raise fears among their viewers of Obama's priority being Africans, not Americans.
Of course, no evidence has ever emerged to link the return of the Churchill bust to the experience of Obama's family.
The right-wing media have seized on a Wikileaks cable to claim the Obama administration "betrayed" the United Kingdom by revealing data to Russia regarding the sale of nuclear material. In fact, the information was passed in compliance with nuclear arms treaties and "with respect to the longstanding pattern of cooperation," as officials in both the U.S. and U.K. governments have confirmed.
Ann Coulter joins this dubious trend in her latest column by sniping at former Clinton deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick, asserting that she built a "giant wall ... between the FBI and the CIA," thus "making 9/11 possible."
Except, of course, that she didn't. As we detailed in 2005, when this falsehood first surfaced, the so-called "wall" between law enforcement and intelligence agencies was first constructed long before Gorelick appeared on the scene. A joint House and Senate intelligence committees' report of pre-September 11 intelligence failures found that the "wall" was "constructed over 60 years as a result of legal, policy, institutional and personal factors," and a ruling by the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review -- when it met for the first time in 2002 -- traces the origin of the "wall" to "some point during the 1980s."
The Gorelick memo that conservatives have cited as the creation of the "wall" applied only to divisions within the Justice Department; it did not apply to military intelligence agencies. So, for instance, if military intelligence had identified 9-11 hijacker Mohammed Atta as a potential terrorist prior to the attack, there was nothing preventing the military from sharing that information with intelligence agencies or law enforcement officials, despite what some have claimed and what Coulter seems to be suggesting.
Further, as we've also noted, the "wall" was reauthorized in August 2001 by Larry D. Thompson, deputy attorney general under then-Attorney General John Ashcroft -- appointed by President George W. Bush, a Republican -- and Thompson even proposed expanding it.
Funny, we don't recall Coulter taking to task any official working under a Republican president for their role in building the "wall."
From the December 5 edition of Fox News' Fox News Sunday:
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On December 1, Fox News contributor Monica Crowley attacked Secretary State Hillary Clinton over an alleged diplomatic cable recently released by Wikileaks regarding human intelligence collection on the United Nations. Crowley was up in arms about the document and said it "seems to be crossing a line." But when given five minutes to explain, she could not come up with a rationale that held water and indeed repeatedly contradicted herself on what Clinton had allegedly done wrong.
The document in question provides guidance to State Department personnel on "the new National HUMINT [human intelligence] Collection Directive (NHCD) on the United Nations ... as well as a request for continued DOS reporting of biographic information relating to the United Nations."
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has said that Clinton "should resign if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations, in violation of the international covenants to which the U.S. has signed up."
Appearing on Fox News' America Live to discuss Assange's statement, Crowley stated: "To enlist the diplomatic corps essentially as spooks when we have a real corps of spooks to do this job seems to be crossing a line." Seconds later however, Crowley largely undercut her own argument by stating: "Look, I have no doubt that other nations at the United Nations are doing this to us."
Before dissecting the rest of Crowley's disastrous attempt to attack Clinton, let's mention some crucial facts that Crowley neglected to mention during her appearance:
First, it is not a new policy for the State Department to gather human intelligence. The New York Times, which was given advanced access to the Wikileaks documents states that Bush administration Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had also ordered "more aggressive intelligence collection" in diplomatic cables.
Second, it is also not new for the United States to spy at the United Nations. The Times also reported: "While several treaties prohibit spying at the United Nations, it is an open secret that countries try nevertheless. In one 2004 episode, a British official revealed that the United States and Britain eavesdropped on Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the invasion of Iraq in 2003."
Third, it shouldn't surprise anyone in the international community that people introduced to them as diplomats are involved in espionage. CIA agents are often given an "official cover" as diplomats. Indeed, as Slate.com has reported: "Most CIA employees engaged in operations overseas are given official cover: a sham job in the U.S. embassy (or working for another government agency) that affords them diplomatic immunity." And this is far from secret. Indeed, there is a Wikipedia entry on official cover. The CIA article on HowStuffWorks.com also discusses official cover.
Fourth, as National Journal's Marc Ambinder reports, the document appears to be part of a government-wide effort to beef up human intelligence spearheaded by the CIA, not a State Department initiative.
From the November 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Program:
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You could call it a viral marketing. Today on Fox & Friends, the morning crew dredged up a five year old claim from author Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer that the Defense Department conspired to hide the fact that the Defense Department had identified hijacker Mohammed Atta prior to 9/11, Just as he happens to have released a book on the subject. In doing so they majorly garbled the issue, but they did manage to get the name of the book out there:
Opening the segment, co-host Brian Kilmeade re-introduced an issue that happened to Shaffer "a few years ago." Kilmeade noted that Shaffer "has got a new book out right now, but that's not the book we're talking about." Actually, his new book -- coincidently published by News Corp.'s HarperCollins -- had everything to do with what they were talking about.
See, about 5 years ago Shaffer caused a big stir by claiming that his military intelligence unit, known as Able Danger, identified lead 9-11 hijacker Mohammed Atta in a chart more than a year before the 9-11 attacks, but that the Defense Department and the 9-11 Commission kept that knowledge out of the 9-11 Commission report.
Naturally, such an allegation was thoroughly checked out. In addition to the 9-11 Commission chairman's statement that the Commission report did not contain these assertions because they were not "credible," separate investigations were conducted by the Defense Department Inspector General and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The DOD IG report found that, "The anti-terrorist program, Able Danger, did not identify Mohammed Atta of any of the other 9/11 terrorists before the 9/11 attack" and that members of the program were "not prohibited from sharing intelligence information with law enforcement authorities or other agencies that could have acted" on that information. Similarly, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found that "both the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence staff review and the DOD Inspector General review revealed no evidence to support the underlying Able Danger allegations."
That would seem to put the matter to rest, but now Shaffer has a book to sell. Coincidently -- just after the book came out -- Fox News reporter Catherine Herridge "exclusively obtained" an un-redacted copy of the DOD IG report, and contacted "at least" five of the witnesses listed in the report (whose identities were originally redacted). These witnesses now claim their stories were distorted by the report. Herridge does not make clear whether these are the same individuals whose claims of having seen Atta in the chart were deemed to be "not accurate" by the IG report and "not credible or reliable" by the Senate Committee, nor did her article note that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence corroborated the DOD IG's findings on Shaffer's allegations. And it should be noted that this all happened under the Bush administration, making the suggestion of a 9-11 cover-up of intelligence failures during the Clinton administration just seem odd.
However, none of these issues stopped Fox & Friends from reporting the claims as fact - completely ignoring they were debunked years ago, even if one of these reports is now being disputed. And, in the process, they proved they couldn't even get the basic facts of the story right. Co-host Gretchen Carlson asked "Why wouldn't they [9-11 Commission] put in the report these findings, because maybe that would look at least like they were kind of following the trail of Mohammed Atta?" Kilmeade followed that up by claiming that "the Defense Department put a line in the sand that these five people that brought up the fact that we were tracking a cell that included Mohammed Atta in it leading up to 9/11, was redacted." In reality, no one is claiming that they were "tracking" Atta. These people are claiming that they once saw a chart that included Atta, a claim which the DOD and the Senate Committee found to be "not accurate."
But Kilmeade wasn't done. He added that Shaffer "would not stand for this. He said it was called Operation Able Danger, and we were tracking Mohammad Atta," and that "Shaffer would not be corralled." He then linked Shaffer's claims to the recent news that the DOD bought and destroyed the entire first printing of Shaffer's book, Operation Dark Heart, saying that "they were destroyed," and that the DOD was "going to make him a best seller. And, they're burning his books, as if that's going to stop it. As if we're going to be out of ink. We're not going to make other books?" Of course, what he doesn't tell you, is that the DOD bought and destroyed what appears to be an earlier version of the book - reportedly because it contained classified material - and the publisher subsequently published a new version, while "working with [the DOD] to 'mitigate the resulting effects of the disclosures'." So, contrary to his suggestion, the book is available, just in a form that the Defense Intelligence Agency has deemed does not compromise the security interests of the United States.
Well, Fox & Friends may have bungled the reporting, but Kilmeade was right on one thing -- if he has his way -- the book will be a best seller. Kind of makes you wonder if that was the point all along.
Glenn Beck and guests John Bolton and Stuart Varney mischaracterized a federal report to portray it as expressing "the worldview of the Obama administration." In fact, the document was issued during the Bush administration and is designed to "stimulate strategic thinking," not establish the administration's "worldview." Beck also falsely portrayed the report's discussion of trends in developing nations as applying to the United States.
From the September 28 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Glenn Beck Programr:
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From the September 28 edition of The Glenn Beck Program:
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From the September 20 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the August 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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From the July 31 edition of Fox Business' Freedom Watch:
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In recent weeks, conservative media have been consumed by "Obama Derangement Syndrome," accusing President Obama of being insane, of colluding with Russian spies, of trying to create a civil war and implement one world government, among other things, while also claiming that his administration is trying to control everything under the sun, including the Internet and, inexplicably, your toilet.
From Marc Thiessen's book: Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack:
Obama claims that by eliminating enhanced interrogations and closing Guantanamo, he is actually making America safer. In his view, both the CIA program and Guantanamo have driven the Muslim street into the enemy's camp and helped al Qaeda recruit new terrorists. As Obama put it in his speech at the National Archives, enhanced interrogation techniques "served as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us." Moreover, he said, "There is no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is American's strongest currency in the world ... [I]nstead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause."
This is demonstrably false. First, the terrorists were successfully recruiting suicide operatives long before the CIA interrogation program existed or there were any terrorists held at Guantanamo. There was no Guantanamo and no CIA interrogation program when terrorists first tried to bring down the World Trade Center in 1993. There was no Guantanamo and no CIA interrogation program when they blew up our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. There was no Guantanamo and no CIA interrogation program when they attacked the USS Cole. And there was no Guantanamo and no CIA interrogation program on September 11, 2001. The terrorists found other excuses to recruit the operatives for these attacks. Evil always finds an excuse.
In the movie Batman: The Dark Knight, whenever the Joker is about to kill one of his victims, he points to the scars that form his hideous smile and tells the story of how he got his disfiguring wounds. Each time it is a different story. The first time he says they were carved into his face by an abusive father. The next time, he claims he did it to himself after criminals disfigured his wife. But when he says to Batman, "Do you know how I got these scars?" Batman says, "No, but I know how you got these," and pushes him off the side of a building. Batman is not interested in the villain's made-up excuses. We shouldn't be, either. [Pages 369-70]