Issues ››› Detention
  • Here Are The Big Players In The Inevitable Smear Campaign Against Judge Merrick Garland

    ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    As President Obama reportedly prepares to announce Judge Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, media should be prepared to hear from several right-wing groups dedicated to opposing the nominee, no matter who it is. These advocacy groups and right-wing media outlets have a history of pushing misleading information and alarmist rhetoric to launch smear campaigns against Obama's highly qualified Supreme Court nominees, using tactics including, but not limited to, spreading offensive rumors about a nominee's personal life, deploying bogus legal arguments or conspiracy theories, and launching wild distortions of every aspect of a nominee's legal career.

  • Fox News Fooled By College Freshman Blogger In Attack On 9/11 Literature Course

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    Fox News highlighted a blog post by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) freshman to attack an English course on the "literature of 9/11" for being one sided in favor of so-called "terrorists," despite evidence that the course includes diverse perspectives on the attacks and the War on Terror that followed.

    On the August 31 editions of Fox & Friends and Outnumbered, Fox hosts criticized a course offering at the University of North Carolina, entitled "The Literature of 9/11." The segments drew from an August 28 post at the conservative blog The College Fix, written by a UNC freshman, that was also featured on Fox & Friends co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck claimed that the course did not represent the views of victims of the 9/11 attacks or their families, then briefly interviewed a man who lost his cousin in the attacks:

    ELIZABETH HASSELBECK: Students at one of the top universities in the country will learn about the September 11th attacks through the eyes of the terrorists, instead of the victims. A UNC-Chapel Hill's freshman seminar class, "Literature of 9/11," sympathizes with the terrorists who sparked the national tragedy, presenting America as imperialistic. Some of the required reading includes poetry by Guantanamo Bay detainees, but nothing at all from the perspective of September 11th victims or their families.

    Outnumbered co-host Lisa "Kennedy" Montgomery introduced a segment on the class by citing The College Fix's claims that "None of the readings assigned in the freshman seminar present the Sept. 11 attacks from the perspective of those who died or from American families who lost loved ones." The co-hosts then focused their discussion on the supposed "one-sided" perspective of the course, and questioned whether the class should be cancelled. Kennedy went on to read her own comic take on what a poem written by a Guantanamo detainee might sound like, and stated that "most of this writing would make great lining for the bottom of my parrot's cage":

    KENNEDY: I want to point out a little bit of the syllabus. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is a little bit of literature told from the perspective of a Pakistani-American who finds America to be greedy and imperialist.


    SANDRA SMITH: It appears from the course's online description, of which you read some of it, it says "We will explore a diverse array of themes related to the 9/11 attacks and the War on Terror." A diverse array of themes. But, you-- going back, none of the readings assigned in the freshman seminar present the perspective of those who died, or the families who lost loved ones. How is that a diverse array of theme? There's no diversity in this course.

    KENNEDY: It's not diverse at all. And I think we should offer a thousand dollars to the first student who takes this class from Professor Neel Ahuja and actually disagrees with him, and we'll see what kind of a grade they get. Because I guarantee you--

    HEATHER MACDONALD: Right, because he will shut down debate, that professor. Yeah.

    KENNEDY: I guarantee the first person who presents a logical argument for why much of this writing would make great lining for the bottom of my parrot's cage -- I don't have a parrot, but if I did I would probably line the bottom with a lot of this literature -- and, you know, present a more well-rounded opinion of what actually happened.

    The course, titled "ENGL 072: Literature of 9/11," is one of 82 freshman year seminar courses across all departments offered at UNC for the Fall 2015 semester, as of August 31. Professor Neel Ahuja, an Associate Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Geography, has taught the course since 2010. The original College Fix post about the course also cited a UNC student-driven rating page called Blinkness, which posts anonymous comments from supposed former students, to suggest that Ahuja had a personal agenda. Professor Ahuja's rating page received just four relatively positive comments from 2010 through August 29, 2015, but has since been swarmed with dozens of hateful messages demanding that he be fired, deported, or handed over to the terror group ISIS. According to his personal website, Ahuja was raised in Topeka, Kansas.

    In addition, the full list of assigned readings for the course does in fact contain diverse literature representing the perspectives of Arab-Americans, residents of New York City, members of the U.S. military and their families, survivors of the attacks, non-partisan terrorism researchers, artists, historians, musicians, and the international Muslim community, as well as several texts aimed to honor or memorialize victims of the attacks. Here are just a few examples the Fox hosts failed to mention:

    • A photographic series exploring public 9/11 memorials
    • graphic novel about 9/11 written by Art Spiegelman, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who witnessed the attacks at close range
    • A poem by Suheir Hammad, a Palestinian-American who writes about her brother in the U.S. military and her experience narrowly avoiding the World Trade Center on 9/11
    • A poem in memory of the staff of the Windows on the World Restaurant who died in the 9/11 attacks
    • Discussion of the famous "Falling Man" photograph capturing a 9/11 victim as he fell to his death, and the 2007 Don DeLillo novel about a 9/11 survivor inspired by it
    • Excerpts from the non-partisan 9/11 Commission Report and the 2002 Justice Department "Bybee" memo authorizing torture against terror detainees
    • Historical writings on the evolution of terrorism
    • The film "Zero Dark Thirty," which depicts the mission that captured and killed Osama bin Laden

    The course does include a collection of poems written by detainees at Guantanamo Bay, but all of the selections were cleared for release by the United States military during the Bush administration. One of the poets was detained at 14 and held for seven years without charge before his release. Another poet, the only journalist ever held in Guantanamo, was also released without charge after seven years in captivity.

  • Right-Wing Media Ignore Fact That Civilian Courts Are Better Than Military Commissions At Prosecuting Terrorists

    ››› ››› MICHELLE LEUNG

    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 Attacks Medicaid Provision That Keeps Inmates From Returning To Prison

    ››› ››› JUSTIN BERRIER

    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.

  • Fox News' Ignorance Of Immigration Law Plays Into Slanted Segment About Detainee Releases

    Blog ››› ››› SOLANGE UWIMANA

    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.

    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 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 Baselessly Suggests That Civilian Court Trial Will Result In Suspected Terrorist's Acquittal

    Blog ››› ››› ELLIE SANDMEYER

    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