National Security & Foreign Policy | Media Matters for America

National Security & Foreign Policy

Issues ››› National Security & Foreign Policy
  • NRA President Oliver North helped cover up the gun murder of a dissident journalist on U.S. soil

    The sordid affair took place during the 1980s when North was involved in the Iran-Contra conspiracy

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    While working for the Reagan administration in the 1980s, National Rifle Association President Oliver North was part of a group of administration officials who allowed the then-dictatorial Taiwanese government to get away with murdering a dissident journalist living in California. Members of Congress later made an issue out of the murder, leading to democratic reforms in Taiwan.

    North’s role in attempting to cover up the politically motivated murder of a U.S. citizen with a gun is yet another dark irony of his later ascent to the presidency of NRA, which calls itself the country’s oldest civil rights organization and frequently fearmongers about the prospect of criminal gangs running unchecked.

    Henry Liu was shot to death by two men at his home in Daly City, CA, on October 15, 1984. Liu, a naturalized U.S. citizen who worked as a freelance journalist, had been a critic of the Kuomintang party’s rule of Taiwan and was living in the U.S. in part because he hoped to avoid oppression by his home country’s government. It was later revealed that Liu had been murdered by members of a criminal gang on orders of an intelligence official in Taiwan.

    Liu’s murder was revisited in an opinion piece by John Pomfret published this week in The Washington Post. The op-ed drew parallels between that incident and the recent murder of Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi Arabian government.

    Information about Liu’s murder was intercepted by the National Security Agency, but as Pomfret noted, “Both the Reagan White House and Taiwan’s president worried that the investigation could affect U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which in 1984 had soared to more than $1 billion. The White House also wanted Taiwan to contribute to Oliver North’s campaign to fund the contras fighting the Sandinista-led government in Nicaragua.”

    According to the 2005 book Lee Teng-hui and Taiwan's Quest for Identity, “Among other measures, [then-president of the Republic of China] Chiang Ching-kuo contributed one million U.S. dollars to Oliver North’s Contra secret Swiss account. Thus, in the eyes of Ronald Reagan’s aides, such as Oliver North and Michael Deaver -- the latter reportedly had once been retained on a $5,000 per month basis by Taiwan government -- Chiang Ching-kuo was just another nice, garden-variety dictator who should be left unmolested.”

    North was later criminally prosecuted for his role in the illegal gun-running Iran-Contra scheme.

    Some members of Congress did not share the Reagan administration’s goal of letting the Chinese Nationalist Party get away with murder. Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-NY) launched “congressional hearings to publicize an extensive network of Kuomintang spies in the United States who were monitoring dissidents from Taiwan. Solarz added an amendment to the Arms Export Control Act, banning weapons sales to countries that engage in ‘intimidation and harassment’ of people in America.” These efforts resulted in the criminal prosecution of a Kuomintang government official involved in the murder, and a number of democratic reforms followed in Taiwan.

    Commenting after the murder of her husband, Helen Liu told The Associated Press that “America is his ideal country” and that “He always used it as a standard for China and Taiwan. That’s why he criticized both (countries). He enjoyed the freedom he had here, the spiritual life or the material life we had here.”

  • Fox News downplays Khashoggi's murder: “Saudi Arabia is one of the safest places to be a journalist in the world”

    Fox host Neil Cavuto:It is a reminder how this one journalist death, tragic though it is, has disproportionately skewed the picture”

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Fox News contributor Jonas Max Ferris downplayed the murder of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi by arguing that Saudi Arabia “is one of the safest places to be a journalist in the world” and touting the country’s investments in U.S. businesses.

    In response, host Neil Cavuto acknowledged that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the country, has engaged in oppressive practices against critics. But he also downplayed Khashoggi's murder, saying, “It is a reminder how this one journalist death, tragic though it is, has disproportionately skewed the picture.”

    Khashoggi, who was critical of the Saudi government, was killed during a visit to a Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey earlier this month. After initially claiming that Khashoggi had left the consulate after his October 2 visit, the Saudi Arabian government has now acknowledged that he was killed, implausibly claiming that he died after a fight broke out inside the diplomatic facility.

    Reacting to those developments, Ferris argued that “investors know Saudi Arabia isn’t really the enemy” and that “Saudi Arabia is one of the safest places to be a journalist in the world” during the October 20 broadcast of Cavuto Live:

    JONAS MAX FERRIS: They’re turning their oil revenue slowly into an investment fund of epic proportions that keeps Silicon Valley -- it’s one of the major sources of cash --

    NEIL CAVUTO (HOST): And we want to be part of that.

    FERRIS: Of course we do, which is why in some ways the president’s not being diplomatic, which is possibly good. The end of the day, investors know Saudi Arabia isn’t really the enemy. Saudi Arabia is one of the safest places to be a journalist in the world, believe it or not. If you go to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which is a very excellent site with a database, it’s almost 1,000 journalists killed since 1993. It’s only one in Saudi Arabia and that was by Al Qaeda in 2004.

    Ferris cited a database maintained by Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to claim that Saudi Arabia is a safe country for journalists. While he is correct that the database includes the murder of only one journalist in the country, in 2004, Ferris failed to note that Salman has ratcheted up oppression of journalists leading up to Khashoggi being targeted for murder.

    CPJ -- which has called Saudi Arabia’s explanation for Khashoggi’s death “ridiculous” and said that the government “lied to the world” -- has documented the oppressive conditions journalists work under in Saudi Arabia.

    As CPJ explained in an October 6 statement about Khashoggi, “Saudi Arabia's repression of journalists has intensified since Crown Prince Salman rose to power as the apparent heir to the king last year. CPJ recently documented a steadily increasing number of bloggers and journalists detained in unknown locations without charges since the start of what Saudi authorities term an anti-corruption campaign in September 2017.”

  • Fox Business segment warns against strong response to alleged Saudi murder of a journalist because it could “jeopardize the containment of Iran”

    Blog ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    On October 16, Fox Business’ Varney & Co. hosted the Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano to discuss the alleged assassination of Washington Post columnist and permanent U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi, purportedly carried out at the direction of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

    Carafano is currently the vice president of the Heritage Foundation and served as a State Department adviser for President Donald Trump’s transition team. In his role at the Heritage Foundation, he has written obsessively about containing Iran, which he considers vital to American national security interests; endorsed Trump’s association with strongmen; advocated for American mercenaries conducting operations in Afghanistan in place of regular U.S. military personnel; referred to Trump’s absurd and ineffective travel ban as “reasonable”; argued that, without the U.S. assisting Saudi Arabia in the brutal war in Yemen, the “region” may fall apart; and fearmongered about a favorite right-wing claim about “terrorists trying to cross from Mexico to the U.S.”

    During the appearance, both host Stuart Varney and Carafano framed the major concern surrounding the alleged attack on Khashoggi as potentially jeopardizing the "containment of Iran," and Carafano insisted that the United States government not act until officials “get the facts” of the alleged murder “right.” Varney even floated the idea that the United States could simply slow-walk an investigation and any action on the matter "so the days spread to a week or so, which delays any response from us. ... if I say, can we get away with that, that sounds pejorative, but do you think that's what's going to happen?"

    According to The Wrap, Fox Business remains “one of only two media organizations” sponsoring a planned Saudi Arabian business conference called the Future Investment Initiative, while the “other sponsor, Al Arabiya, is a Saudi-owned operation.” According to the report, “Over the last week, The New York Times, CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, Nikkei and the Financial Times all pulled out of the event amid growing questions about the kingdom’s involvement in the” alleged assassination of Khashoggi.

    From the October 16 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co.:

    STUART VARNEY (HOST): CNN reports that the Saudis are preparing to admit they killed the columnist Jamal Khashoggi in an interrogation gone wrong. ... James, we've got to get the response to this -- America's got to get the response right because we do not want to jeopardize the containment of Iran. Am I right

    JAMES CARAFANO (HERITAGE FOUNDATION): So, I'm going to say some words on this show you've never heard before. President Trump is the calm, responsible guy here. From the beginning he said, we've got to get the facts right, and he is exactly right. Look, we're going to have a strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia a year from now. We're going to have a strategic relationship with Turkey a year from now. That's not going to change because the world hasn't changed. But we have to go forward operating on what actually happened, because these relationships are too important to just fly off the handle, and we have to deal with the reality of what happened. So, we have to wait for the facts to come in. So, even though we've heard this CNN report, until the government of Saudi Arabia actually come out and says something, I think we have to be very careful. And the president's right. And you are right. The -- what the greatest destabilizing force in the region that's getting people killed, that's spreading misery by the hundreds of thousands is Iran, and that is the big ticket we have to deal with.

    VARNEY: Do you think we'll try to spin this out, demanding the facts, demanding to know what happened, and so the days spread to a week or so, which delays any response from us. Do you think we'll -- if I say, can we get away with that, that sounds pejorative, but do you think that's what's going to happen?

    CARAFANO: Well, I think we have to get the facts right, and then we have to go --

    VARNEY: That'll take time.

    CARAFANO: -- through the legal process that's required to do that. So, this is a U.S. person, so we might have an issue here where we might want to extradite something. We've got joint investigations between the Saudis and the Turks. We have the U.S. offer -- we should have learned something from the Kavanaugh hearing, which is we shouldn't declare guilt and innocence and then just pontificate our politics. We should let the facts decide what the U.S. response is, and it may take time for the real, concrete facts to come out.

  • Fox Business keeps casting doubt on Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance

    Fox Business, the only media organization that hasn’t pulled out of a high-profile Saudi conference, is muddying the waters around possible Saudi involvement in a journalist’s disappearance

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On October 3, The Associated Press reported that Saudi Arabian journalist (and U.S. permanent resident) Jamal Khashoggi, last seen entering a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, was missing. The disappearance drew significant media attention through October 11, when the Turkish government claimed to have audio and video proof that Khashoggi was assassinated and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate. 

    As evidence of Saudi involvement grew, many big media organizations have pulled out of the Saudi-planned Future Investment Initiative conference -- except Fox Business. Fox Business personalities have made suspect comments about Khashoggi’s disappearance, sowing confusion about possible Saudi culpability and downplaying the seriousness of the assassination if the Saudi government is guilty. 

    On the October 15 edition of Fox Business’ Cavuto: Coast to Coast, John Hannah, who served as an adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney, said that even if the Saudi government did murder Khashoggi, “diplomatically, we have got to maintain the strategic U.S.-Saudi relationship at the same time as we express real displeasure with what the Saudis have done here.” 

    Host Neil Cavuto later floated a bizarre conspiracy theory that Khashoggi’s disappearance may have been “hatched by the Turks to get at the Saudis, to embarrass them, to put them in a position.”

    On Fox News’ Outnumbered, after senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano commented that “there’s no way [Khashoggi] is going to be assassinated without the highest levels of the Saudi government authorizing it,” Fox Business host Melissa Francis chided Napolitano for “assuming that the Saudis did it," noting that "we don’t necessarily know that.” Francis suggested that the alleged murder might not be “what it appears to be” because “it was so obvious, and there are so many quieter ways to dispose of someone.”