- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The ‘winner’: CBS

CBS News provided the most liberal, outrageous news coverage in 2005, said 52 assorted reporters, talk-radio hosts, researchers and commentators enlisted by the Media Research Center (MRC) to gauge the state of journalism at year’s end.

The network was cited three times for shoddy reporting and by the panel of analysts, which included American Spectator editor R. Emmett Tyrell Jr., Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby and James Taranto, editor of the Wall Street Journal’s online edition.

Former CBS producer Mary Mapes was deemed the worst of the bunch for her insistence during a Nov. 9 interview with ABC that forged documents she used in a report claiming President Bush compromised his Vietnam-era National Guard service were genuine. The report, which originally aired during the 2004 election season, later was investigated by CBS, which withdrew the claims, fired Miss Mapes and publicly apologized.

The MRC panel also cited former CBS anchorman Dan Rather for maintaining the National Guard story was “accurate” during a Sept. 26 interview on C-SPAN.

Tax foes

Thirteen Republican senators have written to the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, demanding that new taxes on U.S. oil companies be removed from the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005.

Although Congress rejected legislation that would have imposed a “windfall profits” tax on U.S. oil companies, the Senate Finance Committee, led by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, inserted a provision in the tax-relief bill that would change accounting procedures and other tax laws in order to seize more cash from domestic oil companies.

One provision would raise the taxable value of oil-company inventories, while another would eliminate the foreign tax credit, thereby exposing the oil companies to what the senators called “double taxation.”

The letter was sent to Mr. Grassley and the Senate Finance Committee’s ranking Democrat, Max Baucus of Montana, as well as to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican, and that committee’s ranking member, Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat.

The letter was signed by Republicans James M. Inhofe and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, John Cornyn and KayBailey Hutchison of Texas, Michael B. Enzi and Craig Thomas of Wyoming, Larry E. Craig of Idaho, David Vitter of Louisiana, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, SamBrownback of Kansas, Jim Bunning of Kentucky, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

Why Bush did it

“In the days since the revelation that President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to bypass, in certain cases of suspected al Qaeda activity, the special court set up to provide warrants for national-security wiretaps, the question has come up repeatedly: Why did he do it?” Byron York writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“At his news conference [yesterday] morning, the president explained that he believed the U.S. government had to ‘be able to act fast’ to intercept the ‘international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda.’ ‘Al Qaeda was not a conventional enemy,’ Bush said. ‘This new threat required us to think and act differently.’

“But there’s more to the story than that,” Mr. York said. “In 2002, when the president made his decision, there was widespread, bipartisan frustration with the slowness and inefficiency of the bureaucracy involved in seeking warrants from the special intelligence court, known as the FISA court. Even later, after the provisions of the Patriot Act had had time to take effect, there were still problems with the FISA court — problems examined by members of the September 11 Commission — and questions about whether the court can deal effectively with the fastest-changing cases in the war on terror.

“People familiar with the process say the problem is not so much with the court itself as with the process required to bring a case before the court. ‘It takes days, sometimes weeks, to get the application for FISA together,’ says one source. ‘It’s not so much that the court doesn’t grant them quickly, it’s that it takes a long time to get to the court. Even after the Patriot Act, it’s still a very cumbersome process. It is not built for speed, it is not built to be efficient. It is built with an eye to keeping [investigators] in check.’ And even though the attorney general has the authority in some cases to undertake surveillance immediately, and then seek an emergency warrant, that process is just as cumbersome as the normal way of doing things.”

Not so scandalous

The latest Iraq ‘scandal’ the politicians and the media have discovered is the U.S. military’s alleged covert purchase of favorable articles in the Iraqi press,” John R. Guardiano writes at www.opinionjournal.com.

“This alleged ‘propaganda campaign … violates fundamental principles of Western journalism,’ the New York Times reports.

“This is not surprising, insofar as Iraq does not yet enjoy ‘Western journalism.’ Journalists there are murdered, blackmailed and bribed. They and their families are routinely threatened and coerced by terrorist/insurgents. Newspapers often serve as propaganda arms of various political and religious factions. The widely viewed Arab network Al Jazeera works diligently to promote terrorism and undermine Iraq by disseminating lies, distortions and misinformation,” Mr. Guardiano said.

“In light of this reality, the U.S. military has a choice: It can accept this deleterious state of affairs, play by Marquess of Queensberry rules, and wait decades for the emergence of ‘Western journalism.’ The result would be a heady propaganda win for the terrorist/insurgents, a prolonged conflict, and more unnecessary violence and death. Or the U.S. military can work within Iraq’s present-day constraints to try to ensure that Iraqis hear the truth about what is happening in their country.

“The U.S. military wisely has decided to pursue the latter course of action. But contrary to the Times and other self-anointed paragons of journalistic virtue, this is nothing new. I know because while serving as a Marine in Iraq in April 2003, I volunteered to write newspaper articles and radio and television scripts for dissemination in-country. Yes, I was a not-so-covert Iraqi journalist.

“I say not-so-covert because everyone — U.S. Marines and Iraqis alike — knew who I was and what I was doing. It was not a secret. But I seriously doubt that anyone in Washington knew of our activities. We never sought high-level approval. Ours was a tactical decision made on the ground in response to the threat that we faced.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]m.

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