profrv at nex.net.au
Thu May 13 02:26:05 PDT 1999
CIA scrambles to catch up
By Richard Reeves
BILL Harlow, who is the spokesman for the Central Intelligence Agency, an
organization that rarely speaks and is even more rarely forthcoming, is
apparently one of the more candid of his breed.
Last weekend he was called by Judith Miller of the New York Times and asked
why CNN rather than the CIA was able to find 250 videotapes, somewhere in
Afghanistan, that seem to be an authentic archive of the terrorist
activities of al-Qaida before the Sept. 11 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Said Harlow: ``There are more of them in Afghanistan than there are of us,
and they are paid better.''
Mercifully, the Times used the quote in the 32nd paragraph of its report on
dogs being gassed and men making bombs, some of them in training films for
terrorists. People in the White House are too busy to read long stories, so
the president's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, spinning like a top, could say
that the important thing about the tapes and stories was that: ``This is a
good reminder to the people of the world that these are the type of people
that we are facing in the war on terrorism.''
That's true, these are bad people, but we knew that and were talking about
it already. What was more striking and known to few people, including
presidents, was the CIA's admission that journalism, even television
journalism, often and publicly presents a better picture of the world as it
is than do our intelligence agencies. Sometimes it seems that the CIA's
top-secret multi-multibillion-dollar budget exists to allow high officials
in both the White House and Congress to answer questions about, say Iraq,
with a wink: ``If you knew what we knew, you wouldn't question what we are
saying and doing.''
Over the years, I have asked three presidents, a vice president, and a
dozen or so well-placed members of Congress whether they got more
information from the intelligence agencies than from the New York Times.
All of them, except for new members of intelligence committees in the
Senate and the House, who are dazzled by their first ``top secret''
briefings, answered, ``The Times.'' Bill Clinton gave that answer, saying
that every once in a while the CIA scooped the newspapers, particularly on
matters of timing. ``Sometimes,'' he said, while he was still in office,
``the CIA was about 24 hours ahead of the press or interpreted events
The point here is not that the press is so great. In fact, the weakness of
the press was almost certainly a factor in the nation's ignorance about the
looming dangers of organizations like al-Qaida around the world. With the
decline of the Soviet Union and communism itself, and the rise of
budget-cutters and profit-maximizers at newspapers and television news
organizations, American news operations called home their correspondents in
Asia, Africa and even in Europe.
The theory (or rationale) was that the world could be covered by
``parachuting'' correspondents from New York or London into the war or
outrage of the week, into massacres and natural disasters. The background
of the parachuters often was no more than a briefing on how to pronounce or
spell the names in the news. Most of the film we saw on television during
those years came from British or other foreign sources, which was the
reason channel-surfers moving from one news show to another saw the same
pictures everywhere over the voices of different anchormen and the parachuters.
Harwood, of the CIA, as candid as he may be, still suffers from having
lousy intelligence on the news business. CNN, in fact, has only 10 people
in Afghanistan. The CIA, which refuses to talk about such things (in the
name of national security), probably has hundreds working in and on
Afghanistan -- and some of them are probably being paid more than they're
"Yes, We Censored News About Afghanistan"
The Lapdog Conversion of CNN
by Kurt Nimmo
In an August 15 news item carried by Press Gazette Online, Rena Golden, the
executive vice-president and general manager of CNN International, admitted
censoring news regarding the US war in Afghanistan. This censorship, she
explained, "wasn't a matter of government pressure, but a reluctance to
criticize anything in a war that was obviously supported by the vast
majority of the people."
How exactly the American public are expected to judge the validity of the
US war in Afghanistan--and, indeed, the entire war on terrorism--when news
organizations refuse to provide crucial information is not explained. In
essence, Golden admits public opinion is cast by one source--the
government--and the media has essentially abrogated its responsibility to
provide additional, even contrary information on these momentous issues.
Additionally, CNN New Delhi chief Satinder Bindra said many journalists
pushed "harder than they should for a story," thus endangering the lives of
other journalists covering the war from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Bindra
did not comment on how exactly journalists might be expected to receive
information for their stories, or what precisely constitutes pushing
"harder than they should." Maybe Bindra expects them to remain ensconced in
their Islamabad hotel rooms and wait patiently for the news to arrive by
courier? Or stay in Washington and rely on Donald Rumsfeld as their only
While many journalists complained about military imposed censorship during
the Persian Gulf War a decade ago, it now appears the corporate media has
decided on its own to censor the news without external limitation imposed
by the Pentagon. In other words, the corporate media has in essence become
a rather short-sighted and assentive propaganda organ for the Bush
administration. Remarkably, they attribute this lapdog conversion to a
desire not to offend public opinion, which they arrogantly assume is
entirely monolithic. It would seem CNN is now the official government news
As official Bush administration propaganda mills, CNN and other corporate
news networks have obsequiously agreed to a White House demand not to
broadcast unedited remarks by Usama bin Laden. The White House wasted no
time in exacting likewise from newspapers in regard to print transcripts.
"In a bizarre and unprecedented move," Veronica Forwood, chairwoman of the
British branch of Reporters without Borders, remarked, "the five major
networks--CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox News Channel--have rolled over and
acquiesced to the call for censorship from the US president's security
adviser Condoleeza Rice."
During the Persian Gulf War, however, things were different--some of the
media did not so easily roll over and play dead like a dog straight out of
obedience school. In 1991, Harper's, The Village Voice, The Nation, and
others sued, claiming government censorship was a violation of the First
Amendment. Predictably, the major corporate newspapers and TV networks
refused to join the lawsuit. Instead, as now, they simply ingratiated
themselves with the Pentagon and dutifully spoon-fed the public censored
and heavily excised information (if not outright lies and fabrications).
The lawsuit was eventually dismissed by a judge who didn't want to touch it
with a ten-foot pole. It would seem the media of decades past was made of
brawnier stuff than the media of today.
John MacArthur, publisher of Harper's Magazine, wistfully entertained the
idea of suing again, but he was less than sanguine about the prospect. "We
might sue again, some small lawsuits, some civil libertarians may do so,
but it's hopeless," he told the German journalist Gerti Schoen back in
September. "This will be the most censored war in history... It won't just
be censorship, but silence." While we have not exactly received complete
silence, the news trickling out of Afghanistan is, to say the least, highly
stage managed and tilted for a world of spin.
So confident is the Pentagon corporate media resides in its hip pocket that
back in December they dropped a requirement demanding journalists covering
Afghanistan be part of an exclusive and authorized group, otherwise known
as a "press pool." The press pool concept was devised in 1983 when the US
invaded Grenada. It was updated in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War after
publishers such as MacArthur began murmuring about military censorship. The
relaxation of the press pool rules in December, however, did not prevent
the military from denying journalists access to the war zone. On December
6, when American troops were hit by a stray bomb north of Kandahar,
photojournalists were locked in a warehouse by Marines to make sure they
didn't take pictures of wounded soldiers.
More recently, media access to the Uruzgan wedding massacre was sharply
curtailed. When journalists in Kabul submitted a request to join press
officers at the Bagram air base--in order to travel by helicopter to the
site--they were steadfastly denied permission by the military. Only two
journalists traveled with US investigators to villages near Deh Rawud--one
was a reporter from the US armed forces newspaper Stars and Stripes and the
other was cameraman from the Associated Press Television Network. The chief
US media officer at Bagram, Colonel Roger King, told those left behind they
would have no right of access to the pool reporters' work. King's statement
was a contradiction of the Pentagon's own press pool guidelines. As a
result of this decision, it took four days for information about the
Uruzgan wedding massacre to be made public. Allegations were later leveled
by United Nations workers, accusing the military of changing the press pool
rules in order to limit access to the area and thus destroy evidence, a
charge the Pentagon naturally denied.
But the Pentagon's war against media coverage in Afghanistan is not limited
to reporters and news crews on the ground. In October, as the brass busily
prepared for war, they used public money, at the none too shabby tune of $2
million per month, to secure exclusive rights to all new high-quality
commercial spy satellite images of Afghanistan. During a policy debate on
the release of satellite imagery, the idea was floated that the Pentagon
might shoot down the commercial satellites if they were not allowed to
control the images. Regardless, in December the Pentagon decided not to
continue the exclusive contract. Considering CNN's recent admission of
tailoring news in deference to the sensitivities of the American people,
access to satellite photography is a moot point--chances are they would not
publish them anyway.
It would seem Americans need to be protected from the harsh realities of
war--or, more likely, as in the case of Vietnam, their visceral abhorrence
to it--when it comes to documentaries, as well. When Irish director Jamie
Doran released his controversial documentary--Massacre in Mazar--in Europe,
not one major US newspaper or television network covered the story, which
essentially resulted in a news black out in the United States. Doran's film
documents the aftermath of the massacre of hundreds of Taliban fighters at
the Mazar-i-Sharif prison Qala-i-Jangi. In the documentary, dead prisoners
are shown with hands tied behind their backs. Eyewitnesses describe the
torture and slaughter of some 3,000 prisoners who were subsequently buried
in the desert. While the Pentagon has denied any complicity in the torture
and massacre of the POWs, many European parliamentary deputies and human
rights advocates have called for an independent investigation into the
atrocities. The human rights lawyer Andrew McEntee said it is "clear there
is prima facie evidence of serious war crimes committed not just under
international law, but also under the laws of the United States itself."
Nonetheless, CNN, Fox, NBC, CBS, et al, decided not to run coverage of the
film or announce the possibility of an investigation. Much later, however,
when the massacre story simply became too high profile to ignore, it did
receive a degree of limited coverage in the United States.
Fortunately, the press in Britain and Europe has an excellent track record
of covering stories the US media have consistently (and deliberately)
ignored at the behest of the Pentagon and the Bush administration. Thanks
to the Internet, these stories can be read by Americans without access to
foreign newspapers. Both the Guardian and the UK Independent carry
alternative news (available via the Web)--and also carry reports and
editorials by award winning journalists such as Robert Fisk and John
Pilger. These are news stories and opinions The NY Times would never touch.
We no longer live in a world of hermetically sealed information. For those
Americans thirsty for truth--and who do not take kindly to their news being
sanitized and rubber stamped by the Pentagon and unelected
presidents--there are more than a few sources out there.
Kurt Nimmo is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New
Mexico. He can be reached at: nimmo at zianet.com
More information about the cypherpunks-legacy