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Uncle Sam
I've been forcing myself to sit through Glen Beck's "documentary" "The Revolutionary Holocaust: Live Free or Die." In teasers, Beck claimed it contained "history" viewers haven't seen "because progressives don't want you to know about it. It is history that is not being taught in classrooms in America ... it's a ton of information. Information that has been completely wiped from the history books."

Actually, this "history" isn't being taught in classroom because, as Alan Wolfe, director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Life at Boston College so succinctly puts it, Beck "lives in a complete alternative universe."

In the very first episode, Beck makes the astonishing assertion that Hitler was a "progressive," based on the mustached one's support for universal health care and access to education. From there he moves on to lump Hitler in with Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung, and so he can claim that the worst genocides in history all happened under left-wing regimes.

Georgetown history professor Michael Kazin described Beck's program as "a classic piece of anti-Communist propaganda" which selectively used some facts while ignoring others. "State inhumanity -- under different economic systems -- is a terrible fact of history," Kazin said. "And, yes, Communist regimes were among the worst of them. But Beck is only interested in `exposing' inhumanity on the left. And that's why his film is propaganda."

Beck conveniently omitted the murderous right-wing regimes of Generalissimo Francisco Franco of Spain, Benito Mussolini of Italy, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Jorge Rafael Videla of Argentina and General Augusto Pinochet of Chile, to name a few. Maybe because he'd have to admit that Pinochet's military dictatorship, under which thousands were killed and tortured, toppled the Allende government with the help of the CIA. Or it might be a little embarrassing to talk about Marcos when Beck's idol, Ronald Reagan, was such a good chum.

Having someone like Beck spouting revisionist history is particularly frightening in light of a recent PPP survey, which found that 49 percent of Americans trusted Fox News, 10 percentage points more than any other network. Granted, there was a strong partisan split to the result, with 74 percent of Republicans saying they trusted the network, but only 30 percent of Democrats.

"A generation ago you would have expected Americans to place their trust in the most neutral and unbiased conveyors of news," said PPP President Dean Debnam in his analysis of the poll. "But the media landscape has really changed, and now they're turning more toward the outlets that tell them what they want to hear."

This insular thinking doesn't bode well for informed political debate and it frightens me for the future of our country. Personally, I don't trust any one news source. I try to get information from as many places as possible, including sources overseas, because having lived abroad for 15 years, I've observed the ethnocentric lens through which U.S. news is reported by its own media.

How are we supposed to have intelligent and reasoned political discourse if we only listen to what we want to hear?

Fox persists in tailoring its message, even in what is ostensibly news coverage. Whereas MSNBC and CNN aired live coverage of last week's Q&A between President Obama and the GOP conference in its entirety, Fox chose to cut away with 20 minutes remaining. It was probably once producers realized that the president was taking on the GOP talking points with intelligence and actually trying to have a dialogue about policy -- but that doesn't fit with the Fox narrative. So much for "We report, you decide." More like "We decide what to report so you don't have to question your assumptions."

Security Undermined for Political Purposes

Uncle Sam
Herewith, today's
Greenwich time column

Can you hear the silence? That's the sound of right-wing pundits not accusing the Bush administration of aiding and abetting al-Qaida, after government sources leaked a pre-release copy of Osama bin Laden's first videotaped message in three years.

The video was obtained by the SITE Institute (Search for International Terrorist Entities), a nonprofit organization, which tracks jihadist Web sites. SITE's founder, Rita Katz (an Iraqi-born Israeli citizen who speaks Arabic with native fluency) told The Washington Post that through use of covert methods, SITE obtained a copy of the bin Laden video message in early September. At approximately 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, Ms. Katz sent an e-mail to Michael Leiter, deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and White House Counsel Fred Fielding.

The e-mail included a link to a private SITE Web page that hosted the bin Laden video and an English transcript. The e-mail also included a warning: "Please understand the necessity for secrecy ... We ask you not to distribute... [as] it could harm our investigations."

Literally within minutes, computers with addresses registered to government defense and intelligence agencies began downloading the video from SITE's server, according to a log of file transfers.

But the real blow came a few hours later, when several TV news networks reported they'd obtained copies of the transcript. Fox News posted a copy of the transcript on its Web site mid-afternoon, which not only referred to SITE, but included page markers on the transcript identical to those used by the organization, according to Ms. Katz.

"This confirms that the U.S. government was responsible for the leak of this document," Ms. Katz wrote to the NCC's Leiter in an e-mail at 5 p.m. that day.

The White House and the intelligence agencies are busy denying any involvement in the leak, while at the same time pointing the finger at each other.

It's hardly the first time this administration will have leaked sensitive intelligence information for political ends. Remember Valerie Plame? But this time, it's even more damaging.

"The government leak damaged our investigation into al-Qaida's network. Techniques and sources that took years to develop became ineffective," Ms. Katz said. "As a result of the leak, al-Qaida changed their methods."

Sure enough, U.S. watchers of the terrorist network (code name: Obelisk) watched in real-time horror as al-Qaida's intranet went "dark" after the leak. A U.S. intelligence official told The New York Sun that government Obelisk watchers saw the order to shut down the system delivered from al-Qaida's security to a team of technical workers in Malaysia. That was the last internal message the intelligence community saw. "We saw the whole thing shut down because of this leak ... We lost an important keyhole into the enemy."

That's bad. Why? "Nearly everything about al-Qaida that matters is happening online right now," Peter Bergen, a journalist and terrorism expert, said in a 2006 New Yorker piece about SITE. Indeed, al-Qaida uses the Web for everything from recruiting to expense reporting.

So why aren't the right-wing talking heads screaming "Treason!" and ranting about how this leak could cost the lives of American soldiers and indeed, of innocent civilians world-wide? Well, perhaps because Fox News was too busy quoting the Bush party line and downplaying the significance of the leak.

But I'd have at least expected something from CCN's Chuck Roberts. I mean, if the guy was so worried about Joe Lieberman's primary loss that he called Ned Lamont "The al-Qaida candidate," you'd have thought the loss of potentially actionable intelligence would make him apoplectic with outrage. But, nope. Deafening silence.

In potentially lethal irony, a mere two hours before press secretary Dana Perino denied administration culpability, pointing her leaky finger at the national intelligence director, the White House released an updated National Strategy for Homeland Security report. It states: "The United States faces a persistent and evolving terrorist threat, primarily from violent Islamic terrorist groups and cells ... Currently, the most serious and dangerous manifestation of this threat remains al-Qaida ... the group has protected its top leadership, replenished operational lieutenants, and regenerated a safe haven in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas -- core capabilities that would help facilitate another attack on the Homeland."

You know, I would have felt a whole lot safer if our intelligence people had access to the Obelisk network the way they did before someone in this government compromised it for political theater. Shame on this administration for using "national security" as a device to hide its misdeeds, while risking that same security for political ends.


Uncle Sam


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