ABC Continues to Omit Role of Democrats in Release of ‘Graphic’ CIA ‘Torture’ Report

On Monday night, ABC News continued to report on the impending release of a report on the CIA’s post-9/11 interrogation methods as though partisanship had no role when, in fact, Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee are the very reason it was compiled and will be released.

Following a morning in which ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today made no mention of the political reasoning, ABC kept the streak going on World News Tonight with David Muir with another report from ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz.

During her report, Raddatz referenced the “findings” of the report as being by “the majority Senate Intelligence Committee,” but made no effort to remind viewers that Democrats still control the Senate (and a majority on its committees) until January.

Meanwhile, she hyped the report as “explosive,” “extremely graphic,” and that “there are things in this report that will shock many Americans.” While Raddatz included comments from former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, who criticized the report, she made no mention of Republican opposition in Congress to this decision.

In contrast, fellow broadcast networks CBS and NBC mentioned the presence of politics in the release of this report. On the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes was asked by anchor Scott Pelley why the report was being released now, and Cordes simply responding by saying it was “politics.” 

Additionally, Cordes brought up how “this report is Dianne Feinstein's baby, and she will lose her chairmanship in just three weeks when Republicans take control of the Senate” as its not expected that Republicans will want to release it.

CBS News Justice and Homeland Security correspondent Bob Orr also brought up Senate Democrats and the response that’s expected from Republicans:

Led by Chairman Dianne Feinstein, majority Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee found the CIA misled the government about the need for and effectiveness of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” and the panel concluded the harsh treatment which some have labeled torture produced no actionable intelligence. Former CIA officials strongly reject those allegations, and sources say the agency, backed by committee Republicans, will provide a vigorous defense, claiming that CIA officers and contractors operated within the law, carrying out a program authorized by the Bush White House and the Justice Department and the CIA will cite specific cases in which it claims enhanced interrogations produced critical intelligence that stopped attacks and led to the capture or killing of key al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. 

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams led off the broadcast by covering this story, and emphasized that “[t]his is not a leak” and instead “a prepared document, 600 pages in length, released by the Democrats who still control the Senate Intelligence Committee, who believe once this evidence is out for the world to see, the U.S. will never again use torture as a means of interrogation.”

NBC News chief foreign affairs Andrea Mitchell did gush, however, during her report how calls from Secretary of State John Kerry to delay the release has “only hardened the Democrats to go public, despite possible threats.”

The relevant portions of the transcript from ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir on December 8 are transcribed below.

ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir
December 8, 2014
6:30 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Breaking News]

DAVID MUIR: The breaking news. U.S. Embassies and military all over the world on high alert tonight. Bracing for possible violence. The torture of CIA prisoners about to be revealed. 

(....)

6:35 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Worldwide Alert]

MUIR: Now, to that breaking news, the urgent warning tonight. U.S. Embassies, U.S. Military, all put on alert. Bracing for a possible violent backlash. A top secret report about to be revealed. Inside, how the CIA tortured prisoners. Let's get right to ABC's chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz and, Martha, we're going to hear some very graphic detail about what happened, and in some cases, even when there was no information gleaned? 

MARTHA RADDATZ: That's right, David. It's why those diplomatic and military facilities around the globe are bracing for potential violence targeting Americans because the report is that explosive. 

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Worldwide Alert; Fears of Backlash to Torture Report]

Despite the risk, the White House said today it supports the release of the report, described as extremely graphic with shocking detail about waterboarding and other interrogation methods the CIA conducted during the dark days after 9/11. As one person familiar with the report said, it will sound bad. It is harsh. Torture, sometimes continuing even after interrogators concluded there was no more information to gain. Waterboarding, the simulated drowning demonstrated here, was halted years ago, but the majority Senate Intelligence Committee findings conclude that the CIA misled the Bush administration about the methods and the results of the coercive interrogation conducted at so-called black sites outside of the U.S. The former President is standing by the CIA. 

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: These are patriots and whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it is way off base. 

RADDATZ: The CIA argues that waterboarding was key, not only in stopping future plots against America, but finding Osama bin Laden. 

FORMER NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER DIRECTOR MATTHEW OLSEN: There's going to be disagreement at the end of the day about the value of this information. 

RADDATZ: President Obama has not said definitively whether he thinks torture worked, but today, the White House said even if it did, the President does not believe it was worth it. 

MUIR: And Martha, we heard from former President Bush there, now we're learning that Vice President Dick Cheney is also weighing in? 

RADDATZ: He certainly is, David. He told The New York Times tonight that the harsh interrogations were, quote, “absolutely, totally justified,” dismissing accusations in the Senate report that it was a rogue operation as a bunch of hooey, but make no mistake, David, there are things in this report that will shock many Americans. 

MUIR: Alright, Martha Raddatz standing by for that report tonight. Martha, thank you. 

The portions of the transcript relating to the CIA report on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley on December 8 can be found below.

CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley
December 8, 2014
6:30 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

SCOTT PELLEY: Tonight, a worldwide warning. U.S. diplomatic and military posts are on high alert as the Senate prepares to report on the CIA's harsh interrogations that some call torture. Bob Orr has the story.

(....)

6:31 p.m. Eastern

PELLEY: Good evening. The Senate is about to release a controversial report on the harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA on Al Qaeda terror suspects after the 9/11 attacks. The U.S. government is concerned about the potential for a violent reaction, so it's put diplomatic and military posts all around the world on high alert tonight. Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee are expected to make the report public tomorrow. Justice correspondent Bob Orr has advance word on what's in it. 

BOB ORR: The report focuses on the months and years following 9/11 when the Central Intelligence Agency was holding and interrogating al-Qaeda detainees at secret overseas prison, so-called black sites and people familiar with the report say it's a near indictment of the CIA. Led by Chairman Dianne Feinstein, majority Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee found the CIA misled the government about the need for and effectiveness of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” and the panel concluded the harsh treatment which some have labeled torture produced no actionable intelligence. Former CIA officials strongly reject those allegations, and sources say the agency, backed by committee Republicans, will provide a vigorous defense, claiming that CIA officers and contractors operated within the law, carrying out a program authorized by the Bush White House and the Justice Department and the CIA will cite specific cases in which it claims enhanced interrogations produced critical intelligence that stopped attacks and led to the capture or killing of key al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Sources say the Senate report argues the CIA could have found bin Laden without using some of the harsh tactics, which included sleep deprivation, stress positions and the most extreme measure, waterboarding. Current and former CIA officials concede some mistakes were made when the detainee program was quickly launched in 2002, but they argue, over time, the agency made adjustments. For example, after three prisoners, Abd Al-Nashiri, Abu Zubaydah, and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed had all been waterboarded, the CIA halted the practice in 2003. Now, the CIA says the use of all enhanced interrogation techniques stopped in 2006 and was officially ended in 2009, but there's still an argument about the effectiveness of those harsh message. No one, Scott, is openly advocating for those to be reinstated. 

PELLEY: Bob, thanks. 

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Torture Report]

Our congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes is at her post on Capitol Hill tonight. Nancy, why is the report being released now?

NANCY CORDES: Politics, Scott, because this report is Dianne Feinstein's baby, and she will lose her chairmanship in just three weeks when Republicans take control of the Senate. There is no guarantee that her replacement, Richard Burr of North Carolina, a Republican, would be in any hurry to release it. He voted against it and so, yes, she has faced a lot of pressure from the CIA, from Republicans, from some in the administration who argue that releasing this report will make Americans less safe, will anger our enemies, but she has always argued that it will do exactly the opposite, and that shining a light on these past practices will ensure that they're never used again. 

PELLEY: We will see. Nancy Cordes, thank you very much.

The transcript of the tease and segment that aired on NBC Nightly News on December 8 are transcribed below.

NBC Nightly News
December 8, 2014
7:00 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: High Alert]

BRIAN WILLIAMS: On our broadcast tonight, high alert. Big CIA secrets about torture are about to be intentionally exposed. Tonight, U.S. Embassies and Marines bracing around the world over warnings these revelations could cost American lives.

(....)

7:01 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE CAPTION: Torture Report]

WILLIAMS: Good evening. U.S. Embassies and facilities around the world are preparing for possible violence within the next 24 hours because of the intentional release of a report detailing the torture of terrorism suspects by the CIA under the banner of the war on terror and in the wake of 9/11. This is not a leak. This is a prepared document, 600 pages in length, released by the Democrats who still control the Senate Intelligence Committee, who believe once this evidence is out for the world to see, the U.S. will never again use torture as a means of interrogation. It's where we begin here tonight, with our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell. 

ANDREA MTICHELL: Embassies in Cairo and other capitals are on alert bracing for the release of the explosive Senate torture report. 2,000 Marines are mobilized on amphibious ships equipped with Ospreys in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden and on a base in Sicily. A showdown between the CIA Director at the White House today and Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein on Capitol Hill. 

HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR MIKE ROGERS (R-MICH.): Our own intelligence community has assessed that this will cause violence and deaths. 

MITCHELL: A call from Secretary of State Kerry to Feinstein seeking a delay only hardened the Democrats to go public, despite possible threats. 

DEMOCRATIC SENATE RON WYDEN (ORE.): There are some around the world who are already angry at the United States because torture was used in the past. This report doesn't change that. 

MITCHELL: Those who've read the report say it is graphic. Similar to the interrogation in Zero dark thirty and devastating to the CIA. It accuses three CIA Directors and their deputies of lying to Congress, the White House and the American people and cites 20 cases where investigators say the torture produced no useful intelligence. It describes the waterboarding of three detainees in 2002 and 2003, including Osama bin laden's right-hand man Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In 2010, former President Bush told Matt Lauer why he authorized the program. 

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH [ON 11/08/10]: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he’s the guy that ordered – chief operating officer of Al Qaeda ordered the attack on 9/11 and they say he's got information. I said find out what he knows. I said are the techniques legal and a legal team says yes they are and I said use them. 

MITCHELL: Other harsh techniques continued for years, slamming detainees into walls, sleep deprivation, dousing them with cold water. Defendants argue help disrupt terror plots and find bin laden. They claim the CIA briefed Congress every step of the way and cite the pressure to prevent another 9/11. 

FORMER CIA CHIEF OF STAFF JEREMY BASH: The Trade towers were still in a smoldering ruin at ground zero when this program began. 

MITCHELL: President Obama ended the practices as soon as he took office. Tonight, former Vice President Dick Cheney told The New York Times any idea that the CIA misled the White House is, quote, “a crock" and that the CIA officials ought to be decorated, not criticized. Brian. 

WILLIAMS: Andrea Mitchell starting us off from our D.C. Newsroom. Andrea, thanks. 

Foreign Policy Military Interrogation Techniques War on Terrorism Liberals & Democrats CIA ABC World News Tonight CBS CBS Evening News NBC NBC Nightly News Government & Press Bob Orr Sen. Dianne Feinstein Diane Feinstein George Bush President George W. Bush Martha Raddatz Scott Pelley Brian Williams Andrea Mitchell David Muir
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