ABC Most Hostile to Military Commissions, Frame Story Around Left-Wing Concerns

Of the broadcast network evening newscasts on Tuesday, ABC aired coverage the most hostile to the “Military Commissions Act of 2006," which President Bush signed earlier in the day. World News anchor Charles Gibson noted how Republican objections had been addressed, but “civil liberties groups," a nice euphemism for liberals, "are calling the new law a violation of American values and have already gone to court to overturn it.” The story from Martha Raddatz concentrated on those concerns as she asserted that “the language is so vague, say some lawyers, you could drive a truck through it. Others say it's just wrong." A lawyer for Guantanamo detainees then bemoaned: "What this bill does is reverse 500 years of common law history and said the President, the king, the executive can throw somebody in jail without needing to justify it to a court. That violates the rule of law and it violates our Constitution."

After not airing any pro-bill soundbites, other than a clip of Bush, Raddatz concluded by relaying how Senator Russell Feingold contended: “We will look back on this day as a stain on our nation's history." Gibson asked why so few Democrats voiced opposition. Raddatz pointed out how “this has not been a winning issue for the Democrats. In fact, in recent polls, 53 percent of Americans said it was okay to have secret prisons where U.S. laws did not apply. Basically, Charlie,” she fretted, “Americans do not want torture, but they fear terrorist attacks even more."

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the October 17 story on ABC's World News:
Anchor Charles Gibson introduced Raddatz: "At the White House, President Bush signed into law new rules allowing tough interrogations and military trials for terrorism suspects. The bill was held up in Congress by some Republicans. They say their concerns were addressed. But civil liberties groups are calling the new law a violation of American values and have already gone to court to overturn it. Here's ABC's chief White House correspondent, Martha Raddatz."

Martha Raddatz, from DC with the White House in the background: "At today's signing, the President described the legislation as one of the most important tools in fighting the war on terror."

George W. Bush, at bill signing: "It allows for the clarity our intelligence professionals need to continue questioning terrorists and saving lives."

Raddatz: "But legal experts say huge questions about the law still remain. Central to it all, interrogations."

Eugene Fidell, National Institute of Military Justice: "This legislation doesn't say what you can do. What it says is you can't torture, but the administration may have a different view of what torture is than you or I might have."

Raddatz: "And it is, indeed, up to the President to interpret what constitutes torture."

Tony Snow: "The government will not tell you the precise questioning techniques for the reasons that you do not want to give terrorists the ability to plan in advance for techniques that might be used."

Raddatz: "The language is so vague, say some lawyers, you could drive a truck through it. Others say it's just wrong."

Thomas Wilner, lawyer for Guantanamo detainees: "What this bill does is reverse 500 years of common law history and said the President, the king, the executive can throw somebody in jail without needing to justify it to a court. That violates the rule of law and it violates our Constitution."

Raddatz: "What is clear is this: The government can now proceed with the prosecution of detainees such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, accused of masterminding the 9/11 attacks. Hearsay evidence, which would not be admissible in civilian courts, will be allowed if a judge deems it reliable. And detainees are denied habeas corpus, so they cannot challenge their detention in court. There were only a few Democrats who released statements today critical of the bill. One of them, Senator Russell Feingold, saying, 'We will look back on this day as a stain on our nation's history.' Charlie?"

Gibson: "Martha, you mentioned there were only a few politicians who spoke out against it. Many more human rights people than politicians were objecting to this bill. And I suspect there's a reason for that."

Raddatz: "There is a reason, Charlie. This has not been a winning issue for the Democrats. In fact, in recent polls, 53 percent of Americans said it was okay to have secret prisons where U.S. laws did not apply. Basically, Charlie, Americans do not want torture, but they fear terrorist attacks even more."
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