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Stephen Jones, the lawyer for accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and April 21, 1995), releases flattering photographs and videotapes of his client, along with McVeigh’s US Army records, saying that the public has a right to know McVeigh “as he really is.” McVeigh is a patriotic, happy young man, Jones says, and, quoting McVeigh’s military records, an “inspiration to young soldiers.” The photos and videotapes show McVeigh smiling and laughing with his lawyers. Jones has also allowed McVeigh to be interviewed by retired Colonel David Hackworth, a Newsweek columnist (see June 26, 1995, July 3, 1995) and June 26, 1995). “The public is entitled to know more about Mr. McVeigh than the government has released anonymously,” Jones says. Jones has already discussed the large amount of “supportive” mail McVeigh is receiving in prison (see June 9, 1995). Newsweek has released excerpts from Hackworth’s interview with McVeigh. Jones denies trying to influence potential jurors, saying: “If I were trying to influence potential jurors, I could say a lot more. The principal purpose behind it is to present our client to the public, to the families of the victims, to the victims who survived, as we believe he really is, to let them see something other than the 10 to 15 seconds of him walking out of the Noble County Courthouse. What I think you should draw from the record is that this is a young man who served his country honorably for four years.” Jones explains that he and McVeigh granted the interview with Hackworth because “Hack wrote him and said that he wanted to talk with my client, soldier-to-soldier.” [Associated Press, 6/26/1995; Chicago Sun-Times, 6/26/1995] The public-relations blitz is not entirely successful. Janet Walker, who lost her husband David in the blast, says: “They can’t make him innocent by putting a smile on his face, and they can’t make him guilty until they convict him. It’s nothing more than a ploy. I know that. He’ll get his in the end, if he’s guilty.” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 237-238] Jones tells reporters that McVeigh had been mistreated during his initial incarceration: telephone lines had been disconnected when he attempted to call a lawyer, and jailers had refused to give him a bulletproof vest during his “perp walk” transfer from the Noble County Courthouse (see April 21, 1995) because, Jones says, “It was like they were hoping Jack Ruby would come out.” Jones is referring to the man who shot accused Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald before Oswald could be arraigned. Noble County Undersheriff Raymond Jones strongly denies both of Jones’s claims. Jones also says that a camera set up to monitor McVeigh in his El Reno Federal Corrections Center cell, which is active 24 hours a day, is there to “engage in a kind of psychological warfare” that might “ultimately, perhaps… have an effect on [McVeigh’s] mental stability, which in turn might affect the trial.” The camera is later turned off for four hours a day, complying somewhat with Jones’s wishes. Jones also accuses prosecutors of “wiretapping” McVeigh’s conversations with his lawyers, and says that government wiretaps have been placed on his own phones, charges the prosecution denies. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 233-234, 239] Judge David L. Russell notes that Jones “slipped” Hackworth and photographer Peter Annin into the El Reno facility by pretending they were members of McVeigh’s legal team, and later asks McVeigh if he is comfortable with his lawyer conducting himself in such a manner. “Obviously, you don’t want somebody representing you that is not going to give you their all, would you agree with that?” Russell asks McVeigh. McVeigh says he is confident that Jones is representing him well, and assures Russell that he is “mentally competent” to make that determination. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 247-248]
Accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, April 21, 1995 and April 24, 1995) gives an interview to Newsweek, saying he intends to plead not guilty to all charges; the interview quickly makes headlines around the country. In a cover story entitled “The Suspect Speaks,” McVeigh tells interviewer Colonel David Hackworth (see June 26, 1995) that the first he knew of the bombing was when a state trooper pulled him over driving north from Oklahoma City some 90 minutes after the blast (see 9:03 a.m. -- 10:17 a.m. April 19, 1995). McVeigh says he was “horrified” by the deaths of 19 children in the explosion, and adds: “And you know, that was the number one focal point of the media at the time, too, obviously—the deaths of the children. It’s a very tragic thing.” He refuses to directly confirm or deny any involvement in the bombing, saying, “The only way we can really answer that is that we are going to plead not guilty.” The interviewer tells him, “But you’ve got a chance right now to say, ‘Hell no!’” McVeigh replies, “We can’t do that.” McVeigh goes into some detail about his “average childhood” (see 1987-1988); his lawyer Stephen Jones (see May 8, 1995), present for the interview, tells the interviewer that McVeigh is “the boy next door, a boy wonder.” Newsweek records McVeigh’s appearance as “a little nervous, maybe, but good humored and self-aware. Normal.” The interview is held in a conference room at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center about 25 miles west of Oklahoma City. Jones has released pictures and an audio-less videotape of McVeigh laughing and smiling while talking to his lawyers, in an apparent attempt to soften his image. Of the video, Jones says, “We want to present our client to the public as we believe he really is.” The country is most familiar with the image of McVeigh being led away from an Oklahoma County Jail in handcuffs (see April 21, 1995). Jones also emphasizes McVeigh’s solid military record (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and January - March 1991 and After). Jones placed heavy restrictions on the interview with McVeigh, and thusly little new material is given. McVeigh will not discuss any evidence that prosecutors say shows his guilt, and Jones refuses to allow McVeigh to answer questions about whether he committed the bombing. Though in May the press reported that sources had said McVeigh confessed to the bombing in prison (see May 16, 1995), Jones says: “I’m not aware of anything he said in the interview that is inconsistent with what has been reported up to this point by the New York Times and every other newspaper in the country. If you’re trying to suggest that there may have been anything inconsistent, may I respectfully suggest that you may have not read the interview carefully.” Jones later disputes one quote attributed to him of McVeigh, where Jones supposedly told the interviewer, “He’s innocent.” Jones says, “I frankly don’t remember saying that he’s innocent and I do not think that is something I would have said.” McVeigh also denies any affiliation with militia groups or attending meetings of such groups (see 1992 - 1995, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, April 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, November 1994, January 1995, and April 5, 1995), and denies reports that he had called himself a “prisoner of war” and refused to state anything but his name, rank, and serial number (see April 21, 1995). He acknowledges setting off small explosions on a farm in Michigan with his accused co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994), but says they were little more than plastic Pepsi bottles “that burst because of air pressure,” adding, “It was like popping a paper bag.” He refuses to go into details about his political views, saying merely that he was “bothered” by the 1993 Branch Davidian debacle (see March 1993, April 19, 1993, and April 19, 1993 and After), and acknowledges visiting the site after the final raid by FBI agents. He admits to having “been through Oklahoma City,” but when asked if he and his friend Michael Fortier (see May 19, 1995) had “cased” the Murrah Federal building in the days before the attack, replies, “I think I’d rather not answer that.” He says that the government has “[m]ost definitely” made “mistakes,” but does not characterize himself as an anti-government person. [New York Times, 6/26/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 225]
Stephen Higgins, the former head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF, sometimes abbreviated ATF), publishes an op-ed for the Washington Post explaining why his agency mounted a raid on the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993). Higgins says he wrote the piece after watching and reading about the public reaction to the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), which many claim was triggered by the Waco debacle (see April 19, 1993). Higgins says a raft of misinformation surrounds the BATF raid on the Davidian compound, and gives his rationale for the raid.
BATF Did Not Instigate Investigation into Davidians - “[D]espite what fundraisers at the National Rifle Association would have us believe, the [B]ATF is not part of some sinister federal plot to confiscate guns from innocent people,” he writes. The agency was alerted to the Davidians’ stockpiling of weapons by reports from a local deputy sheriff, who heard from a United Parcel Services driver that a package he delivered to the Davidians contained grenade parts (see November 1992 - January 1993), and earlier deliveries included black gunpower, firearms parts, and casings. “[C]onspiracy theorists had best include the local sheriff’s office and UPS as part of the collusion,” Higgins writes. In addition, the day before the raid, the Waco Tribune-Herald began the “Sinful Messiah” series of reports on the Davidians and their leader, David Koresh (see February 27 - March 3, 1993), which detailed, Higgins writes, “the potential danger the group represented to the community as well as, somewhat ironically, the failure of local law enforcement agencies in addressing the threat. (The conspiracy now would have to include the local newspaper publisher!)”
Davidians Posed Clear Threat to Community - Higgins says that it would have been dangerous to assume that the Davidians were peaceful people who did not plan to actually use the weapons they were amassing, and repeats the claim that Koresh said in late 1992 that “the riots in Los Angeles would pale in comparison to what was going to happen in Waco” (see December 7, 1992). Higgins goes on to say that during the 51-day siege, Koresh alluded to a previous plan to blow up the dam at Lake Waco, that Koresh wanted to provoke a confrontation with the BATF, and had at one point considered opening fire on a Waco restaurant to provoke just such a conflict.
BATF Feared Mass Suicide - Higgins notes that the BATF, like the FBI, feared the possibility of “mass suicide” (see February 24-27, 1993, Around 4:00 p.m. February 28, 1993, March 5, 1993, March 7-8, 1993, March 12, 1993, (March 19, 1993), and March 23, 1993), and gives several examples of cults who have carried out just such mass suicides.
Disputes Claims that BATF Fired First Shots - Higgins disputes the claims “that the Davidians were only defending themselves when they shot and killed four [B]ATF agents and wounded numerous others” during the February 1993 raid. He notes that investigations have shown that all four BATF agents were killed by Davidian gunfire (see February 2000) and not “friendly fire,” as some have alleged, and asks, “[W]hat possible excuse could there have been for the Davidians even taking up arms—let along using them—upon learning inadvertently from a TV cameraman that ATF agents were on their way to serve warrants?” Had the Davidians allowed the BATF agents to serve their warrants, “there would have been no subsequent loss of life on either side.” He goes on to say that it was the Davidians, not the BATF, who first opened fire, as a Treasury Department report has confirmed (see Late September - October 1993). He writes that for BATF agents to have merely “driven up to the compound and politely asked to conduct a search without displaying any firearms” would have been “dangerous and potentially suicidal.”
Using Waco as an Excuse for Violence - Higgins concludes that people like Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, do not decide to do violence to innocent people because of tragedies such as the Davidian incident, but “use it as an excuse for their behavior.” He notes that after the Oklahoma City bombing, someone called it a “damned good start.” He says perhaps the upcoming hearings on the Waco tragedy (see Late July 1995) might influence some of these people: “By seeing the faces of the survivors and reading their stories, maybe those who so vehemently rail against government authority in general, and government workers in particular, will come to understand better that those people they’ve been so quick to criticize have real faces and real families. They car-pool to work. They coach Little League sports. They mow their lawns. They’re the family next door that waters your plants and takes in your mail while you’re away. No one deserves to have their life placed in jeopardy simply because they work in, or happen to be passing by, a government office. And no one, not even law enforcement officers who get paid for risking their lives, deserves to be targeted by violent extremists threatening to kill them simply for doing their jobs.” For others, like radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy, who has advised his listeners to shoot BATF agents in the head because they wear bulletproof vests (see August 26 - September 15, 1994), “I doubt there’s much hope,” Higgins writes. He says that Liddy’s excuse that he was talking strictly about self-defense doesn’t wash; some angry and unstable individuals might well take Liddy’s words literally. Higgins compares Koresh to mass murderers such as Charles Manson and David Berkowitz (“Son of Sam”), and concludes: “We can’t change the outcome of what happened at Waco, but we have a responsibility not to ignore simple fairness and compassion in our search for the truth. If there is to be another hearing on Waco, let’s hope it’s for the purpose of examining the facts and learning from the tragedy, not merely to please one more special interest group with an anti-government agenda.” [Washington Post, 7/2/1995]
Entity Tags: US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, David Koresh, G. Gordon Liddy, Branch Davidians, Stephen Higgins, Washington Post, Waco Tribune-Herald, Timothy James McVeigh, National Rifle Association
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
Newsweek publishes a column by Colonel David Hackworth, who regularly writes on military matters for the magazine. Hackworth recently visited accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) in prison (see May 11, 1995). McVeigh and his lawyer Stephen Jones were featured in a recent issue of Newsweek as well (see June 26, 1995). Hackworth includes little of the actual words of the interview in this column, and spends most of his time giving his impression of McVeigh. He is ambivalent at best, lauding McVeigh’s military record and his ramrod-straight appearance, but speculative at best about McVeigh’s professed innocence. When he talked to McVeigh at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center, he writes, “I realized my gut feeling was right. He has what a lot of soldiers, good and bad, have: fire in the belly. When we talked about the military, a change came over him: McVeigh suddenly sat straight in his chair. The Army, he says, ‘teaches you to discover yourself. It teaches you who you are.’ I know what he means. To warriors, the military is like a religious order. It’s not a job. It’s a calling. Not too many people understand that calling or have what it takes.” Hackworth believes that after McVeigh returned from serving in Desert Storm (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and January - March 1991 and After), he “slipped into what’s known among vets as a postwar hangover[. I’ve] seen countless veterans, including myself, stumble home after the high-noon excitement of the killing fields, missing their battle buddies and the unique dangers and sense of purpose. Many lose themselves forever.” He notes that McVeigh voluntarily washed himself out of Special Forces training (see January - March 1991 and After), “but seemingly accepted his defeat stoically. Did his failure drive him over the edge? Maybe, but McVeigh says no: ‘It wasn’t the straw that broke anything.’ He planned to get in shape and come back. Still, something snapped.” Hackworth writes that McVeigh left the Army because of the postwar letdown and the Army’s “drawdown” of personnel (see November 1991 - Summer 1992), and was particularly troubled by his comrades leaving the service. He quotes McVeigh as saying, “You can literally love your battle buddies more than anyone else in the world.” Hackworth adds: “When they shipped out he was devastated, wondering if he’d made a mistake by staying in the military. Losing your war buddies is like losing an arm or a leg—or a loved one. McVeigh may have been crushed by the amputation.” From there, Hackworth writes, McVeigh “couldn’t adjust to civilian life,” and notes: “I’m no shrink, but I’ve seen this failure to adapt many times before. The rules change on you. You’re used to order—having a dear objective, knowing just how to get the job done. Then you’re on your own in a different world, with no structure and little exact sense of what you’re supposed to do.” None of this excuses or even explains the crimes McVeigh is accused of committing, he writes, and concludes: “The Timothy McVeigh I talked with didn’t seem like a baby killer. He was in high combat form, fully aware that his performance in the interview was almost a matter of life and death. If he’d been in combat, he’d have a medal for his coolness under fire. He might also be the most devious con man to ever come down the pike. At times McVeigh came across as the boy next door. But you might never want to let him into your house.” [Newsweek, 7/3/1995] Hackworth’s column contains much the same information he gave PBS’s Charlie Rose in a recent interview (see June 26, 1995). In a harsh critique of Hackworth’s military writing, Slate writers Charles Krohn and David Plotz will call his column on McVeigh “astonishingly sympathetic,” and will mock Hackworth’s “postwar hangover” explanation of McVeigh’s alleged bombing. [Slate, 11/28/1996] Although the interview is dated July 3, the issue of Newsweek containing it appears on June 26.
The Washington Post prints the Unabomber’s “manifesto” in an eight-page supplement. It is a 35,000-word document manually typed on 56 single-spaced pages (not including 11 pages of footnotes), largely about the dangers and ills of technology. [BBC, 11/12/1987; Washington Post, 4/13/1996; Washington Post, 1998; Newseum, 2011] It is published in cooperation with the New York Times. According to the Post, the document rails against modern society and technology, and explains something of the bomber’s rationale for his 17-year bombing spree. “In order to get our message before the public with some chance of making a lasting impression, we’ve had to kill people,” the author writes. He also admits to killing advertising executive Thomas Mosser (see December 10, 1994), and blames the firm Mosser worked for, Burson-Marstellar, for working with Exxon to minimize the public criticism the corporation received after the Exxon Valdez spill: “We blew up Thomas Mosser last December because he was a Burston-Marsteller executive,” the letter reads. The author represents himself as one of a group of anarchists he calls “FC,” and also misspells the name of the firm. [Washington Post, 4/13/1996] “FC” will later be found to stand for “Freedom Club.” [Washington Post, 1/23/1998]
Publish Manifesto or Suffer More Bombings, Unabomber Writes - The Post is following the directive made months before to the New York Times that the bomber, or the group he claims to represent, will stop his bombing spree if a national publication prints his article (see April 24, 1995). The manifesto will lead to the identification of the Unabomber as former college professor Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski (see April 3, 1996). Kaczynski’s sister-in-law Linda Patrik reads the manifesto in the International Herald Tribune and tells her husband David Kaczynski that she believes the manifesto could have been written by his brother. David Kaczynski reads the manifesto and agrees; he will, reluctantly, inform the FBI that it should consider his brother a suspect. [KSPR-TV, 2011]
Manifesto: Industry and Technology Must Be Destroyed to Save Humanity - Kaczynski’s manuscript is entitled “Industrial Society and Its Future.” (Throughout the manuscript, Kaczynski maintains the fiction that a group of people—“we”—are responsible for the document.) He calls industry and technology “a disaster for the human race,” claiming that they have “destabilized society… made life unfulfilling… subjected human beings to indignities… led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and… inflicted severe damage on the natural world.” The only way to save humanity, he writes, is for industry and technology to “break down.” He advocates “a revolution against the industrial system,” which “may or may not make use of violence.” He says he does not advocate a political revolution, and does not advocate the overthrow of governments, but instead “the economic and technological basis of the present society.”
'Leftists' 'Hate America,' 'Western Civilization,' and 'White Males' - Kaczynski bemoans the “feelings of inferiority” and “oversocialization” he attributes to the people he calls “leftists,” and says the “minority” of left-leaning “activists” and “feminists… hate anything that has an image of being strong, good, and successful. They hate America, they hate Western civilization, they hate white males, they hate rationality. The reasons that leftists give for hating the West, etc. clearly do not correspond with their real motives. They SAY they hate the West because it is warlike, imperialistic, sexist, ethnocentric, and so forth, but where these same faults appear in socialist countries or in primitive cultures, the leftist finds excuses for them, or at best he GRUDGINGLY admits that they exist; whereas he ENTHUSIASTICALLY points out (and often greatly exaggerates) these faults where they appear in Western civilization. Thus it is clear that these faults are not the leftist’s real motive for hating America and the West. He hates America and the West because they are strong and successful.… The leftist is anti-individualistic, pro-collectivist. He wants society to solve everyone’s problems for them, satisfy everyone’s needs for them, take care of them. He is not the sort of person who has an inner sense of confidence in his ability to solve his own problems and satisfy his own needs. The leftist is antagonistic to the concept of competition because, deep inside, he feels like a loser.” “Leftists” prefer “sordid” art forms that celebrate either “defeat and despair” or debauchery and depravity, Kaczynski writes. Ultimately, they are masochistic and self-hating, he claims. They are ruled by moral relativism, and have no real ethical or moral stance, though they pretend to such. “If our society had no social problems at all,” Kaczynski writes, “the leftists would have to INVENT problems in order to provide themselves with an excuse for making a fuss.”
Conservatives 'Fools' for Embracing Technology as Well as 'Traditional Values' - Kaczynski says that industry and technology do not cause society’s problems, but they exacerbate and intensify those problems. In a technological society, people are forced to live in ways nature and evolution never intended. In this section, he turns from lambasting “leftists” to calling conservatives “fools,” writing: “They whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that you can’t make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society without causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values.”
Revolution 'Easier than Reform' - After a long analysis of a variety of social ills and behaviors, Kaczynski writes that modern industrial/technological society as we know it cannot be reformed, only destroyed and rebuilt. It is specious, he maintains, to believe that “bad” parts of technology can be eliminated while retaining the “good” parts. Moreover, he claims, technology is a more powerful social force than humanity’s aspirations for freedom. “The only way out,” he concludes, “is to dispense with the industrial-technological system altogether. This implies revolution, not necessarily an armed uprising, but certainly a radical and fundamental change in the nature of society.” Leftists, he writes, must not be part of any such revolution, because of their tendencies towards collectivization and totalitarianism, their love of technology, and their lust for power. Only anarchists, who desire to exist on an individual or small-group basis, can effectively carry out this level of social change. [Kaczynski, 1995]
Hoppy Heidelberg. [Source: Digital Style Designs]Prosecutors in the Oklahoma City bombing case (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995) say that the recent dismissal of juror Hoppy Heidelberg from the investigation’s federal grand jury does not warrant throwing out indictments against the two suspects, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. Heidelberg was dismissed from the jury after disclosing information about the jury deliberations with Lawrence Myers, a reporter from Media Bypass, a magazine with ties to paramilitary groups. He also spoke to a reporter from the Daily Oklahoman. Heidelberg. a horse breeder from Blanchard, Oklahoma, told the reporters that prosecutors did not present enough evidence concerning the possibility of a larger conspiracy, and that they refused grand jury requests to interview witnesses and ask questions about such a larger conspiracy. Heidelberg may face contempt charges, as jurors are legally prohibited from revealing details of the cases they hear. Special US Attorney Sean Connelly calls Heidelberg’s concerns part of “his own conspiracy theories that predated this crime by decades.” Transcriptions from the magazine also show that Myers exaggerated and inflated Heidelberg’s complaints in the article. Heidelberg does not contend that the indictments of McVeigh and Nichols are unwarranted, though he says that he and other members of the grand jury are suspicious of the government’s case. Defense lawyers have asked that their clients have charges against them dropped because of what they call “prosecutorial misconduct” surrounding Heidelberg’s actions. Asked by reporters about charges that he is a conspiracy theorist, Heidelberg laughs and responds: “The people that know me know better. The people that don’t are going to have to wait to decide.” [New York Times, 10/14/1995; United States District Court, Western District of Oklahoma, 10/24/1995; Associated Press, 11/1/1995; Stickney, 1996, pp. 255] Heidelberg will later win a certain degree of fame as a “9/11 truther,” one of a group of theorists that believe the US government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, or at the least were complicit in them. The article discussing Heidelberg will also cite theories saying that two separate explosions struck the Murrah Building (see After 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and that an Oklahoma City police officer, Terry Yeakey, was “suicided,” i.e. murdered in a manner that appeared to be a suicide, after supposedly beginning to “express his concerns” that the government was hiding evidence of its collusion in the bombing. Yeakey’s death is one of a “slew of deaths” that have supposedly occurred to cover up the government’s role in the bombing, according to Heidelberg. Heidelberg will also release a video “proving” that the grand jury “was manipulated and obstructed” by the government. [Wendy Bird, 6/10/2008; Wide Eye Cinema, 2011]
A New York Times analysis of indicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995) uses an interview with FBI profiler Jack Douglas to paint a picture of McVeigh as a burgeoning serial killer. Douglas, the model for the FBI analyst in the movie The Silence of the Lambs, describes McVeigh as an underachieving loner whose stunted social development, obsessive neatness, inability to deal with his abandonment by his mother, sexual frustration, obsession with guns, and overarching alienation led him to conceive and execute a plot that killed scores of innocent people. “There are the same kind of characteristics” in McVeigh’s makeup as serial killers possess, Douglas says. “Asocial, asexual, a loner, withdrawn, from a family with problems, strong feelings of inadequacy from early in life, an underachiever.” McVeigh did well in the highly structured environment of the US Army (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990 and January - March 1991 and After), Douglas notes, but was unable to function successfully outside of that environment (see November 1991 - Summer 1992). His lifelong obsession with guns (see 1987-1988) blended with his increasing fascination with far-right militia, white supremacist, and separatist ideologies that led him to believe the government was actively plotting to disarm and repress its citizenry. McVeigh, always fascinated with computers, used the burgeoning network of computerized bulletin boards, email clients, videotape exchanges, shortwave radio broadcasts, and other information resources to fuel his beliefs, all codified in what Times reporter John Kifner calls “a venomous novel called The Turner Diaries” (see 1978) that depicts rebel white supremacists overthrowing the federal government and committing genocide against minority citizens.
Apocalyptic World View Triggered by Events - McVeigh’s increasingly apocalyptic world view, Douglas says, led him to carry out the bomb plot, perhaps in an effort to bring about the same supremacist rebellion that The Turner Diaries depicts. The federal raids on Randy Weaver’s cabin in Ruby Ridge, Idaho (see August 31, 1992), and the Branch Davidian compound in Texas (see April 19, 1993), the passage of the Brady gun control bill (see November 30, 1993), and the birth of the paramilitary militia movement (see August 1994 - March 1995) all spurred McVeigh forward. Kifner writes: “The paramilitary movement vowed to resist the government and publish manuals on forming underground guerrilla squads. Mr. McVeigh was just a little ahead of the curve.” The final straw for McVeigh, Kifner and Douglas theorize, was the passage of the August 1994 crime bill that outlawed 19 types of semiautomatic assault weapons (see September 13, 1994). Shortly thereafter, McVeigh wrote an angry letter to his friend Michael Fortier alerting him that he intended to take some sort of “positive action” against the government (see September 13, 1994).
Shared Inadequacies - Douglas calls McVeigh’s “obsession with weapons” an “overcompensation for deep-rooted feelings of inadequacy.… They compensate for a while by talking the talk, but after a while they have to go out and do something about it. Typically the time for violence is in the mid-20s. They look in the mirror and see they’re going nowhere fast. This is an easily controlled and manipulated personality. They are looking for something to hang their hat on, some ideology. They have difficulty fitting into groups, but they are more mission-oriented, more focused.” Seattle forensic psychiatrist Kenneth Muscatel has called this type of personality disorder “Smerdyakov syndrome,” after the scorned half-brother in Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, who listens to the other brothers inveigh against their father until, finally, he murders the father. Douglas notes the devoted friendship between McVeigh and indicted co-conspirator Terry Nichols, another underachieving loner who did well in the Army. “These two are birds of a feather,” Douglas says. “Each feeds off the other’s inadequacies.” Of McVeigh, Douglas says: “These people are comfortable in a structured environment, they do very well. But outside of a structured environment, without that rigidity, he just can’t survive. On the other hand, he’s probably doing fine now in jail. I bet they would say he’s a model prisoner.”
'Red Dawn' and the Militia Movement - McVeigh’s favorite movie is, by all accounts, a 1984 film called Red Dawn that depicts a group of Texas high school football players banding together to defeat an invasion of Soviet paratroopers. The “Wolverines,” as the footballers term themselves, transform themselves into a polished, lethal guerrilla force. The film contains a number of tropes that resonate with McVeigh and other militia sympathizers: the use of gun-registration forms to enable the Soviet invasion, political leaders eager to betray the American citizenry they represent, and others. The film is a cult classic among militia members. Along with another extraordinarily popular series of movies, the Rambo films, Red Dawn expresses what sociologist James William Gibson has noted is a new perspective on military veterans and popular culture; whereas traditional war movies show raw recruits uniting to battle an evil enemy on behalf of a just national cause, post-Vietnam movies such as Red Dawn and the Rambo films popularize the archetype of an alienated loner or small band of outlaws, betrayed by their own government and fighting for their view of the American ideal as renegades. Another favorite film of McVeigh’s is a very different offering, the 1985 black comedy Brazil, which depicts an Orwellian future dominated by an all-powerful bureaucracy. Actor Robert DeNiro plays a commando-like “outlaw repairman”; his character’s name is “Tuttle,” one of the aliases used by McVeigh (see April 19, 1993 and After, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, December 1993, February - July 1994, and May 12, 1995). The last movie McVeigh rented before the Oklahoma City bombing was Blown Away, the tale of a mad bomber.
'The Turner Diaries', Gun Regulation, and the Militia Movement - Kifner notes that much has been made of McVeigh’s fascination with William Pierce’s novel The Turner Diaries. McVeigh was an avid reader, paging through mercenary and gun magazines, white supremacist and anti-Semitic newsletters and fliers, and an array of apocalyptic and war novels. One of the more unusual works found in McVeigh’s possessions is a document titled “Operation Vampire Killer 2000,” written by militia leader Jack McLamb and predicting a “globalist,” “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990) takeover of the US by “the year 2000.” The document names the plotters against American democracy as, among others, the Order of the Illuminati, international bankers, the United Nations, the “Rothschild Dynasty,” the Internal Revenue Service, CBS News, Communists, the Yale secret society Skull and Bones, “humanist wackos,” and, possibly, aliens from outer space in Unidentified Flying Objects. McLamb writes: “For the World Elite to truly enjoy their ‘utopian’ Socialist Society, the subject masses must not have the means to protect themselves against more ‘voluntary compliance.’ When one grasps this logical position, there is no longer any question about it: THE GUNS WILL HAVE TO GO.” But The Turner Diaries was, according to one person involved in the investigation, McVeigh’s “Bible” (see August 20, 1995). As with so much of McVeigh’s reading material, Turner posited the forcible confiscation of citizen-owned guns by the US government as the presage to tyranny. In a book on the paramilitary movement, Kenneth Stern wrote: “Those who would regulate guns were cast as tyrants who were coming for people’s guns first. The government had to disarm citizens in order to subjugate them. The United Nations could march in and take over America; loyal Americans could be sent to concentration camps.” Both McVeigh and the paramilitary movement were “developing in the same time line,” Stern tells Kifner. “I would date the first functioning militia as February of 1994 in Montana, and then spreading to Michigan and other places” (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994). McVeigh and Nichols were apparently influenced by the writings of former Ku Klux Klan leader Louis Beam, who advocated a “leaderless resistance” of tiny, independent cells that “state tyranny” would find more difficult to control (see February 1992). “No one need issue an order to anyone,” Beam wrotes. “These idealists truly committed to the cause of freedom will act when they feel the time is ripe, or will take their cues from others who proceed them.” In Pierce’s novel, a bombing almost exactly like the Oklahoma City blast is carried out by the novel’s hero Earl Turner; the novel’s bombing destroys the FBI headquarters in Washington and inspires a nationwide revolt by white supremacists against the “tyrannical” government. It is conceivable, Kifner concludes, that McVeigh’s bomb was intended to strike the same sort of blow, and perhaps evoke the same results. [New York Times, 12/31/1995]
Entity Tags: Kenneth Muscatel, James William Gibson, Jack McLamb, Federal Bureau of Investigation, John Kifner, Timothy James McVeigh, Randy Weaver, Louis R. Beam, Jr, Michael Joseph Fortier, Terry Lynn Nichols, New York Times, John E. (“Jack”) Douglas, Kenneth Stern
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The Annenberg Public Policy Center conducts an eleven-month survey of political talk radio, focusing primarily on broadcasts by conservative Rush Limbaugh. It obtains, or creates, daily transcripts of Limbaugh’s shows. Subjected to content analysis, the researchers find that Limbaugh focuses most strongly on the following topics:
President Bill Clinton (100 percent, or discussed every day).
The mainstream media (100 percent), focusing on the New York Times (83 percent), the Washington Post (66 percent), CNN (57 percent), and the three major broadcast networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC, at least 39 percent. Many, but not all, of these mentions are negative. Limbaugh also positively cites the Wall Street Journal (48 percent) and the Washington Times (32 percent), and often directs listeners to these news producers’ content.
Democrats (96 percent).
Republicans (94 percent).
Senator Bob Dole (R-KS), the Republican presidential contender (91 percent).
Hillary Clinton, the First Lady (88 percent).
As noted, most of Limbaugh’s remarks about mainstream media outlets are negative, except when they provide something with which he can agree—most often news items or tidbits that he can use to denigrate the Clintons, the Clinton administration, or Congressional Democrats.
Findings - The Annenberg study finds that Limbaugh’s listeners distrust the mainstream media more than any other group measured (two of the study’s authors, Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph N. Cappella, later note that Fox News has not yet emerged as a powerful conservative alternative). In the 1996 study, that mistrust does not translate into a general shunning of mainstream news for conservative alternatives, but in a 2004 study also conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, that dynamic will have changed, with many Limbaugh listeners getting the bulk of their news from Fox News and from conservative Internet news providers. In 1996, Limbaugh’s listeners are heavy consumers of mainstream media reporting, albeit with a strong skeptical bent. [Jamieson and Cappella, 2008, pp. 168-171]
The defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995) presents evidence in one of the hearings conducted to consider a change of venue in the trial (see November 21, 1995). The hearing takes place at the Oklahoma City courthouse; McVeigh has been brought from his cell at the El Reno federal detention facility to take part, though he says nothing during the proceedings. The defense plays clips from television news broadcasts, some of which contain erroneous information; footage of tearful calls for McVeigh and his accomplice Terry Nichols to be executed; coverage of memorial services for the victims of the bombing; and promises by President Clinton, Attorney General Janet Reno, and Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating that the death penalty would be sought. In the back of the courtroom, victims’ family members begin weeping. An Associated Press report by Paul Queary notes that McVeigh “smiled” as the films were shown; Los Angeles Times reporter Richard A. Serrano will write that McVeigh “appeared relaxed and at ease in court.” The reports anger McVeigh’s sister Jennifer, who has driven from Pendleton, New York, to be with her brother in court. She later says: “He wasn’t smiling in reference to anything. He was smiling at me. And you know that if he wasn’t smiling, they’d criticize him and if he was smiling, they’d criticize him. You know what happened the last time when he wasn’t smiling.” She is referring to the iconic image of a grim-looking McVeigh squinting as he is “perp walked” on the day of his arrest (see April 21, 1995). Jennifer tells reporters after the hearing: “No matter what, he’s still my brother and I’m still going to be there for him. He’s just a normal person. He’s not this evil thing they’ve painted him.” She visits him at the city jail before returning to her hotel room and calling her father in Pendleton. She will begin the long drive back to Pendleton a few days later. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 268-270]
Jennifer McVeigh, the sister of accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995), is featured in an interview segment aired on Dateline NBC. She was interviewed by Jane Pauley, who spoke with her at a Buffalo, New York, hotel a few days ago. Jennifer tells Pauley about her earlier statements to the FBI (see April 21-23, 1995), saying: “I think he knows I really didn’t have a choice, but… I still wonder, still have a lot of guilt. I talked to them and maybe I somehow hurt him. That’s really the biggest thing that bothers me every day—that I love my brother to death and want nothing more than to support him and be on your side. Yet I really had no choice and if I get called to testify, it will be for the prosecution. It’s tough. You’ll be in trouble if you don’t talk to them, or you talk to them and you’re going to get your brother in trouble.” Jennifer’s statements to Pauley probably do more harm than good to her brother’s chances in court, according to reporter and author Brandon M. Stickney. She echoes her brother’s anger at the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), which the prosecution will argue was one of McVeigh’s driving rationales for carrying out the bombing. And she likely angers viewers, Stickney will write, by imploring the American people to try to “understand” the reasons behind the bombing, saying, “I think [the bombing] is evil in a sense that a lot of people… lives were torn apart, a lot of people died… innocent people.” After conferring with Richard Burr, a lawyer for her brother, she continues, “I think the act itself was a tragedy for everyone involved, but maybe there’s some sort of explanation to be had—I really don’t think anything could justify the consequences—just understanding would help.” Burr attended the interview and confered with Jennifer before she answered Pauley’s questions. [Stickney, 1996, pp. 271-272]
ABC News airs a documentary on the accused Oklahoma City bombers (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995), entitled Rage and Betrayal: The Lives of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols. McVeigh, who is accused of actually detonating the bomb, gets the larger share of time. The documentary traces the family lives of both men, portraying them as unsuccessful products of broken homes and terming them “losers.” The documentary is a bit superficial and “glib,” says New York Times reviewer Walter Goodman. Another documentary, on Dateline NBC, is perhaps less superficial, Goodman writes, but host Bill Moyers presents a stronger point of view, arguing that the bombing was a political act fueled by extremists who hate the federal government. The NBC documentary spends less time on reviewing the facts of the case and more on Moyers’s position, and on the victims’ feelings, Goodman observes. [New York Times, 4/11/1996]
The New York Times publishes an op-ed commending the FBI on its restraint in handling the standoff with the Montana Freemen (see March 25, 1996). The FBI is using what the Times calls a “creative, restrained strategy for dealing with” extremists such as the Freemen, whom the Times calls a “strange, sometimes threatening band of religious bigots and tax scofflaws… hunkered down in farmhouses they have commandeered in rural Montana.” The Times notes the FBI’s “notoriously impulsive confrontations in years past,” an obvious reference to the Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992) and Waco (see April 19, 1993) debacles (which the editorial references later in the piece). “[T]his is a downright boring operation, with no forceful showdowns or violent deaths after nearly three weeks,” the Times states. “The bureau should keep it that way even if, as may happen, pressures for dramatic action mount.” The Times concludes: “The FBI deserves no special commendation for behaving in a rational manner. It should have done that before. What deserves praise is the bureau’s imaginative deployment of agents and local law enforcement officers around the farmhouses, at distances that give the Freemen no cause to fear imminent attack. This firm but unthreatening attitude sends a message that peaceful surrender is the inevitable end.… Local resentment could easily rise in the days to come, testing the FBI’s new patience. But time is on the bureau’s side. Having squandered that advantage at Ruby Ridge and Waco, the bureau should stick to its present civilized course.” [New York Times, 4/14/1996]
The FBI orders reporters and photographers to leave a hill overlooking the Montana Freemen compound, currently surrounded by law enforcement authorities (see March 25, 1996), but deny that the move is a prelude to a raid against the group. “We’re trying to do everything we can to peacefully resolve the situation,” Attorney General Janet Reno says, “and we will continue those efforts.” FBI officials say they decided to evict the news media after a Fox Television news crew went to a fence around the compound the night of May 28, and attempted to negotiate for interviews without FBI knowledge. “The negotiators have their own strategy for contacting the Freemen and don’t want this kind of disruption,” says a senior official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity. Fox News chairman Roger Ailes complains that his journalists are being used as scapegoats, and alleges that the FBI had planned on moving the news media from the hill well before they made contact with the Freemen. [Associated Press, 5/30/1996]
House Oversight Committee holds public hearings on the Waco debacle. [Source: C-SPAN]The House Oversight Committee releases its report on the FBI’s siege and final assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993, March 1, 1993, and April 19, 1993). The report was prepared in conjunction with the House Judiciary Committee. The report spans investigative activities undertaken on behalf of the committees by Congressional investigators from April 1995 through May 1996; the committees took almost three months to write the final report. As part of that investigation, the Oversight Committee held 10 days of public hearings (see August 4, 1995). [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
Findings - The report makes the following conclusions:
Branch Davidians Responsible for Situation, Deaths - “But for the criminal conduct and aberrational behavior of David Koresh and other Branch Davidians, the tragedies that occurred in Waco would not have occurred,” the report finds. “The ultimate responsibility for the deaths of the Davidians and the four federal law enforcement agents [referring to the federal agents slain in the February 1993 raid] lies with Koresh.” The Davidians set the fires themselves, the report finds. Moreover, the Davidians had time to leave the premises after their cohorts set the fires, and most either chose to stay or were prevented from leaving by their fellows. The 19 Davidians killed by gunfire either shot themselves, the report finds, were shot by their fellows, or were killed by “the remote possibility of accidental discharge from rounds exploding in the fire.”
Treasury Department 'Derelict' in Duties - Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen and Deputy Secretary Roger Altman were “irresponsible” and “derelict in their duties” refusing to meet with the director of the BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, sometimes abbreviated ATF] in the month before the February raid, and failing to ask for briefings. Senior Treasury officials “routinely failed” to monitor BATF officials, knew little to nothing of the plans for the raid, and therefore failed to uncover the significant flaws in the plan. When the raid failed, Assistant Treasury Secretary Ronald Noble tried to blame the BATF for the failure, even though Noble and his fellow Treasury officials failed to supervise the BATF’s plans and activities.
BATF 'Grossly Incompetent' - Some of the worst criticism of the report are leveled at the BATF. The report calls the agency’s investigation of the Davidians (see June-July 1992, November 1992 - January 1993, and January 11, 1993 and After) “grossly incompetent” and lacking in “the minimum professionalism expected of a major federal law enforcement agency.” The agents in charge of planning decided to use a “military-style raid” two months before beginning surveillance, undercover, and infiltration efforts. The agency did have probable cause for a search warrant against Koresh and the Davidians (see February 25, 1993), but the affidavit applying for the warrant “contained an incredible number of false statements.” The BATF agents responsible for the affidavit either knew, or should have known, the affidavit was so inaccurate and false. Koresh could easily have been arrested outside the compound, the report finds; the BATF planners “were determined to use a dynamic entry approach,” and thusly “exercised extremely poor judgment, made erroneous assumptions, and ignored the foreseeable perils of their course of action.” BATF agents lied to Defense Department officials about the Davidians’ supposed involvement in drug manufacturing, and by those lies secured Defense Department training without having to reimburse the department, as they should have. The raid plan itself “was poorly conceived, utilized a high risk tactical approach when other tactics could have been successfully used, was drafted and commanded by ATF agents who were less qualified than other available agents, and used agents who were not sufficiently trained for the operation.” Plan security was lax, making it easy for the Davidians to learn about the plan and take precautions. The report singles out BATF raid commanders Philip Chojnacki and Chuck Sarabyn for criticism, noting that they endangered BATF agents’ lives by choosing to go ahead with the raid even though they knew, or should have known, the Davidians had found out about it and were taking defensive action. “This, more than any other factor, led to the deaths of the four ATF agents killed on February 28.” The report is highly critical of Chojnacki’s and Sarabyn’s rehiring after they were fired (see December 23, 1994). The report also cites former BATF Director Stephen Higgins (see July 2, 1995) and former Deputy Director Daniel Hartnett for failing to become involved in the planning.
Justice Department Decision to Approve Final Assault 'Highly Irresponsible' - The report charactizes Attorney General Janet Reno’s approval of the FBI’s plan to end the standoff “premature, wrong… highly irresponsible… [and] seriously negligent” (see April 17-18, 1993). Reno should have known that the plan would put the Davidians’s lives at extreme risk, especially the children inside, and should have been doubly reluctant because of the lack of a serious threat posed by the Davidians to the FBI or to the surrounding community. Reno should have been skeptical of the FBI’s reasons for ending the standoff: negotiations were continuing, the Davidians were not threatening to break out in force, the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) could have gone longer without mandatory rest and retraining, the Davidians’ living conditions had not significantly deteriorated, and there was no reason to believe that children were being abused or mistreated any more than they may have been before the February raid. “The final assault put the children at the greatest risk.” The report calls the plan to use CS riot control gas “fatally flawed.” CS gas is a dangerous substance, and particularly threatening to children, pregnant women, elderly people, and those with respiratory conditions, all of which were represented in the compound. Some of those who died in the fires may have died from exposure to CS gas before the fires consumed them, the report speculates. The Davidians were likely to react violently and not submissively, as the FBI insisted, and the likelihood of armed resistance and mass suicide in response to the CS gas insertion was high. Moreover, the plan had no contingency provisions in case the initial insertion did not provide the desired result. Reno offered her resignation after the April 19 assault; the report says that President Clinton “should have accepted it.” [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
FBI Pushed for Violent Confrontation Instead of Allowing Negotiations to Continue - The FBI was riven by the conflict between two teams with “incompatible methodologies,” the report finds: the HRT, which ultimately controlled the situation, and the negotiators. Senior FBI agent Jeffrey Jamar almost always sided with the HRT’s aggressive approach, but often “allowed the proposals of each team to be implemented simultaneously, working against each other.” The FBI’s chief negotiator on-site, Gary Noesner, told the committee that the dichotomy between the “action-oriented” HRT and the “nonviolent” negotiators is a problem that the FBI routinely experiences; it was not unique to the Davidian standoff. The two teams battled with increasing hostility and anger towards one another as the siege progressed, with the negotiators becoming less and less influential. The negotiators later testified that the pressure tactics used by the HRT against the Davidians undermined their efforts at winning the Davidians’ trust and rendered their efforts ineffective. FBI profiler Peter Smerick (see March 3-4, 1993, March 7-8, 1993, March 9, 1993, March 9, 1993, March 17-18, 1993, August 1993, and 1995) was particularly harsh in his assessment of the tactics of the HRT during the siege; during his interviews with investigators, Smerick said “the FBI commanders were moving too rapidly toward a tactical solution and were not allowing adequate time for negotiations to work.” Smerick told investigators that while the “negotiators were building bonds… the tactical group was undermining everything.… Every time the negotiators were making progress the tactical people would undo it.” The report concludes, “FBI leadership engaged these two strategies in a way that bonded the Davidians together and perpetuated the standoff.” [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] After March 2, when Koresh and the Davidians broke what some considered to be a promise to come out (see March 2, 1993), Jamar believed nothing Koresh or the others said, and essentially gave up on the idea of a negotiated surrender. Chief negotiator Byron Sage did not share that view, but Jamar and the HRT officials began thinking, and planning, exclusively on a forced end to the standoff, even ignoring evidence that Koresh intended to lead his people out after completing his work on an interpretation of the Biblical Seven Seals (see April 14-15, 1993). Many FBI officials, particularly Jamar, Noesner, and the HRT leadership, became frustrated and impatient with what the report calls “endless dissertations of Branch Davidian beliefs” (see March 15, 1993), to the point where they ignored the assertions from religious experts that the Davidians could be productively negotiated with on a religiously theoretical level (see March 16, 1993). The FBI, the report says, “should have sought and accepted more expert advice on the Branch Davidians and their religious views and been more open-minded to the advice of the FBI’s own experts.” Jamar and the senior FBI officials advising Reno should have known that the reasons they gave to end negotiations and force an ending were groundless; their advice to Reno was, the report says, “wrong and highly irresponsible.” [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] However, some charges against the FBI are baseless, the report finds. CS gas would not have built up in any areas of the residence to anything approaching lethal levels. No FBI agents shot at the Davidians or the compound. No agent set any fires, either deliberately or inadvertently. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
Defense Department Bears No Responsibility - The report finds no reason to fault the Defense Department or National Guard, as no DoD nor Guard personnel took an active part in the assault; the Posse Comitatus Act was therefore not violated. No foreign military personnel or foreign nationals took any part in the assault, though “[s]ome foreign military personnel were present near the Davidian residence as observers at the invitation of the FBI.”
Recommendations - The report recommends that:
the Justice Department consider assuming control of the BATF from the Treasury Department;
Waco residents who made the false statements to law enforcement officials included in the original search warrants should be charged with crimes;
federal agents should use caution in using such statements to obtain warrants; the BATF should review and revise its planning to ensure that “its best qualified agents are placed in command and control positions in all operations”;
senior BATF officials “should assert greater command and control over significant operations”;
the BATF should no longer have sole jurisdiction over any drug-related crimes;
Congress should consider enhancing the Posse Comitatus Act to restrain the National Guard from being involved with federal law enforcement actions;
the Defense Department should clarify the grounds upon which law enforcement agencies can apply for its assistance;
the General Accounting Office (GAO) should ensure that the BATF reimburses the Defense Department for the training and assistance it improperly received;
the GAO should investigate Operation Alliance, the organization that acts as a liaison between the military and other federal agencies;
the FBI should revamp its negotiation policies and training to minimize the effects of physical and emotional fatigue on negotiators;
the FBI should take steps to ensure greater understanding of the targets under investigation (the report notes that had the FBI and BATF agents understood more about the Davidians’ religious philosophies, they “could have made better choices in planning to deal with the Branch Davidians” (see March 15, 1993);
the FBI should ensure better training for its lead negotiators;
FBI agents should rely more on outside experts (the reports notes that several religious experts offered their services in helping the agents understand the Davidians, but were either rebuffed or ignored—see March 3, 1993, March 7, 1993, and March 16, 1993);
federal law enforcement agencies should welcome the assistance of other law enforcement agencies, particularly state and local agencies;
the FBI should expand the size of the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) “so that there are sufficient numbers of team members to participate in an operation and to relieve those involved when necessary”;
the FBI should conduct further examinations on the use of CS gas against children, those with respiratory problems, pregnant women, and the elderly. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
'Perhaps the Greatest Law Enforcement Tragedy in American History' - In a statement appended to the final report, Representative Steven Schiff (R-NM) calls the Davidian raid, standoff, and final assault “perhaps the greatest law enforcement tragedy in American history.” He writes: “It would not be a significant overstatement to describe the Waco operation from the government’s standpoint, as one in which if something could go wrong, it did. The true tragedy is, virtually all of those mistakes could have been avoided.” His statement decries what he calls the increasing “militarization of law enforcement,” recommends that the HRT be scaled back instead of expanded, expresses little confidence in the FLIR (forward-looking infrared radar) videotapes used to determine when and how the fires were started, calls for stringent limitations on the use of CS gas, and blames the FBI for not allowing many of the residents to escape. He accuses the Justice Department of a “breach of ethics” in what he says were its attempts to conceal and withhold evidence from the committee, and to shape its findings. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
Dissenting Views - The investigating committees’ 17 Democrats issue a “dissenting views” addendum that is highly critical of what it calls the Republican majority’s use of “false assumptions and unfounded allegations” to besmirch the reputations of Reno and Bentsen, and the use of those “assumptions and allegations” to press for Reno’s resignation. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
Entity Tags: Gary Noesner, US Department of the Treasury, US Department of Defense, Branch Davidians, Clinton administration, Dan Hartnett, Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI Hostage Rescue Team, David Koresh, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Steven Schiff, Charles Sarabyn, Ronald Noble, Janet Reno, Stephen Higgins, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, General Accounting Office, Lloyd Bentsen, Jeffrey Jamar, Operation Alliance, Peter Smerick, Roger Altman, Philip Chojnacki
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
Prosecutors in the Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) ask Judge Richard P. Matsch to prevent defendant Timothy McVeigh from giving a series of television and newspaper interviews. McVeigh’s lawyer has scheduled an interview with a documentary crew from the BBC in October, and says his client wants to do an interview with any of a number of leading television news anchors and newspaper reporters. Jones has repeatedly attempted to “soften” his client’s image as presented in the media. Prosecutor Joseph Hartzler calls the requests “an extraordinary attempt to manipulate the news media to produce a favorable impact on the potential jury pool.” Matsch has ordered all parties involved in the case to “limit” their public comments. Jones argues that McVeigh has been “demonized” in the press, and deserves an opportunity to give a different view of himself to the world. “Mr. McVeigh, at the minimum, is entitled to be seen as a human being and to the extent that any interview or meeting halts the rush to judgment in advance of trial, the interests of justice are served,” Jones argues. As things stand, he continues, “the abuse, distortion, calumny heaped upon our client from the very front steps of the courthouse will ultimately influence the reporting and the jury unless there is some modicum of balance.” [New York Times, 8/30/1996] Matsch will refuse to allow the television interviews, calling them “an inappropriate pretrial dissemination of evidence.” He says he will allow telephone interviews, but according to Jones, he and McVeigh want only face-to-face, filmed interviews that will present McVeigh’s face, voice, and personality on television broadcasts. [New York Times, 10/5/1996]
The press learns that FBI agents found a hand-drawn map of Oklahoma City’s Murrah Federal Building during a search of accused co-conspirator Terry Nichols’s Herington, Kansas, property (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Nichols is accused of conspiring with Timothy McVeigh to bomb the building (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995). On the map, reports say, is one street labeled as an escape route from the bomb site to a point north of a nearby YMCA, where McVeigh’s getaway car is believed to have been parked (see April 13, 1995). Nichols’s lawyers, under instructions from the judge not to discuss details of evidence not disclosed in court, refuse to confirm or deny the existence of such a document. A source close to the investigation confirms the map’s existence. [New York Times, 9/10/1996]
Fox News logo. [Source: Fox News]Fox News begins broadcasting on US cable television. Fox News provides 24-hour news programming alongside the nation’s only other such cable news provider, CNN. Fox executive Roger Ailes, a former campaign adviser for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush (see 1968, January 25, 1988, and September 21 - October 4, 1988), envisions Fox News as a conservative “antidote” to what he calls the “liberal bias” of the rest of American news broadcasting. Ailes uses many of the methodologies and characteristics of conservative talk radio, and brings several radio hosts on his channel, including Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, to host television shows. [Jamieson and Cappella, 2008, pp. 47; New York Magazine, 5/22/2011] Referring to Ailes’s campaign experience, veteran Republican consultant Ed Rollins later says: “Because of his political work, he understood there was an audience. He knew there were a couple million conservatives who were a potential audience, and he built Fox to reach them.” [New York Magazine, 5/22/2011]
Ailes Planned for Fox News as Far Back as 1970 - Ailes began envisioning a conservative news provider to counter what he considers the mainstream media’s “liberal bias” as early as 1970, when he became heavily involved with a Nixon administration plan to plant conservative propaganda in news outlets across the nation (see Summer 1970). In 1971, he headed a short-lived private conservative television news network, Television News Incorporated (TVN—see 1971-1975), which foundered in 1975 in part because of its reporters and staffers balking at reporting Ailes-crafted propaganda instead of “straight” news. Ailes told a New York Times reporter in 1991 that he was leaving politics, saying: “I’ve been in politics for 25 years. It’s always been a detour. Now my business has taken a turn back to my entertainment and corporate clients.” But Ailes misinformed the reporter. He continued to work behind the scenes on the 1992 Bush re-election campaign, providing the campaign with attack points against Democratic contender Bill Clinton (D-AR) and earning the nickname “Deep Throat” from Bush aides. Though Ailes did do work in entertainment, helping develop tabloid television programs such as The Maury Povich Show and heading the cable business news network CNBC for three years, Ailes has continued to stay heavily involved in Republican politics ever since. Ailes became involved in the creation of Fox News in early 1996 after he left NBC, which had canceled his show America’s Talking and launched a new cable news network, MSNBC, without asking for Ailes’s involvement. Fox News is owned by News Corporation (sometimes abbreviated NewsCorp), an international media conglomerate owned by conservative billionaire Rupert Murdoch. When NBC allowed Ailes to leave, Jack Welch, the chairman of NBC’s parent company General Electric, said, “We’ll rue the day we let Roger and Rupert team up.” Murdoch has already tried and failed to buy CNN, and has already begun work on crafting news programs with hard-right slants, such as a 60 Minutes-like show that, reporter Tim Dickinson will write, “would feature a weekly attack-and-destroy piece targeting a liberal politician or social program.” Dan Cooper, the managing editor of the pre-launch Fox News, later says, “The idea of a masquerade was already around prior to Roger arriving.” Eric Burns, who will work for ten years as a Fox News media critic before leaving the network, will say in 2011: “There’s your answer right there to whether Fox News is a conventional news network or whether it has an agenda. That’s its original sin.” To get Fox News onto millions of cable boxes at once, Murdoch paid hundreds of millions of dollars to cable providers to air his new network. Murdoch biographer Neil Chenoweth will later write: “Murdoch’s offer shocked the industry. He was prepared to shell out half a billion dollars just to buy a news voice.” Dickinson will write, “Even before it took to the air, Fox News was guaranteed access to a mass audience, bought and paid for.” Ailes praised Murdoch’s “nerve,” saying, “This is capitalism and one of the things that made this country great.” [New York Magazine, 5/22/2011; Rolling Stone, 5/25/2011]
Using Conservative Talk Radio as Template - In 2003, NBC’s Bob Wright will note that Fox News uses conservative talk radio as a template, saying: “[W]hat Fox did was say, ‘Gee, this is a way for us to distinguish ourselves. We’re going to grab this pent-up anger—shouting—that we’re seeing on talk radio and put it onto television.’” CBS News anchor Dan Rather will be more critical, saying that Fox is a reflection of Murdoch’s own conservative political views. “Mr. Murdoch has a business, a huge worldwide conglomerate business,” Rather says. “He finds it to his benefit to have media outlets, press outlets, that serve his business interests. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s a free country. It’s not an indictable offense. But by any clear analysis the bias is towards his own personal, political, partisan agenda… primarily because it fits his commercial interests.” [New Yorker, 5/26/2003]
Putting Ideology Over Journalistic Ethics, Practices - Ailes, determined not to let journalists with ethical qualms disrupt Fox News as they had his previous attempt at creating a conservative news network (see 1971-1975), brought a hand-picked selection of reporters and staffers with demonstrable conservative ideologies from NBC, including business anchor Neil Cavuto and Steve Doocy, who hosts the morning talk show “Fox and Friends.” Both Cavuto and Doocy are Ailes loyalists who, Dickinson will say, owe their careers to Ailes. Ailes then tapped Brit Hume, a veteran ABC correspondent and outspoken conservative, to host the main evening news show, and former Bush speechwriter Tony Snow as a commentator and host. John Moody, a forcefully conservative ABC News veteran, heads the newsroom. Ailes then went on a purge of Fox News staffers. Joe Peyronnin, who headed the network before Ailes displaced him, later recalls: “There was a litmus test. He was going to figure out who was liberal or conservative when he came in, and try to get rid of the liberals.” Ailes confronted reporters with suspected “liberal bias” with “gotcha” questions such as “Why are you a liberal?” Staffers with mainstream media experience were forced to defend their employment at such venues as CBS News, which he calls the “Communist Broadcast System.” He fired scores of staffers for perceived liberal leanings and replaced them with fiery young ideologues whose inexperience helps Ailes shape the network to his vision. Before the network aired its first production, Ailes had a seminal meeting with Moody. “One of the problems we have to work on here together when we start this network is that most journalists are liberals,” he told Moody. “And we’ve got to fight that.” Reporters and staffers knew from the outset that Fox, despite its insistence on being “fair and balanced” (see 1995), was going to present news with a conservative slant, and if that did not suit them, they would not be at Fox long. A former Fox News anchor later says: “All outward appearances were that it was just like any other newsroom. But you knew that the way to get ahead was to show your color—and that your color was red.” The anchor refers to “red” as associated with “red state,” commonly used on news broadcasts to define states with Republican majorities. Ailes will always insist that while his network’s talk-show hosts, such as O’Reilly, Hannity, and others, are frankly conservative, Fox’s hard-news shows maintain what he calls a “bright, clear line” that separates conservative cant from reported fact. In practice, this is not the case. Before Fox aired its first broadcast, Ailes tasked Moody to keep the newsroom in line. Early each morning, Ailes has a meeting with Moody, often with Hume on speakerphone from the Washington office, where the day’s agenda is crafted. Moody then sends a memo to the staff telling them how to slant the day’s news coverage according to the agenda of those on “the Second Floor,” as Ailes and his vice presidents are known. A former Fox anchor will later say: “There’s a chain of command, and it’s followed. Roger talks to his people, and his people pass the message on down.” After the 2004 presidential election, Bush press secretary Scott McClellan will admit, “We at the White House were getting them talking points.”
Targeting a Niche Demographic - Fox New’s primary viewership defies most demographic wisdom. According to information taken in 2011, it averages 65 years of age (the common “target demographic” for age is the 18-24 bracket), and only 1.38% of its viewers are African-American. Perhaps the most telling statistics are for the Hannity show: 86% describe themselves as pro-business, 84% believe government “does too much,” 78% are “Christian conservatives,” 78% do not support gay rights, 75% are “tea party backers,” 73% support the National Rifle Association, 66% lack college degrees, and 65% are over age 50. A former NewsCorp colleague will say: “He’s got a niche audience and he’s programmed to it beautifully. He feeds them exactly what they want to hear.” Other polls from the same time period consistently show that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed of all news consumers, and one study shows that Fox News viewers become more misinformed the more they watch the network’s programming.
Ailes's Security Concerns Affect Operations, Broadcasting - Ailes is uncomfortable in his office, a second-floor corner suite in the Fox News building at 1211 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan. His office is too close to the street for his tastes; he believes that gay activists intend to try to harm him, either by attacks from outside the building or through assaults carried out from inside. He also believes that he is a top target for al-Qaeda assassins. Ailes barricades himself behind an enormous mahogany desk, insists on having “bombproof” glass installed in the windows, surrounds himself with heavily-armed bodyguards, and carries a firearm (he has a concealed-carry permit). A monitor on his desk shows him what is transpiring outside his office door; once, when he sees a dark-skinned man wearing what he thought was Muslim garb on the monitor, he will order an immediate lockdown of the entire building, shouting, “This man could be bombing me!” The man will turn out to be a janitor. A source close to Ailes will say, “He has a personal paranoia about people who are Muslim—which is consistent with the ideology of his network.” A large security detail escorts him daily to and from his Garrison, New Jersey home to his Manhattan offices; in Garrison, his house is surrounded by empty homes Ailes has bought to enhance his personal security. According to sources close to Ailes, Fox News’s slant on gay rights and Islamist extremism is colored by Ailes’s fear and hatred of the groups.
'We Work for Fox' - Sean Wilentz, a Princeton historian and Reagan biographer, will say: “Fox News is totalized: It’s an entire network, devoted 24 hours a day to an entire politics, and it’s broadcast as ‘the news.’ That’s why Ailes is a genius. He’s combined opinion and journalism in a wholly new way—one that blurs the distinction between the two.” Dickinson will write: “Fox News stands as the culmination of everything Ailes tried to do for Nixon back in 1968. He has created a vast stage set, designed to resemble an actual news network, that is literally hard-wired into the homes of millions of America’s most conservative voters. GOP candidates then use that forum to communicate directly to their base, bypassing the professional journalists Ailes once denounced as ‘matadors’ who want to ‘tear down the social order’ with their ‘elitist, horse-dung, socialist thinking.’ Ironically, it is Ailes who has built the most formidable propaganda machine ever seen outside of the Communist bloc, pioneering a business model that effectively monetizes conservative politics through its relentless focus on the bottom line.” Former Bush speechwriter David Frum will observe: “Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us. Now we’re discovering that we work for Fox.” [New York Magazine, 5/22/2011; Rolling Stone, 5/25/2011]
Entity Tags: Eric Burns, Tim Dickinson, Neil Cavuto, Dan Cooper, Steve Doocy, Joe Peyronnin, John Moody, David Frum, Sean Wilentz, News Corporation, Scott McClellan, Jack Welch, Tony Snow, MSNBC, Brit Hume, Television News Incorporated, Ronald Reagan, Roger Ailes, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, George Herbert Walker Bush, Sean Hannity, Neil Chenoweth, Ed Rollins, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Bill O’Reilly, Nixon administration, Dan Rather, Bob Wright, Rupert Murdoch
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Jane Akre. [Source: Injury Board (.com)]Investigative reporters Jane Akre and her husband Steve Wilson are hired by WTVT-TV, the Tampa, Florida, Fox News affiliate, to become part of its “Investigators” team. They soon begin filming a report on bovine growth hormone (BGH), a controversial substance manufactured by Monsanto. Their four-part report finds that BGH poses numerous health risks to milk consumers, including the threat of cancer, and that Florida supermarket chains routinely lie to their customers about not selling milk that contains BGH. Akre and Wilson will later recall that the local station is thrilled with the report. But after Monsanto complains to Fox News chief Roger Ailes about the report, the station’s general manager, David Boylan, tells Akre and Wilson to redo their film: to include statements from Monsanto that the filmmakers know to be false, and to make other revisions to the story that contradict the facts. According to Akre and Wilson, one Fox lawyer tells them that “it doesn’t matter if the facts are true,” what matters is the size of the lawsuit Monsanto might file against WTVT and Fox. Boylan tells the filmmakers that the position of Fox Television is: “We paid $3 billion for these television stations. We will decide what the news is. The news is what we tell you it is.” Akre and Wilson revise the story some 70 times, none of which passes muster with the station or with network officials. The couple is variously suspended without pay, suspended with pay, locked out of their workspace, and offered money to “just go away.” In late November 1997, when they threaten to inform the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the incident, WTVT fires them. They will file a lawsuit against WTVT and against Fox Television (see August 18, 2000). [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 6/1998; BGH Bulletin, 2004; St. Louis Journalism Review, 12/1/2007] Wilson later says: “Every editor has the right to kill a story and any honest reporter will tell you that happens from time to time when a news organization’s self interest wins out over the public interest. But when media managers who are not journalists have so little regard for the public trust that they actually order reporters to broadcast false information and slant the truth to curry the favor or avoid the wrath of special interests as happened here, that is the day any responsible reporter has to stand up and say, ‘No way!’ That is what Jane and I are saying with this lawsuit.… We set out to tell Florida consumers the truth a giant chemical company and a powerful dairy lobby clearly doesn’t want them to know. That used to be something investigative reporters won awards for. As we’ve learned the hard way, it’s something you can be fired for these days whenever a news organization places more value on its bottom line than on delivering the news to its viewers honestly.” Akre will add: “We are parents ourselves. It is not right for the station to withhold this important health information and solely as a matter of conscience we will not aid and abet their effort to cover this up any longer. Every parent and every consumer have the right to know what they’re pouring on their children’s morning cereal.” [BGH Bulletin, 2004] Akre and Wilson will win the Goldman Environmental Prize for their original report in 2001. [Prize, 2001]
According to reports by the Dallas Morning News, indicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) has confessed to planning the bombing and detonating a bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building. [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003] Reporter Pete Slover cites as his source “summaries of several 1995 interviews with a defense team member” [New York Times, 3/1/1997] , though he later admits in a court filing that he could not be sure the story was true before filing it. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 271] Researchers will later learn that McVeigh suspects his lead attorney Stephen Jones of leaking his purported confession to the press. The leak is later shown to be from a member of Jones’s staff, who gave a computer disk containing FBI reports to Slover, apparently unaware that the McVeigh “confession” was also on the disk. [Douglas O. Linder, 2006] However, this reported speculation is countered by an opinion advanced in 1998 by author Richard A. Serrano, who will write that the defense’s work to humanize McVeigh and “soften” his image (see June 26, 1995) “was blown apart” by the leaked information. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 271] The Morning News prints the article on its Web site seven hours before its next print edition can be published, and later cites a desire to match the immediacy of television and to ensure its exclusive isn’t “scooped” by a competitor. Editors worried before publication that McVeigh’s lawyers might leak the story in one fashion or another to another media outlet. [New York Times, 3/3/1997]
Details of Bombing Plot, Involvement by Co-Conspirator Nichols, Denials of Wider Conspiracy - According to documents obtained by the Morning News, McVeigh’s defense lawyers wrote that McVeigh told one of them that his bombing of the Murrah Federal Building during working hours would leave a “body count” that would make a statement to the federal government. McVeigh also named his friend, alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols, as being intimately involved with the bomb plot (see August 10, 1995), but insisted he alone drove the Ryder truck containing the bomb that destroyed the Murrah Building. McVeigh also denied any involvement by Terry Nichols’s brother James Nichols (see December 22 or 23, 1988, May 11, 1995, and April 25, 1995). The Morning News describes the source of its reporting as summaries of several 1995 interviews with a member of the defense team’s staff, conducted between July and December 1995 at the El Reno Federal Corrections Center in Oklahoma, where McVeigh was held before his transfer to the Denver area in March 1996. The summaries, the Morning News says, validate much of the prosecution’s contention that McVeigh and Nichols committed robberies and burglary in the course of assembling money and materials for the bombing, even as it acknowledges that they could not be used by prosecutors in either man’s trial. One summary of a July 1995 interview has a staffer asking McVeigh if it would have been better to bomb the building at night when relatively few people would have been present. According to the staffer: “Mr. McVeigh looked directly into my eyes and told me: ‘That would not have gotten the point across to the government. We needed a body count to make our point.’” According to the documents, McVeigh and Nichols used significantly more ammonium nitrate than federal investigators have estimated—some 5,400 pounds as compared to federal estimates of 4,800 pounds—and about $3,000 worth of high-powered racing fuel to make a lethal explosive combination. “Mr. McVeigh states that 108 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer were mixed with the nitro fuel purchased by Terry Nichols,” one summary reads. The summaries also have McVeigh admitting to his involvement in a 1994 robbery carried out by Nichols and himself to fund the bombing plot (see November 5, 1994 and Before July 3, 1995). “Mr. McVeigh stated that he laid out the plan and that Terry Nichols alone broke into [gun dealer Roger] Moore’s house and stole the weapons,” one summary reads. The summary tallies closely with recent statements by McVeigh’s friend Michael Fortier, who pled guilty to helping transport the stolen weapons and is now helping the prosecution (see May 19, 1995 and August 8, 1995). Fortier has testified that he and McVeigh sold the weapons stolen from Moore in Arizona. McVeigh also detailed a burglary committed by himself and Nichols at a Kansas rock quarry (see October 3, 1994). He also gave information about a third burglary carried out by himself and Fortier of a National Guard armory (see February - July 1994), where they attempted to steal welding tools but only made off with hand tools. According to the summaries, McVeigh denied being part of a larger conspiracy, and said the bomb plot was conceived and executed by himself and Nichols. He called a witness who claimed knowledge of a Middle Eastern or Islamist connection (see February - July 1994) a “bullsh_t artist.” He also said that another conspiracy theory centered around right-wing activist Andreas Strassmeir is groundless (see January 23, 1993 - Early 1994 and April 20, 1995). [Dallas Morning News, 3/1/1997; Washington Post, 3/1/1997] Initially, McVeigh’s lead defense attorney Stephen Jones calls the documents “a hoax” and denies that McVeigh made any of those statements. The Dallas Morning News is trying to garner attention and subscriptions, Jones says, and implies that the Morning News’s source is “setting up” the paper: “They just bought the Brooklyn Bridge,” he says. The Morning News has informed Jones of the identity of the source that provided it with the documents. [Washington Post, 3/1/1997] “This is about the most irresponsible form of journalism,” Jones says. He says that after McVeigh learned of the story, his client said, “There’s a practical joker every week.” [New York Times, 3/1/1997]
Defense Alleges Press Stole Documents - The Morning News denies a subsequent defense allegation that Slover stole thousands of computerized documents belonging to McVeigh’s defense lawyers, documents Jones says were used in the Morning News’s reporting. Jones says the documents acknowledge McVeigh’s responsibility for the bombing, but do not constitute a confession. The Morning News, Jones says, got the documents “by fraud, deception, misrepresentation, and theft” involving the defense’s computer files. Attorney Paul Watler, speaking for the Morning News, “categorically denies it committed any crime,” and says the documents were obtained through “routine news-gathering techniques.” The Morning News “did not hack into Mr. Jones’ computer system, and it did not assist anyone else in doing so,” Watler says. Jones says the documents are not, as some reports say, notes of a defense staffer’s conversations with McVeigh; defense lawyers have previously alleged that they produced a “fake confession” designed to persuade a witness to talk to defense investigators. Jones says any such false confessions, if they exist, would not be used during McVeigh’s trial. Jones says he may ask Judge Richard Matsch to delay the trial for 90 days to allow for a “cooling-off period” and allow “people to move on.” Watler says Jones is using the allegations to cloud the trial proceedings. [Dallas Morning News, 3/4/1997; New York Times, 3/4/1997] Freelance journalist J.D. Cash, who writes for a far-right publication called The Jubilee and a small Oklahoma newspaper, the McCurtain Daily Gazette, denies reports that he is the source of the article. Cash says he is not “the intermediary who set up The Dallas Morning News,” but says he is familiar with the documents described in the newspaper’s accounts. The confession, Cash says, is “a mixture of fact and fantasy.”
Possible Negative Impact on Jury - Observers worry that the story may prejudice a potential jury. “It’s a worst-case scenario,” says legal studies professor Jeffrey Abramson. “At the witching hour, but before people have been isolated from pretrial publicity, you get explosive evidence, exactly the kind of thing that makes it very difficult for a defendant to think he hasn’t already been tried in the press.” Law professor Rita J. Simon says the article could make a fair trial very difficult. “The jurors will know there was some report about a confession,” she says. “I can’t imagine, no matter where you hold the trial, that the jurors will not hear about it. As soon as the trial gets under way, the story will come out afresh.” [New York Times, 3/2/1997]
Second Purported Confession - Days later, a second confession from McVeigh is reported, this time published by Playboy magazine. The article containing the purported confession is written by freelance reporter Ben Fenwick, and is apparently based on an internal summary of the case compiled by the McVeigh defense team (see Early 2005). Fenwick had obtained the document in 1996, he later says, and had kept it under wraps in the hopes of eventually writing a book about the case. He quickly wrote an article based on the document and sold it to Playboy after Slover’s article hit the press. According to Fenwick’s article, McVeigh says he detonated the bomb when he was a block away from the Murrah Building, and admitted to the bombing during a lie detector test administered by his lawyers. Other details in the article contradict physical evidence already presented in open court. Jones says: “These escalating reports of alleged statements by Mr. McVeigh are corrupting the heart of the jury system. The American ideals of justice are being held hostage to sensationalism.” Fenwick is soon hired by ABC News as a legal consultant, an arrangement that allows ABC to quote extensively from the article in a special broadcast aired shortly before the trial begins. Fenwick will later admit that he did not authenticate the document before using it. The document and the article will lead the FBI to discover McVeigh’s purchase of racing fuel from an Ennis, Texas, dealer (see October 21 or 22, 1994). [New York Times, 3/14/1997; New York Times, 3/18/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 271]
Entity Tags: Jeffrey Abramson, James Nichols, Terry Lynn Nichols, Andreas Strassmeir, Dallas Morning News, J.D. Cash, Ben Fenwick, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh, Rita J. Simon, Roger E. (“Bob”) Moore, Murrah Federal Building, Michael Joseph Fortier, Paul Watler, Playboy, Pete Slover, Richard P. Matsch, Richard A. Serrano
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The Oklahoma Gazette publishes a November 1996 letter written by accused Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995). The newspaper does not explain why it waited until now to publish the letter, which was addressed to Gazette reporter Phil Bacharach. Bacharach interviewed McVeigh in prison shortly after his incarceration. In the letter, McVeigh lambasts the FBI for the fire that destroyed the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco (see April 19, 1993), writing: “The public never saw the Davidians’ home video of their cute babies, adorable children, loving mothers, or protective fathers. Nor did they see pictures of the charred remains of childrens’ bodies. Therefore, they didn’t care when these families died a slow, tortuous death as they were gassed and burned alive at the hands of the FBI.” It is well documented that McVeigh was enraged about the Davidian tragedy (see March 1993), blaming the government for setting the fires that killed 78 people (see April 19, 1993 and After), and many speculate that part of McVeigh’s motivation to blow up the Murrah Building may have been due to the Davidian incident (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994, September 13, 1994 and After, and March 1995). McVeigh’s attorney Stephen Jones confirms that the letter is authentic, saying, “I don’t think there’s anything in the letter that hasn’t been said before.” FBI agents ask Bacharach for the original letter, and the reporter, after making copies, complies. He says that McVeigh told him nothing of substance about the bombing, and that McVeigh wrote the letter to clarify a quote attributed to him in the November 1995 article by Bacharach. [CNN, 4/8/1997; CNN, 4/9/1997]
Legal and media analysts say the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997) never captured the public’s attention the way some other trials have in recent years. “Maybe it was the absence of cameras in the courtroom,” writes the New York Times’s Bill Dedman. “Maybe the outcome never seemed in doubt. Maybe it was the numerousness of the victims or the nobodyness of the defendant or the mind-numbing horror of the event.” Dedman compares the public interest in the McVeigh trial to the far more sensational, media-saturated trials of acquitted murder suspect O.J. Simpson and the Los Angeles police officers acquitted of beating motorist Rodney King. The McVeigh trial did not attract anywhere near the media and public interest of those two trials, Dedman asserts, based on numerous polls and focus group studies. The McVeigh trial did not even garner the same level of interest as the Oliver North Iran-Contra trial (see July 7-10, 1987 and May-June, 1989). Jeffrey Toobin, a legal analyst for ABC News who wrote a best-selling book on the Simpson case, says: “It’s not that people are uninterested in this story. It’s just that it’s just another story. I’m certainly not writing a book about the McVeigh case.” Polls show that 30 percent of Americans followed the McVeigh case “very closely,” a number not significantly higher than the interest showed in most big news stories, and far lower than the public interest in the Simpson and King trials. Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Center, says: “There is not the manic interest there was in O.J. at certain points in time. I don’t think people are swept up in the emotion of this. That’s for sure.” Merrill Brown of MSNBC’s Internet news service calls the McVeigh trial one of “the top half-dozen” stories he could recall in the network’s Internet news coverage. “It has not changed people’s lives, like the Simpson case,” Brown says. “It has not reached into the nation’s consciousness like Rodney King or William Kennedy Smith [a member of the Kennedy family accused of rape] or any trial that received national notoriety as a result of cameras.” Most media news outlets covered the McVeigh trial steadily, but with few pre-emptions and special reports. Neither Time nor Newsweek featured the trial as a cover story, and supermarket tabloids paid little attention to the trial. The most obvious reason for the relative lack of media coverage is the lack of cameras in the courtroom. Dedman writes: “As a result, people never got to scrutinize the witnesses’ demeanor, study the prosecutor’s hair style and wardrobe, hear the judge’s voice, watch the lawyers bicker, see the defendant react—all those things that… turned the Simpson case from a trial into a drama.” Media psychology professor Stuart Fischoff says: “I think America has very quickly adapted to a sense of judicial activities as entertainment. [Americans now] expect to see their trials on television” so they can become “hooked.” The trial also lacked the salacious and controversial elements of other trials: unlike the Simpson case, there was virtually no sexual content, nor was there the overt racism that permeated the King trial. And unlike Simpson and Smith, no celebrities or wealthy persons were involved. Fischoff says of McVeigh: “There’s nothing particularly interesting about him. He’s not particularly handsome, he’s not particularly verbal, he’s not particularly horrible. He’s not [convicted serial killer and cannibal] Jeffrey Dahmer; you really can’t love to hate this guy. There’s no Darth Vader quotient.” And though the victims evoked considerable sympathy among Americans, they did not evoke fascination such as the victims in the Simpson murders. Observers such as CNN’s Greta van Susteren have said the victims’ stories were just too painful to contemplate for long; others have said there were too many victims for Americans to focus upon. [New York Times, 6/4/1997]
New York Times columnist Frank Rich urges the nation to forego the idea that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh’s conviction (see June 2, 1997) brings “closure” to the possibility that domestic terrorism could be a problem in America. Rich writes that the national media seems more than ready to move to new subjects, and shows little interest in McVeigh’s connection to what Rich calls “a diverse, violent right-wing fringe, ranging from neo-Nazis to gun-absolutists to Christian Identity white supremacists (see 1960s and After), that most journalists ignored prior to April 19, 1995.” Rich notes that the Anti-Defamation League has documented a sharp spike in “militia-related crime[s]” over the past 18 months, most of which gain little or no national news coverage. Two serious bombing plots in Oklahoma and Michigan by militia cells have recently been foiled. Abortion clinics have been hammered by assaults, prompting Planned Parenthood president Gloria Feldt to say: “There seems to be an inability to recognize that this terrorism is terrorism. Isn’t bombing a women’s health center terrorism?” Most militia operations and abortion-clinic bombings are being ignored by the national media, even the above-ground operations such as a recent series of public “conclaves” held by the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Author Frederick Clarkson, an expert on far-right violence, writes that it is “an authentic crisis of democracy when people seek to blame the government” for all ills, and “solve” those ills through violence rather than by voting, civil demonstrations, and other means. Another expert on far-right violence, Chip Berlet, says that “perhaps as many as five million” Americans adhere to the most enraged varieties of right-wing populism and are part of “the recruitment pool” for “neo-Nazi demagogues” waiting “to exploit and channel unresolved anger toward bloodshed and terror.” America, Rich concludes, ignores this at the nation’s peril. [New York Times, 6/5/1997]
A New York Times editorial warns that the conviction and death sentence of domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) has done nothing to stem what it calls “the violence of the militias that inspired him.” The editorial warns: “The militias are different from anything that preceded them because they gather not to take out their rage on Communists or minorities, but to wage war against a government they consider treasonous. In recent years militia groups have assaulted, harassed, and threatened scores of government officials. It is difficult for most Americans to take seriously a group of people whose targets include America’s county clerks and whose members hold that manufacturers’ labels on the backs of road signs actually point the way to the nearest concentration camp. But militia ideology has already provoked the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), the worst act of terrorism ever to take place on American soil. Since that act the militias have continued to grow, and the possibility of more terrorism is undimmed.” Some American communities, the editorial observes, “can no longer enforce their land, tax, and weapons laws, unwilling to risk that an employee might be attacked by militia members” (see January 1994 and April 1994). Firefighters fear taking helicopters over land owned by some militia members, because they worry they will be shot down. Militia officials have filed phony liens against local officials in at least 23 states (see 1993-1994). The editorial states: “The militias are a particularly insidious strain of the American viruses of paranoia and violence. They echo the white supremacy of the Ku Klux Klan and the conspiracy theories and gun obsessions of the John Birch Society. They draw on the American icon of the man who wants to be left alone to live by his creed, taking ideas and leaders from the rural Posse Comitatus movement that reached its peak during the farm crisis of the 1980s (see 1969).… [W]ith the end of the cold war, it may be that conspiracy theories once obsessed with Communism turned inward toward the American government. The militias, most of which operate in small, autonomous groups, now also have the Internet to propagate theories and plans.” The McVeigh case has invigorated many hardcore militia groups, many of whom insist the bombing was carried out by the government to discredit the militia movement and to justify its intention to implement martial law and tyranny. Many mainstream groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) welcome militia members and echo many militias’ ideologies and beliefs. And some lawmakers, such as Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-ID), are openly sympathetic to the militias (see February 15, 1995 and May 2, 1995). The editorial concludes with praise for the federal government’s peaceful resolution of the Montana Freemen standoff (see June 13, 1996), stating: “The Freemen standoff also showed the importance of public condemnation of violence. The Freemen found little support in surrounding communities. While militia forces thrive on government attacks, they cannot withstand the disdain of their neighbors. The militias are so widespread because they ostensibly draw on ideas strongly rooted in American history. But even citizens with sympathy for those ideas need to distinguish between their peaceful and their violent expression.” [New York Times, 6/14/1997] The editorial echoes concerns recently expressed by Times columnist Frank Rich (see June 5, 1997).
A.M. Rosenthal. [Source: Schema Root (.org)]New York Times executive editor and columnist A.M. Rosenthal writes an excoriating op-ed column about the “traitor movement” that he says impelled Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) to carry out the bombing of a federal building and kill 168 people (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Neither Congress, state governments, law enforcement agencies, nor American political parties have “done their duty,” he writes, in protecting the citizenry from what he calls “the gangs of armed racists who conceived and organized the crusade that inspired” McVeigh. “Since that day,” Rosenthal writes, “nothing has been done that diminishes the vivid likelihood that these gangs will carry out or inspire other bombings in other cities. They call themselves militia and patriots. But they are exactly what a prosecutor said about Timothy McVeigh—traitors. They talk and think like sick paranoids, which they are. But they know what they are doing. They are trying to inject civil servants with terror, prevent state governments from functioning, and eat away at American confidence in the ability of government to protect the citizenry and itself.” The “patriot movement” continues to, among other things, buy and distribute explosives for more bombings, cheat on their taxes, and commit an array of crimes, from money laundering to robbery to violent attacks on law enforcement officials and even murder. Most state law enforcement agencies are “paralyzed” by inaction, Rosenthal writes, with many state attorneys general refusing to enforce state legislation against militia and paramilitary “gangs.” Gun-rights advocates argue against any laws against gun distribution or ownership, Rosenthal writes, and as a result the most violent and deranged racists and anti-government activists have no problem assembling their own arsenals. In many instances, he writes, local militia organizations outgun the local and even state police. President Clinton spoke out against militias in the days after the Oklahoma City bombing, but, Rosenthal writes, he was drowned out by “politicians, lobbyists, and journalists who wanted him defeated in 1996 [calling him] a vote-hunting manipulator.… Since then there has been not much leadership from the president against armed racism and rebellion, no plan of action.” It is up to the press, he writes, to “report the importance” of the government’s failure to take action against the militia, and the public to “raise a gigantic fuss about the country’s collective refusal to do anything but shake its head and wipe its eye.” [New York Times, 6/20/1997]
Luc Besson. [Source: Publicity photo]Hollywood film studio 20th Century Fox works on producing WW3.com, a movie about cyber-terrorists declaring war on the United States, which will include a 9/11-like scene where a Boeing 767 crashes into New York’s Central Park. [Variety, 1/26/1998; Fox News, 6/3/2002] The storyline of WW3.com is rooted in a 1997 article in Wired magazine, which described the potential for the US becoming engaged in a cataclysmic and nation-crippling “information war.” [Wired, 5/1997; Variety, 8/24/2000; New York Times, 6/27/2007] 20th Century Fox acquires the rights to this article in January 1998, as source material for the movie. Screenwriter David Marconi, who previously wrote the action movie Enemy of the State, works on the script.
Idea behind Movie Is a 'Blueprint for Disaster' - WW3.com will “blend the tensions of a Cold War thriller with a high-concept, special effects-laden storyline involving cyber-terrorists who have declared war on the United States,” according to Variety magazine. [Variety, 1/26/1998] The idea of the movie, according to Marconi, is “about basically turning the US into Kuwait. It was a blueprint for disaster.” The climax of the story features a Boeing 767 crashing into a Simon and Garfunkel concert in Central Park, just a few miles from the World Trade Center. [Fox News, 6/3/2002] The two planes that crash into the WTC on September 11 are also Boeing 767s. [Fox News, 9/11/2003] Marconi will later comment that the screenplay for WW3.com “was incredibly prescient about the events of September 11.”
NSA Employees Suggest 9/11-Like Scenarios - Experts from the National Security Agency (NSA) assist Marconi while he is working on the screenplay. These experts, Marconi will recall, are “more than helpful in laying out situations not dissimilar from what happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon” on September 11, although he will provide no details of these situations. Marconi will add: “One of my experts [at the NSA] told Boeing they had trouble with their avionics. He came up with scenarios. One was that a guy disguises himself as someone who works in food service in order to get on the plane. It’s much more low-tech than you think.” On the day of the 9/11 attacks, one of the people at the NSA who has been assisting Marconi calls the screenwriter and says to him, “Turn on the TV, it’s happening.” [Fox News, 6/3/2002]
Movie 'in Limbo' by 2002 - In August 2000, Variety reports that the well-known French film writer, director, and producer Luc Besson will produce WW3.com, although at this time the movie is still without a director. [Variety, 8/24/2000] But in June 2002, Fox News will report that the movie has been “lost in limbo.” [Fox News, 6/3/2002] The script will eventually be rewritten and made into the fourth Die Hard movie, Live Free or Die Hard, which is released in 2007. [Variety, 7/6/2004; New York Times, 6/27/2007] WW3.com is one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten after the 9/11 attacks (see February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Denver Post, 9/17/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001; Washington Times, 3/7/2002]
Don Black, the white supremacist who runs the racist Web site Stormfront.org (see March 1995), appears on ABC News’s Nightline, along with host Ted Koppel and First Amendment advocate Floyd Abrams, a prominent lawyer. Black is introduced as “a former member of the Ku Klux Klan.” During the interview, Black strives to give the appearance of a moderate, thoughtful person who does not espouse racial hatred, and explains that through Stormfront, he has “recruited people” via the Internet whom he “otherwise wouldn’t have reached.” He also says that sites such as Stormfront “provide those people who are attracted to our ideas with a forum to talk to each other and to form a virtual community.” Black says his views are entirely reasonable: “You may consider my views dangerous, but so were those of the Founding Fathers, who were considered dangerous. In fact, their views… weren’t that much different from my own.… Fifty, 60, 70 years ago, what I’m saying was part of the mainstream.” In the days after the interview, Black will claim a 400 percent increase in visitors to his site. [Anti-Defamation League, 1998]
A new international alliance of culture ministers “to promote and protect cultural diversity” is formed at the conclusion of the two-day International Meeting on Culture Policy held in Ottawa, Canada. Attending culture ministers from Armenia, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Morocco, Poland, Senegal, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom—dubbed the Ottawa Group of Ministers—agree to set up the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP). Both the ministers’ meeting and the formation of the new alliance were launched at the initiative of Canada, largely through its Heritage Minister Sheila Copps. An initial “contact group” consisting of Sweden, Mexico, Greece, and Canada is formed to coordinate activities of the new network. Canada provides the first secretariat for INCP. The ministers agree to set the next meeting to be held the following year in Mexico, and the meet after that, in 2000, in Greece. Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps says, in the light of the network’s formation, “Canadians are delighted that we’ve found so many other countries that share our determination to put culture front and centre on the global stage and to promote cultural diversity for everyone in the world.” [International Network on Cultural Policy, 6/30/1998]
The New York Times reports on previously undisclosed letters written by convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), as well as similarly undisclosed suspicions among McVeigh’s family members that he carried out the bombing—suspicions that they later shared with FBI investigators. According to the letters, all written to his younger sister and confidant Jennifer McVeigh, McVeigh was despondent over not being able to confide the extent of his anti-government activities to his family, even Jennifer, and at at least one point contemplated suicide. The Times obtained copies of the letters and summaries of the interviews, which were not presented at McVeigh’s trial last year.
Letters - An October 1993 letter to Jennifer (see October 20, 1993) expresses his distress over not being able to fully discuss his anti-government feelings and “lawless behavior,” and alleges that he left Special Forces training, not because he could not meet the physical requirements (see January - March 1991 and After), but because he learned that if he became a Green Beret, he could be required to take part in government-sanctioned assassinations and drug trafficking. A Christmas 1993 letter to Jennifer hints that he might be involved in bank robberies and/or other illegal activities (see December 24, 1993). And another letter, written four months before the bombing, warns her that he may “disappear” or go “underground” (see January 1995).
Family Suspicions - Jennifer told FBI investigators (see April 21-23, 1995) that she had an “eerie feeling” her brother was involved with the bombing. His father, William McVeigh, told investigators he was worried that McVeigh would do something to get in trouble; he also told investigators that his mother, Mildred Frazer, thought her son “did the bombing.” William McVeigh was not convinced of the government’s theory that his son’s anger over the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) was the trigger that set him on a path of destruction, a stance other family members emulated. William McVeigh told investigators that his son’s real problems may have begun over money, starting with the Army’s demand that he repay an “overpayment” (see March 1992 - February 1993), a demand that infuriated McVeigh. William McVeigh acknowledged that his son was obsessed with the deaths of the Branch Davidians, and told investigators that he and his son were at “opposite ends politically.” He said his son was bright but never really succeeded in life because he did not handle pressure well, did not take orders well, and had trouble handling the responsibilities of day-to-day work. But Jennifer thought that her brother’s breaking point came earlier, when he withdrew as a candidate for the Army’s Special Forces, as he wrote to her in an October 1993 letter (see October 20, 1993).
Undisclosed Evidence Suggesting Militia Ties - The Times also reports on previously undisclosed witness statements that indicate Timothy McVeigh may have had militia ties, something long suspected (see November 1992, January 23, 1993 - Early 1994, April 1993, April 19, 1993 and After, September 1993, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, March 1994, August - September 1994, September 12, 1994 and After, November 1994, and December 1994), but never made a large factor in McVeigh’s trial. One witness, a corrections officer who worked as a security guard in Kingman, Arizona, around the time McVeigh worked as a guard (see May-September 1993), told FBI investigators that he and his father once saw McVeigh with 10 or 15 other people dressed in camouflage in the desert north of Kingman in the fall of 1994. The group had firearms spread over the hood of an old yellow or tan station wagon, he said. The officer also said that he saw McVeigh’s friends Michael and Lori Fortier, whom he knew from high school, arrive—presumably at the desert meeting—in a small blue pickup truck with a white camper shell, a description that fits the truck owned at the time by McVeigh’s accomplice Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). The Fortiers have testified that Nichols came to their Kingman home in his blue pickup in October 1994, shortly after McVeigh had them rent a storage locker for him in which he stored stolen detonators and other explosives (see October 4 - Late October, 1994). [New York Times, 7/1/1998]
Graham Hall’s back, branded with the letters ALF. [Source: The Mail on Sunday]British reporter Graham Hall, who in 1998 infiltrated a British cell of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) with a hidden camera and captured footage of ALF’s British spokesman Robin Webb giving a bomb-making manual to activists and suggesting a target, is abducted, apparently by ALF members. They blindfold Hall and threaten to kill him, then brand the letters ALF on his back before throwing him out of a van onto a deserted road. Hall produced a documentary, Inside the ALF, that portrayed the organization as violent and extremist. Webb says the documentary was heavily and selectively edited, and says of the branding, “People who make a living in this way have to expect from time to time to take the consequences of their actions.” The British television network that aired the documentary, Channel 4, has offered to pay for plastic surgery for Hall, who considers himself an animal rights supporter but finds ALF’s tactics too extreme. Police refuse to prosecute Webb and other ALF members, who in Hall’s film boast of numerous bombings and arson attacks. Hall says of the ALF members he encountered: “Even I underestimated them. They are highly organized and totally obsessed—they’ll stop at nothing. That conflict is now out of hand and ready to explode.… I have been badly shaken by this but it will not deter me from carrying on. I will not rest until I bring these men to justice… and it won’t be the sort of justice they deal in. They are terrorists, not animal rights campaigners. They can’t function without violence. They have done this to me because I hurt them with my film. They wanted to get back at me, pure and simple.… One day I will infiltrate the ALF again. And next time they won’t get away with it.” [The Mail on Sunday, 11/7/1999; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
The murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard (see October 9, 1998 and After) triggers a national discussion about hate crimes, centering on the question of whether Shepard’s murder should be classified as such. Shortly after Shepard’s murder, his friends Walt Boulden and Alex Trout tell reporters that Shepard may have been killed because of his homosexuality. “I know in the core of my heart it happened because he revealed he was gay,” Boulden tells a reporter. “And it’s chilling. They targeted him because he was gay.” Boulden and Trout also speak with county law enforcement officials. Kristen Price, the girlfriend of one of Shepard’s assailants, Aaron McKinney, cooperates with police after being charged with being an accessory to the murder (the charges are later reduced); she tells them that McKinney reacted violently to Shepard’s alleged advances. Later, Price will recant that part of her story and say that McKinney’s motive was to rob Shepard. In 2004 she will say: “I don’t think it was a hate crime at all. I never did.” Former Laramie police detective Ben Fritzen will agree, saying: “Matthew Shepard’s sexual preference or sexual orientation certainly wasn’t the motive in the homicide.… If it wasn’t Shepard, they would have found another easy target. What it came down to really is drugs and money and two punks that were out looking for it.” McKinney will tell an ABC News reporter: “I would say it wasn’t a hate crime. All I wanted to do was beat him up and rob him.” He will explain the excessively savage beating he delivered to Shepard as triggered by his methamphetamine abuse. Others disagree. In 1999, Sergeant Rob DeBree, the chief investigator in the case, will scoff at the idea that gay hatred had nothing to do with the crime. “Far from that!” he will say. “They knew damn well he was gay.… It started out as a robbery and burglary, and I sincerely believe the other activity was because he was gay.” Former Laramie police commander Dave O’Malley doesn’t think drug use motivated the attack, either. “I really don’t think [McKinney] was in a methamphetamine-induced rage when this happened,” he will say. “I don’t buy it at all. I feel comfortable in my own heart that they did what they did to Matt because they [had] hatred toward him for being gay.” Shepard’s mother Judy Shepard will agree, saying: “I’m just not buying into that. There were a lot of things going on that night, and hate was one of them, and they murdered my son ultimately. Anything else we find out just doesn’t, just doesn’t change that fact.” McKinney will deny knowing Shepard before the murder, but some townspeople say they saw Shepard and McKinney together in the weeks before the murder, presumably seeing Shepard buying meth from McKinney. [ABC News, 11/26/2004]
'Gay Panic Defense' - McKinney’s legal strategy is to use the so-called “gay panic defense,” where assailants justify their actions by claiming they were driven temporarily insane because of their victim’s homosexuality. McKinney’s lawyer Dion Custis will go even farther, claiming that Shepard made a physical advance towards McKinney. “It started because Matthew Shepard grabbed [McKinney’s] balls,” Custis will tell the jury. “It continued because Aaron McKinney was a chronic meth user.” However, McKinney’s fellow assailant Russell Henderson will later admit that Shepard never made any advances towards either of his killers. Henderson will not testify against McKinney, as is arranged, so Custis is free to make the argument to the jury. [Salon, 11/6/1999] Of Henderson, his landlord says: “I perceived him as a follower. I have a hard time imagining him coming up with anything like this on his own. It seems extremely out of character, but sometimes people make really bad choices.” [New York Times, 10/16/1998]
Search for Justification - Experts say that the details of the incident fit a larger pattern of anti-gay crimes. Karen Franklin, a forensic psychologist, observes: “Once someone is labeled as homosexual, any glance or conversation by that person is perceived as sexual flirtation. Flirtation, in turn, is viewed as a legitimate reason to assault.” Men like McKinney and Henderson justify their violent assaults on gay men, Franklin notes, by using excuses such as “self-defense” from homosexual overtures, ideological opposition to homosexuality, thrill seeking, and peer approval. [New York Times, 10/16/1998]
Presidential Response - President Clinton condemns the killing, saying that “crimes of hate and crimes of violence cannot be tolerated in our country.” Clinton presses Congress to expand the federal hate-crimes law to cover offenses based on disability or sexual orientation. “The public outrage in Laramie and all across America today echoes what we heard at the White House Conference on Hate Crimes last year,” Clinton says. “There is something we can do about this. Congress needs to pass our tough hate crimes legislation. It can do so even before it adjourns, and it should do so.” Governor Jim Geringer (R-WY) demurs when asked if Wyoming should pass similar legislation, saying that he is against giving one group “special rights” over others. [CNN, 10/12/1998] Several gay entertainment figures openly declare the murder to be a hate crime. Actress and comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who hosts Shepard’s memorial service in Washington, DC, tells the gathered mourners that she publicly announced her sexual orientation in part “to keep this type of thing from happening.” Gay singer Melissa Etheridge will write a song, “Scarecrow,” as a tribute to Shepard (the title comes from Shepard’s initially being mistaken for a scarecrow when he was found). [Hall and Hall, 2006, pp. 575]
Entity Tags: Karen Franklin, Dion Custis, Dave O’Malley, Ben Fritzen, Alex Trout, Aaron McKinney, Ellen DeGeneres, Judy Shepard, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Melissa Etheridge, Jim Geringer, Rob DeBree, Walt Boulden, Russell Henderson, Kristen Price, Matthew Shepard
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Stu Zicherman (left) and Raven Metzner (right). [Source: Publicity photos]Production begins on Nosebleed, a major action-comedy movie based around a terrorist plot to blow up the World Trade Center, which will star the well-known martial artist and actor Jackie Chan. In the proposed movie, Chan will play a window washer at the WTC who uncovers a terrorist plot to bomb the Twin Towers. Chan’s character teams up with a waitress who works at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower, to thwart the plot. [Variety, 2/7/1999; Variety, 10/3/2000; Entertainment Weekly, 9/24/2001] The script, originally written in 1999 and subsequently developed, includes one of the terrorists explaining why the WTC should be destroyed. The terrorist says: “It represents capitalism. It represents freedom. It represents everything America is about. And to bring those two buildings down would bring America to its knees.” [Entertainment Weekly, 9/24/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001]
'Die Hard 2' Director in Talks to Work on Film - In February 1999, film studio New Line Cinema pays $600,000 to take on Nosebleed, which it is estimated will cost $50 million to $60 million to make. [Variety, 2/7/1999; Variety, 5/24/2001] In May 2000, it is reported that Renny Harlin is in talks to direct the film. [Guardian, 5/26/2000] Harlin previously directed action movies such as Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, and The Long Kiss Goodnight. [New York Times, 6/18/1997; Deseret News, 7/28/1999] Then, in spring 2001, Hollywood production company MGM takes over the film from New Line. [Variety, 5/24/2001; Hollywood (.com), 6/9/2001]
Executives Find Storyline Implausible - The screenplay for Nosebleed is being written by Stu Zicherman and Raven Metzner. Zicherman and Metzner came up with the storyline for the film, which they then took to management company Blue Train Entertainment, where it was developed for Chan. [Variety, 2/7/1999] In August 2001, the two writers meet with MGM executives to discuss possible rewrites of the script. Zicherman will later recall: “[W]e actually talked about changing the plot. Incredibly, some of the executives thought a re-bombing of the World Trade Center was implausible.” [Entertainment Weekly, 9/24/2001]
Movie Canceled after 9/11 - A scene for the movie is originally scheduled to be filmed at the top of one of the Twin Towers at 7:00 a.m. on September 11, but the filming is canceled because the script for that scene is late to arrive (see 7:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/19/2001; Empire, 9/19/2001] MGM will cancel work on Nosebleed in response to the 9/11 attacks. Nosebleed is one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten following the attacks (see (January 1998-2001); June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Baltimore Sun, 9/16/2001; ABC News, 9/25/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001] Although news reports before 9/11 state that the terrorists’ intended target in Nosebleed is the WTC, some reports after 9/11 will say, apparently incorrectly, that either the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building is the target. [USA Today, 9/12/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/14/2001; New York Post, 9/15/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/17/2001; Wired, 7/18/2012]
Frank Sesno. [Source: Communications Institute]Radio news host Amy Goodman interviews CNN vice president Frank Sesno, and asks about CNN’s practice of putting retired generals on CNN without balancing its coverage with peace activists. Sesno tells Goodman that he believes it is perfectly appropriate to have retired military officers as paid analysts to comment on foreign affairs and military issues, “as long as we identify them as what they are, as long as we believe in our editorial judgment that their judgment is straight and honest—and we judge that—and it’s not a series of talking points, yes, I think it’s appropriate.” He adds, “I think it would become inappropriate if they were our only source of information or our only source of analysis or our only source of whatever the opinion is that we’re assessing, if there were no opposing viewpoints, if you will.” Goodman asks, “If you support the practice of putting ex-military men, generals, on the payroll to share their opinion during a time of war, would you also support putting peace activists on the payroll to give a different opinion in times of war, to be sitting there with the military generals, talking about why they feel that war is not appropriate?” Senso replies: “We bring the generals in because of their expertise in a particular area. We call them analysts. We don’t bring them in as advocates. In fact, we actually talk to them about that. They are not there as advocates.” So “why not put peace activists on the payroll?” Goodman asks. Sesno retorts, “We do,” and Goodman asks, “Who?” Sesno backs off: “On payroll? No, we don’t put peace activists—we don’t—we do not choose to put a lot of people on the payroll. And we will put people on the payroll whom we choose and whom we feel is necessary to put on the payroll.” Sesno cannot recall the last peace activist that he interviewed. Given all of this, Goodman asks how, aside from “screaming in the streets and getting a picture taken,” does an antiwar voice get heard on CNN? Sesno retorts: “Well, that’s up to you. But, you know, there are a lot of ways people have of registering their opinions: through op-eds, through phone-in shows, through protest, if that’s what people are doing.” [Democracy Now!, 4/22/2008]
A libel lawsuit filed in May 1999 by Michael Ashcroft, the treasurer of Britain’s Conservative Party, against the London Times is settled without any money changing hands. The Times printed a story on July 21, 1999 alleging that Ashcroft was under investigation by the US Drug Enforcement Administration for being involved in money laundering and other drug-related crimes. Times publisher Rupert Murdoch has the newspaper print a front-page statement withdrawing the allegations. Ashcroft is a billionaire businessman with extensive interests in Belize. By settling the suit, Murdoch and Ashcroft avoid a lengthy court fight that could strongly, and negatively, impact the Tories’ chances in the upcoming elections. Supporters of Times editor Peter Stothard say the paper did not make an apology, and insist that the Times’s investigation into Ashcroft’s affairs has been vindicated. [Guardian, 12/9/1999] The Times investigation began with a leak of unclassified information from former DEA agent Jonathan Randel, who will be sentenced to jail for the leak (see January 15, 2003).
Eason Jordan. [Source: Eason Jordan]The US Army’s 4th PSYOPS (Psychological Operations) Group conducts a military symposium in Arlington, Virginia; during the symposium, the unit commander, Colonel Christopher St. John, calls for “greater cooperation between the armed forces and [the nation’s] media giants.” St. John discusses at some length how Army psyops personnel have worked for CNN (see April 22, 1999) and helped that news provider produce news stories. Dutch reporter Abe De Vries finds the information through a February 17 article in an official French intelligence newsletter. Virtually no mainstream American news outlets besides the San Jose Mercury News report the story. In March, CNN senior executive Eason Jordan admits that five “interns” from an Army psyops unit functioned as “observers” in three different units of the network beginning on June 7, 1999, for several weeks at a stretch. He says: “I think they came one at a time, and they worked in three parts of the company: in our radio—and I should be clear, not work, they did not work. They did not function as journalists. They were not paid. But they were in our radio department, our satellites area and our Southeast bureau.… [T]hey should not have been here, they’re not here anymore, and they will not be here ever again.” [Democracy Now!, 3/24/2000]
An image from the ‘60 Minutes’ broadcast of its interview with Timothy McVeigh. [Source: CBS News]CBS News airs a February 22, 2000 interview with convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and June 2, 1997), awaiting execution in an Indiana federal prison (see July 13, 1999). McVeigh was interviewed by CBS reporter Ed Bradley for a 60 Minutes segment. McVeigh set only one condition for the interview: that Bradley not ask him whether he bombed the Murrah Federal Building. CBS does not air the entire interview, but runs selected excerpts interspersed with comments from others, including family members of the bombing victims. McVeigh spoke about his political ideology, his service in the Gulf War (see January - March 1991 and After), and what he considers to be his unfair criminal trial (see August 14-27, 1997). He expressed no remorse over the dead of Oklahoma City, and blamed the US government for teaching, through what he says is its aggressive foreign policy and application of the death penalty, the lesson that “violence is an acceptable option.” McVeigh described himself as returning from the Gulf War angry and bitter, saying: “I went over there hyped up, just like everyone else. What I experienced, though, was an entirely different ballgame. And being face-to-face close with these people in personal contact, you realize they’re just people like you.” Jim Denny, who had two children injured in the bombing, said he did not understand McVeigh’s Gulf War comparison: “We went over there to save a country and save innocent lives. When he compared that to what happened in Oklahoma City, I didn’t see the comparison. He came across as ‘the government uses force, so it’s OK for its citizens to use force.’ We don’t believe in using force.” McVeigh told Bradley that he “thought it was terrible that there were children in the building,” which provoked an angry reaction from Jannie Coverdale, who lost two grandchildren in the blast. “Timothy McVeigh is full of it,” she said. “He said it was terrible about the children. He had been to the Day Care Center. He had talked to the director of the Day Care Center. He knew those children were there.” McVeigh explained that the use of violence against the government could be justified by the fact that the government itself uses violence to carry out its aims. “If government is the teacher, violence would be an acceptable option,” he said. “What did we do to Sudan? What did we do to Afghanistan? Belgrade? What are we doing with the death penalty? It appears they use violence as an option all the time.” He said that the ubiquitous pictures of himself in an orange jumpsuit, leg irons, and handcuffs that made the rounds of the media two days after his arrest (see April 21, 1995) were “the beginning of a propaganda campaign.” Jurors, however, denied that pretrial publicity influenced their judgment. Juror John Candelaria told Bradley, “He’s the Oklahoma City bomber, and there is no doubt about it in my mind.” McVeigh refused to express any regrets or a wish that his life could have gone in a different direction, telling Bradley: “I think anybody in life says, ‘I wish I could have gone back and done this differently, done that differently.’ There are moments, but not one that stands out.” He admitted to forging something of a friendship with one of his former cellblock colleagues in the Colorado supermax prison he formerly occupied, Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the Unabomber. McVeigh said that while Kaczynski is “far left” while he is “far right” politically, “I found that, in a way that I didn’t realize, that we were much alike in that all we ever wanted or all we wanted out of life was the freedom to live our own lives however we chose to.” [Douglas O. Linder, 2001; CBS News, 5/11/2001; Douglas O. Linder, 2006; CBS News, 4/20/2009]
During an interview about CNN allowing Army psyops personnel to serve as interns inside the network (see March 24, 2000), reporter Amy Goodman asks CNN executive Eason Jordan about the network’s practice of using retired military generals and other high-ranking officers to serve as military analysts in times of war, without balancing the generals’ perspective with commentary from peace activists and antiwar leaders. Jordan says he is not aware of any such policy at CNN; however: “In wartime, we want people who understand how wars are orchestrated. We want experts who can address those issues. And if we have not put enough peace activists on the air, that’s not because we have some policy against that.” Jordan denies that the military analysts are there to discuss policy, but merely to explicate technical issues for the audience. Liberal columnist and editor Alexander Cockburn asks a hypothetical question: if indeed the Army, for example, had mounted “an incredibly successful military penetration of CNN,” and that everything Jordan is saying is complete disinformation: “[H]ow would you disprove that? Because, after all, everything that you see on CNN would buttress that conclusion. CNN was an ardent advocate of the war [in Kosovo, and] did not give a balanced point of view. They fueled at all points the Pentagon, State Department, White House approach to the war. I think you could demonstrate that far beyond the confines of your program, and it’s been done by a number of people. I’m just saying that if you looked at it objectively from afar, actually what you could see is evidence of an enormously successful PSYOPS operation. So, in a way, the burden is far more on CNN to disprove what you could conclude was a successful operation.… CNN, as an outlet, both in Iraq and now, is, to my view of thinking, devotes about 95 percent of its time in times of war to putting the US government point of view.” Jordan calls Cockburn’s hypothesizing “ridiculous.” [Democracy Now!, 3/24/2000]
CNN logo. [Source: CNN]After the San Jose Mercury News reports on a February symposium where the commander of an Army psyops (psychological operations) unit discussed how Army psyops personnel have worked closely with the US news network CNN (see Early February, 2000), journalist Amy Goodman discusses the issue with three guests: Dutch journalist Abe De Vries, who first broke the story; liberal columnist Alexander Cockburn, who wrote about it in the Mercury News and in his own publication, Counterpunch; and CNN senior executive Eason Jordan. De Vries says he originally read of the symposium in a newsletter published by a French intelligence organization, and confirmed it with Army spokespersons. Cockburn says that after he wrote about it in his publication, he was contacted by an “indignant” Jordan, who called the story “a terrible slur on the good name of CNN and on the quality of its news gathering.” Cockburn says that he, too, confirmed that Army psyops personnel—“interns,” Jordan told Cockburn—worked for several weeks at CNN, but the network “maintains stoutly, of course, that these interns, you know, they just were there making coffee or looking around, and they had no role in actually making news.” Goodman asks Jordan about the story, and he insists that the Army personnel were nothing more than unpaid interns who “functioned as observers” and were “always under CNN supervision. They did not decide what we would report, how we would report it, when we would report something.…[T]hey had no role whatsoever in our Kosovo coverage and, in fact, had no role whatsoever in any of our coverage.” Jordan says that allowing them into CNN was a mistake that the network will not repeat. Jordan says that the psyops personnel merely wanted “to see how CNN functioned, as a lot of people from around the world do. We have observers here from all over the world.” He insists that no one in his division—news gathering—knew about the psyops personnel serving as interns until the program was well underway, and that once they found out about it, they brought it to a halt “within a matter of days.” Cockburn points out that from De Vries’s reporting, the Army was “obviously pleased” by their ability to insert personnel inside one of the nation’s largest news organizations. Cockburn says that it isn’t a matter of the Army personnel conducting some sort of “spy novel” operation inside CNN, but a matter of building relationships: “[T]he question is really, you know, the way these things work. If people come to an office, and they make friends at the office, then the next time they want to know something, they know someone they can call up. A relationship is a much more subtle thing than someone suddenly running in and writing [CNN correspondent Christiane] Amanpour’s copy for her.” Jordan says the entire idea of the US military influencing news coverage is “nonsense” (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond). Goodman counters with a quote from an Army psyops training manual: “Capture their minds, and their hearts and souls will follow.… Psychological operations, or PSYOP, are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning and ultimately the behavior of organizations, groups and individuals. Used in all aspects of war, it’s a weapon whose effectiveness is limited only by the ingenuity of the commander using it. A proven winner in combat and peacetime, PSYOP is one of the oldest weapons in the arsenal of man. It’s an important force, protector, combat multiplier and a non-lethal weapons system.” [Democracy Now!, 3/24/2000]
Merck sends all of its sales representatives a “Cardiovascular Card,” a tri-fold pamphlet on the safety of Vioxx, so they “are well prepared to respond to questions about the cardiovascular effects of Vioxx.” Since the announcement (see March 27, 2000) of the VIGOR study results, physicians have been asking the representatives whether Vioxx causes heart problems. The pamphlet contains a table of data appearing to indicate that patients on Vioxx are 11 times less likely to die than patients on standard anti-inflammatory drugs, and 8 times less likely to die from heart attacks and strokes. Another section displays data showing that Vioxx patients are half as likely to suffer heart attacks as patients who receive a placebo. The risk for patients on other anti-inflammatory drugs appears to be identical. [Merck, 4/28/2000 ] But the pamphlet is based on the combined data of several disparate studies, conducted before the drug’s approval. None of the studies were designed to test the cardiovascular safety of the drug. An FDA medical reviewer later tells the staff of a congressional committee that the relevance of those studies to the question of Vioxx’s effects on the heart is “nonexistent.” Furthermore, the reviewer says it would be “ridiculous” and “scientifically inappropriate” to use the pamphlet as evidence of the drug’s safety. [Office of Representative Henry A. Waxman, 5/5/2005, pp. 16-19 ]
A Florida jury unanimously finds in favor of Jane Akre, a plaintiff suing Fox Television for wrongful termination. Akre and her husband, Steve Wilson, had begun filming a news story for the Tampa, Florida, Fox affiliate on the harmful effects of BGH, or bovine growth hormone. Akre and Wilson were fired when they refused orders from Fox officials to add false information favorable to Monsanto, the manufacturers of BGH, to their story (see December 1996 - December 1997). (The jury rules that Wilson was not harmed by Fox’s actions.) The jury rules that Akre warrants protection under Florida’s whistleblower law, and awards her a $425,000 settlement. Instead of paying the judgment, Fox Television appeals the decision (see February 14, 2003). [St. Louis Journalism Review, 12/1/2007]
John Prescott Ellis. [Source: Bush-Clinton Fraud (.com)]Fox News chairman Roger Ailes (see October 7, 1996), a Republican campaign consultant (see 1968, January 25, 1988, and September 21 - October 4, 1988), chooses an unlikely reporter to anchor Fox’s election night coverage: John Prescott Ellis, a freelance Republican political adviser and the first cousin of George W. Bush (R-TX), the Republican presidential candidate. (Ellis is the son of George Herbert Walker Bush’s sister, Nancy Ellis.) Ellis was originally hired to cover the party primaries. A later study of voting patterns by the University of California will determine that in areas where voters have access to Fox News, the network’s relentless pro-Bush coverage shifts some 200,000 votes from Democrat Al Gore (D-TN) to Bush, but Ailes wants to make sure his network’s coverage is favorable to Bush, and has always had Ellis in mind for the election night anchor position, for which he specifically gives Ellis a 30-day contract. Ellis is very close to Bush’s brother Jeb Bush (R-FL), the sitting governor of Florida (“Jeb” is an acronym for his full name, John Ellis Bush). Ellis recused himself from campaign coverage in a June 1999 Boston Globe column, defending George W. Bush from allegations of cocaine use, calling the Clinton-Gore administration “morally berserk,” and telling his readers, “There is no way for you to know if I am telling you the truth about George W. Bush’s presidential campaign, because in his case, my loyalty goes to him and not to you.” Instead of this posing an ethical dilemma or being seen as a conflict of interest at Fox, Ellis is Ailes’s first and only choice to anchor the network’s election coverage. (Ailes will later tell a February 2001 House committee hearing, “We at Fox News do not discriminate against people because of their family connections”—see February 14, 2001.) [Washington Post, 11/14/2000; Salon, 11/15/2000; Observer, 11/19/2000; Associated Press, 12/11/2000; Buffalo Beat, 12/14/2000; Nation, 11/6/2006; New York Magazine, 5/22/2011] Ellis will pre-emptively call the election for Bush, sparking the Florida recount controversy and helping propel his cousin into the White House (see November 7-8, 2000). In a response to testimony in the same February 2001 House committee hearing, Joan Konner, a journalism professor who will lead a CNN-commissioned independent study of the problems in that network’s election night coverage, will call Ellis’s hiring a substantial breach of journalistic ethics and standards. “If John Ellis had, indeed, made comments stating that his loyalties to the Bush family superceded any commitment he has to his profession or his employer, then I would judge that to be not only a perceived conflict-of-interest but a real conflict-of-interest for a journalist,” she will write in a letter to Representative John Dingell (D-MI). “While that does not disqualify an individual from any position as a journalist, it would, in my judgement, disqualify that person for any decision-making role involving reporting on his relatives during an election. Often friends and relatives are hired by journalism organizations because of their connections to the newsmakers. Their access to sources makes them valuable to the organization. However, the news organization should take every precaution against placing such an individual in an assignment that could result in bias in reporting.” [House of Representatives, Committee on Energy and Commerce, 2/14/2001]
Entity Tags: John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, Fox News, Boston Globe, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., George W. Bush, John Dingell, Roger Ailes, Nancy Ellis, Joan Konner, John Prescott Ellis
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Domestic Propaganda
The cover of ‘Saddam’s Bombmaker.’ [Source: Simon and Schuster]Former Iraqi nuclear scientist Khidir Hamza publishes a book with reporter Jeff Stein entitled Saddam’s Bombmaker: The Terrifying Inside Story of the Iraqi Nuclear and Biological Weapons Agenda. Two years before, Hamza had tried and failed to get a deal for a book that would show Iraq’s nuclear weapons plans had “fizzled” (see 1998). This book is radically different, telling a dramatic tale of his career as a nuclear bomb-builder and his death-defying escape from Iraq (Hamza defected from Iraq and was brought to the US by Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress). Hamza now asserts that Iraq is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons. According to former Defense Intelligence Agency official Patrick Lang, this is a “vast exaggeration” of the reality of the situation. [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Fox News chief Roger Ailes has hired John Prescott Ellis, a freelance Republican political advisor and an intensely loyal cousin of presidential candidate George W. Bush (R-TX), to head the network’s election-night coverage for the 2000 presidential election (see October-November 2000). During the election, Ellis is in constant contact with Bush and his senior campaign aides, speaking with Bush himself five separate times during the evening.
Calling Florida for Gore - At 7:52 p.m., Bush’s brother Jeb Bush (R-FL), the sitting governor of Florida, calls Ellis to protest when Fox “mistakenly” projects Florida as going to Al Gore (D-TN). Ellis tells Jeb Bush that he is looking at a computer “screenful of Gore.” Bush reminds Ellis, “But the polls haven’t closed in the panhandle.” Ellis replies, “It’s not going to help.” Voter News Service (VNS), the voting consortium the networks all use, rates the race a 99.5 percent certainty that Gore has won Florida, a conclusion that VNS and network officials alike later say was a mistake (see February 14, 2001). The prediction is indeed inaccurate; within minutes, Gore’s lead begins to shrink again. At 9:38 p.m., VNS issues a correction of an inaccurate vote count for Duval County, stripping Gore of a number of phantom votes, and the race is again far too close to call.
Calling Florida for Bush - At 2:10 a.m., Ellis sees data from VNS that shows Bush with a 51,433-vote lead, and 179,713 votes left to be counted. (The latter figure is grossly inaccurate, later data proves; over 350,000 votes actually remain to be counted.) Gore would need 63 percent of those votes to win, a scenario that is statistically unlikely. Ellis calls Jeb Bush to say that it is “statistically impossible” for Bush to lose. Around 2:15 a.m., Ellis puts the telephone down and excitedly announces to his team: “Jebbie says we got it! Jebbie says we got it!” Even though Florida is still rated “too close to call” by VNS, Fox News vice president John Moody gives the go-ahead to project Bush the winner in Florida. Fox News anchor Brit Hume makes the call for Bush at 2:16 a.m. The other networks hurriedly, and inaccurately, follow suit. [Washington Post, 11/14/2000; Observer, 11/19/2000; Associated Press, 12/11/2000; Buffalo Beat, 12/14/2000; American Journalism Review, 1/2001; Nation, 11/6/2006; New York Magazine, 5/22/2011] Hume himself is a bit apprehensive of the call. “I must tell you, everybody, after all this, all night long, we put Bush at 271, Gore at 243,” he tells Fox viewers. “I feel a little bit apprehensive about the whole thing. I have no reason to doubt our decision desk, but there it is.” [Time, 11/15/2000]
Other Networks Follow Suit - As Hume is announcing Bush’s “victory” in Florida, NBC News election coverage chief Sheldon Gawiser is on the telephone with Murray Edelman, the editorial director for VNS. Gawiser is considering calling Florida for Bush, and wants to discuss calling the race for Bush while citing Edelman and VNS as the sources responsible for such a call. Edelman is shocked that Gawiser wants to make any call with Bush’s lead not only very small, but dwindling. But as the two are talking, Fox’s announcement comes over NBC’s monitors, and Gawiser breaks off the call, saying: “Sorry, gotta go. Fox just called it.” At 2:17 a.m., NBC projects Bush the winner in Florida and the next president of the United States. The joint decision team for CBS and CNN, Warren Mitofsky and Joe Lenski, make the same decision a minute later. After CBS declares Bush’s victory, anchor Dan Rather tells viewers: “Let’s give a tip of the Stetson to the loser, Vice President Al Gore, and at the same time, a big tip and a hip, hip, hurrah and a great big Texas howdy to the new president of the United States. Sip it, savor it, cup it, photostat it, underline it in red, press it in a book, put it in an album, hang it on the wall—George W. Bush is the next president of the United States.” The ABC decision team resists making the call, not trusting the data (it had similar reservations about the earlier call for Gore), but according to ABC election consultant John Blydenburgh, a network executive overrides the decision team and has ABC declare Bush the projected winner at 2:20 a.m. Blydenburgh says the executive does not want ABC to look “foolish” by being the only network not to recognize Bush as the next president. The Associated Press (AP) refuses to make the call, saying that its figures show Bush with only a 30,000-vote lead, and that steadily dwindling (by 2:30 a.m., Bush’s lead, by the AP’s count, is below 19,000 votes; a glitch in the Volusia County numbers that comes in minutes after the call for Bush slashes Bush’s lead considerably, validating the AP’s reluctance to make the call). But the television broadcasts drive the story. Network pundits immediately begin dissecting Bush’s “victory” and speculating as to why Gore “lost.” [American Journalism Review, 1/2001; Nation, 11/6/2006] Shortly after 3 a.m., CBS’s Ed Bradley begins informing viewers that the AP numbers show Bush with a lead of only 6,000 votes. Rather tells the viewers that if the AP is correct, the previous call for Bush may be premature. “Let’s not joke about it folks,” he says. “You have known all night long and we’ve said to you all night long that these estimates of who wins and who loses are based on the best available information we have. CBS News has the best track record in the business, over a half century plus, for accuracy on election night. But nobody’s perfect.” However, few listen to either CBS’s caveats or the AP’s refusal to call the election. [American Journalism Review, 1/2001] By 4:52 a.m., Bush’s lead has dwindled to 1,888 votes.
Fox Leads the Narrative for Bush - Gore initially concedes the race, but when the networks begin retracting their declaration and return Florida to the “too close to call” status, he retracts his concession. In their last conversation of the evening, Bush tells Ellis that Gore has taken back his concession, and says: “I hope you’re taking all this down, Ellis. This is good stuff for a book.” The morning headlines in most daily papers declare Bush the winner; much of the news coverage slams Gore as indulging in “sour grapes” for not conceding the election. Rather later says: “We’ll never know whether Bush won the election in Florida or not. But when you reach these kinds of situations, the ability to control the narrative becomes critical. Led by Fox, the narrative began to be that Bush had won the election.” In 2011, Rolling Stone reporter Tim Dickinson will write, “A ‘news’ network controlled by a GOP operative who had spent decades shaping just such political narratives—including those that helped elect the candidate’s father—declared George W. Bush the victor based on the analysis of a man who had proclaimed himself loyal to Bush over the facts.” After the election, House Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) says: “Of everything that happened on election night, this was the most important in impact. It immeasurably helped George Bush maintain the idea in people’s minds that he was the man who won the election.” [Observer, 11/19/2000; Associated Press, 12/11/2000; Buffalo Beat, 12/14/2000; New York Magazine, 5/22/2011] Ellis later writes that Bush did not try to influence his coverage. “Governor Bush was, as always, considerate of my position,” Ellis will write. “He knew that I would be fried if I gave him anything that VNS deemed confidential, so he never asked for it. He made a point of getting the early exit poll data from other sources before talking to me.” [Associated Press, 12/11/2000]
Criticism of Fox, Ellis - Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, later says of Ellis and Fox while the election is still in dispute: “The notion you’d have the cousin of one presidential candidate in a position to call a state, and the election, is unthinkable. Fox’s call—wrong, unnecessary, misguided, foolish—helped create a sense that the election went to Bush, was pulled back, and it’s just a matter of time before his president-elect title is restored. But that said, John Ellis is a good man, a good journalist whose judgment was overcome by excitement. He put himself in an impossible situation, but the mistake was not so much his as Rupert Murdoch’s for putting him in that position.… Everybody knows it’s a partisan channel, but its marketing slogan, ‘We report; you decide,’ is now totally obliterated by the fact that one candidate’s first cousin is actually deciding, and then they report.” (Rosenstiel is apparently unaware that Murdoch, who owns Fox News’s parent company News Corporation, did not make the call to hire Ellis.) Rosenstiel’s colleague Carl Gottlieb is less restrained, saying: “It’s beyond belief. The network should not have allowed Ellis to report on this election. As a viewer, after reading this story and reading about Ellis’s involvement in calling the race, you can’t help but get the idea that this guy’s complicit in what’s going on now down in Florida.” Murdoch will later claim that Fox News displayed “no partisanship” in its election-night coverage. Ellis will later tell a reporter: “It was just the three of us guys handing the phone back and forth—me with the numbers, one of them a governor, the other president-elect. Now that was cool. And everybody followed us.” [Observer, 11/19/2000; Nation, 11/6/2006] Ellis will also later deny telling his team that “Jebbie” gave him the go-ahead to call the election for Bush, instead saying he made the call based on his own calculations. Statistician Cynthia Talkov, the only member of Fox’s election team who actually understands the VNS statistical models, later says she never saw Ellis making any such calculations, and will say Ellis did not ask her for her opinion for his call, though every other projection that evening was made with her explicit approval. Talkov is one of the people who will confirm that Ellis received the go-ahead to call the election from Jeb Bush. A post-election analysis prepared by outside reviewers for CNN later issues sharp criticisms of the networks, noting, “On Election Day 2000, television news organizations staged a collective drag race on the crowded highway of democracy, recklessly endangering the electoral process, the political life of the country, and their own credibility.” Mitofsky, who invested election polls and developed the election night projection system the networks use, later calls Ellis’s actions “the most unprofessional election night work I could ever imagine. He had no business talking to the Bush brothers or to any other politician about what he was doing.” On the other hand, Ailes will characterize Ellis’s actions as those of “a good journalist talking to his very high-level sources on election night.” [Nation, 11/6/2006]
Fox 'Investigation' Comes Up Empty - Fox News will announce an “investigation” of any conflicts of interest or unprofessional behavior concerning Ellis’s role in declaring Bush the winner, but nothing will come of any such investigation. The “investigation” will find that Ellis gave no VNS information to either George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, or any Bush campaign official, though Ellis himself will freely admit to a New Yorker reporter that he shared VNS data with both Bushes repeatedly during the evening. Such sharing of data would constitute a violation of journalistic ethics as well as possible criminal behavior. [Observer, 11/19/2000; Nation, 11/6/2006] Ailes had specifically warned his team not to share VNS information with anyone from the campaigns. [Salon, 11/15/2000] Before the investigation is even launched, Moody will say: “Appearance of impropriety? I don’t think there’s anything improper about it as long as he doesn’t behave improperly, and I have no evidence he did.… John has always conducted himself in an extremely professional manner.” [Washington Post, 11/14/2000]
Entity Tags: Voter News Service, Warren Mitofsky, Tom Rosenstiel, Sheldon Gawiser, Tim Dickinson, Roger Ailes, CNN, ABC News, CBS News, Brit Hume, Boston Globe, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Associated Press, News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, Murray Edelman, Fox News, Ed Bradley, Dan Rather, Cynthia Talkov, Carl Gottlieb, George W. Bush, NBC News, Henry A. Waxman, John Prescott Ellis, John Moody, John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, Joe Lenski, John Blydenburgh
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections
Based on Voter News Service (VNS) projections from exit polling, the Associated Press projects Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic presidential candidate, as the winner of the Florida elections over Governor George W. Bush (R-TX). Gore’s victory, if confirmed, would give him the electoral votes he needs to win the US presidency. The major television networks—ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, and NBC News—call Florida for Gore between 7:50 and 8:00 p.m. [Leip, 2008] In light of the predictions of a Gore victory, Bush decides to abandon his plans to watch the rest of the returns from a suite in the Austin, Texas, Four Seasons Hotel, and instead returns to the relative privacy of the governor’s mansion in Austin. [Tapper, 3/2001] Florida polling places in the Central Time Zone do not close until 8:00 p.m., so the networks’ projection that Florida is going to Gore comes out 10 minutes before those polling places—all in Florida’s “Panhandle” region, a Republican stronghold—close. Bush campaign officials will later allege that the networks called Florida for Gore an hour before the polls closed, potentially discouraging some Bush voters from casting their votes. The liberal news Web site Consortium News will later observe: “Though the networks certainly could have and obviously should have waited, it is unclear that any Bush voter decided not to go to the polls because of a projection that occurred only minutes before the polls closed. It’s unlikely that more than a few late-arriving voters were even aware of Gore’s projected victory.” [Consortium News, 11/22/2000] Many Florida lawmakers and officials are shocked by the pronouncement. Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) will later recall feeling that the networks are “stretching it” to make such a prediction. Broward County elections supervisor Jane Carroll will say acidly, “That’s very kind of [the networks] to just give this away.” Broward has yet to tally a single vote. Broward canvassing board chairman Judge Robert Lee is incredulous at the announcement, and like Graham and others, is disturbed that the networks would call the election before the polls are closed. As the evening goes on and the returns begin to come in, Lee wonders, “Why are they calling Florida for Gore when it’s so close?” Bush campaign strategist Karl Rove goes on the air to argue that Florida is still in play, and to complain about the networks’ choice to project Florida for Gore before the Panhandle counties have concluded their polling. The VNS voting predictions are later shown to be badly flawed, with a number of erroneous estimates, a drastic overestimation of African-American (Democratic) votes in Miami-Dade and a corresponding underestimation of Cuban-American (Republican) votes in that county, and poorly managed exit polling. [Tapper, 3/2001]
Entity Tags: County of Broward (Florida), Consortium News, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., ABC News, Voter News Service, Robert Lee, Karl C. Rove, CBS News, Fox News, Daniel Robert (“Bob”) Graham, George W. Bush, County of Miami-Dade (Florida), Jane Carroll, NBC News
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections
The Associated Press’s projection that Vice President Al Gore won Florida’s presidential election (see 7:50 p.m., November 7, 2000) collapses in the wake of new poll results. Governor George W. Bush (R-TX), Gore’s opponent, tells reporters: “The networks called this thing awfully early, but the people actually counting the votes are coming up with a different perspective. So we’re pretty darn upbeat about things.” By 10:00 p.m., the major television networks—ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, and NBC News—begin retracting their earlier projection of Gore’s victory and revert Florida to the “too close to call” category. [Leip, 2008]
The logo for the 2000 Green Party presidential ticket, featuring Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke. [Source: 4President (.org)]Many Democrats blame third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader for the election confusion in Florida (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000), noting that had he not run, most of those who voted for him would have voted for Democratic presidential contender Al Gore instead and thus given Gore an unquestionable win. Nader ran on the left-wing Green Party ticket, winning 2,883,105 votes nationwide (2.73 percent of the popular vote), and, more importantly, 97,488 votes, or 1.63 percent, of Florida’s electorate. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper writes, “Ralph Nader is a jerk” who seeks media attention like Pat Buchanan and Jesse Jackson, and “he can match them in the ego department as well.” And “isn’t it great for Ralph that instead of walking around as a nostalgic trivia question from the 1970s—the activist equivalent of [television actor] John Ritter—that he was getting so much attention again. Congratulations. Jerk.” A Boston Globe editorial states, “If Ralph Nader had not been in the race, Al Gore would today be preparing to become president.” The vote for Nader in Florida “was the key to George W. Bush’s” small lead there, and without Nader, “Gore would probably have gained enough of these to defeat Bush unless the latter does extraordinarily well in the recount.” Nationally, Gore “could have earned enough of Nader’s 2,655,233” to win Oregon and New Hampshire “and give him a convincing national plurality.” Though Nader’s supporters “raise serious questions” on several issues, “they chose the wrong campaign to make their point.” The Globe concludes that before this election, Nader “had earned an honored place in US history as a pioneer in consumer safety. If Bush prevails in Florida, Nader will become a footnote as the willful eccentric who denied Gore the political prize he deserved.” Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) says: “Ralph Nader is not going to be welcome anywhere near the corridors. Nader cost us the election.” Kate Michelman of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) says: “He cost Al Gore the race. Not only by what happened in Florida, but by making these other states a threat to Al Gore. Not to recognize what was at stake—or to dismiss it if he did—was dangerous and represented a type of arrogance. As a result, he lost a lot of credibility.” AFL-CIO president John Sweeney calls Nader’s campaign “reprehensible,” and says: “As a rule, we really reject the role that Nader played in the political process this time around. I don’t know if there’s any room in a national election for president for somebody who is a message candidate.” Enviro Working Group president Ken Cook says: “The public interest community is going to spend tens of millions of dollars a year for the next four years playing defense. I don’t think [Nader is] going to build a Green Party any more than O.J.‘s out there looking for a murderer,” referring to notorious murder suspect O.J. Simpson, who famously claims to be aggressively searching for the person who supposedly killed his wife and her boyfriend. Miramax Studio chairman and Gore supporter Harvey Weinstein says Nader is a “name that will go down in infamy.” According to writer Harold Evans, President Clinton was “very emphatic about the damage Nader had done to Gore” at a post-election gathering. Former Nader supporter Larry Marx says: “Ralph got tunnel vision and lost sight of progressive goals. People remember those kind of things, and there’s a price to be paid.” Polls show that 80 percent of Florida citizens who voted for Nader would have voted for Gore had Nader not been on the ballot, giving Gore a presumed 77,990 extra votes—far more than the number Gore would have needed to take Florida. Fellow third-party candidate Pat Buchanan notes, “Mr. Nader, I believe, can take credit for having sunk… the Gore candidacy.” Nader himself is defiant, noting that Gore failed to win his own home state of Tennessee or Clinton’s home state of Arkansas, and saying: “The Democrats must find their progressive roots or watch the party wither away, or become a crypto-Republican Party, seeking the same money and voters.… I’ve always said that it was Al Gore’s election to lose, that only Al Gore could beat Al Gore. If Democrats are disappointed with the returns, they need to take a long, close look at their party and the empty campaign waged by Al Gore.” [Leip, 2000; National Journal, 11/9/2000]
Entity Tags: Harold Evans, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Boston Globe, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, Green Party, Ralph Nader, Richard Roeper, Larry Marx, Joseph Biden, John J. Sweeney, Harvey Weinstein, Patrick Buchanan, George W. Bush, Ken Cook, Kate Michelman
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections
A screenshot of CNN’s on-air graphic declaring George W. Bush the winner in Florida. The graphic shows Bush with a 6,060-vote lead. [Source: TV-Ark News (.com)]Republican presidential contender George W. Bush (R-TX) appears to enjoy a late surge in Florida votes, securing what appears to be a slim but decisive lead of some 50,000 votes. Led by Fox News (see October-November 2000 and November 7-8, 2000), the four major television networks—ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, and NBC News—begin declaring Bush the projected winner of Florida and therefore the winner of the US presidential elections. By 2:20 a.m., the last of the networks has projected Bush as the winner. [New York Times, 11/9/2000; Leip, 2008] The Associated Press (AP) refuses to make the call, saying that its figures show Bush with only a 30,000-vote lead, and that steadily dwindling. By 2:30 a.m., Bush’s lead, by the AP’s count, is below 19,000 votes; a glitch in the Volusia County numbers that comes in minutes after the call for Bush slashes Bush’s lead considerably, validating the AP’s reluctance to make the call. But the television broadcasts drive the story. Network pundits immediately begin dissecting Bush’s “victory” and speculating as to why Gore “lost.” [American Journalism Review, 1/2001; Nation, 11/6/2006] After the Fox announcement, Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile sends Gore a text message reading: “Never surrender. It’s not over yet.” But others in the campaign feel the campaign is indeed over. Gore’s brother-in-law Frank Hunger later recalls, “They were just so damn positive,” referring to the networks. “And they were talking about 50,000 votes, and we never dreamed they would be inaccurate.” The Gore campaign’s deputy campaign manager for communications, Mark D. Fabiani, will later recall: “I felt so deflated. It had been an evening where you won and then lost and winning felt a lot better than losing. You had been up and down and swung around and then dumped out on your head.” [New York Times, 11/9/2000]
Entity Tags: Mark D. Fabiani, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, NBC News, George W. Bush, Frank Hunger, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Fox News, Associated Press, CBS News, County of Volusia (Florida), Donna Brazile, Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, ABC News
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections
Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic presidential candidate, calls Republican contender George W. Bush to retract his concession of the presidential election (see 2:30 a.m. - 3:15 a.m. November 8, 2000). “Circumstances have changed dramatically since I first called you,” Gore says. “The state of Florida is too close to call.” Bush says: “Are you saying what I think you’re saying? Let me make sure I understand. You’re calling me back to retract your concession.” Gore responds, “You don’t have to be snippy about it.” Bush informs Gore that his brother, Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, has assured him he has already won Florida (see 2:15 a.m. November 8, 2000 and November 7-8, 2000). Gore replies, “Your younger brother is not the ultimate authority on this.” Instead of giving a concession speech as planned, Gore sends his campaign chairman, former Commerce Secretary William Daley, to speak to the gathering at Nashville’s War Memorial Plaza. “Our campaign continues,” Daley says. New polling data shows that Florida, still projected to go to Bush as the last needed electoral victory, is once again too close to be accurately predicted. Bush calls his cousin John Ellis, who is anchoring Fox News’s election night coverage (see October-November 2000), and says, “Gore unconceded.” Ellis responds, “You’re kidding.” Within the hour, the networks will, for the second time (see 9:30 p.m. November 7, 2000), retract their projection and classify Florida as “too close to call” (see 3:57 a.m. - 4:15 a.m. November 8, 2000). Bush campaign chairman Donald Evans orders aides to be on a 6 a.m. flight to Florida to begin contesting the recounts. Gore aides give similar orders to their personnel. [CNN, 12/13/2000; Tapper, 3/2001; Vanity Fair, 10/2004; Leip, 2008]
Katherine Harris. [Source: AP/Pete Cosgrove]Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, one of eight co-chairs of the Florida Bush election campaign and the state official ultimately in charge of election procedures, is introduced to the politics of the Florida presidential recount by a ringing telephone. She is awakened at 3:30 a.m. by a call from the Bush campaign chairman Donald Evans, who puts Governor Jeb Bush, George W. Bush’s brother, on the line. Governor Bush asks coldly, “Who is Ed Kast, and why is he giving an interview on national television?” Harris is unsure who Kast is for a moment. Kast is the assistant director of elections, whose division reports to her office. He is on television talking about the fine points of Florida election law (see 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000), when and how manual recounts can be requested, and, most importantly, the driving concept of “voter intent”—if a ballot shows the intent of the voter to cast a vote for a candidate, then that vote will be counted. The governor does not want the media narrative to focus on recounts and voter intent, and has already tasked his general counsel with the job of getting Kast off the air as quickly as possible. (CNN “loses” Kast’s transmission in mid-sentence minutes later.) Democrats have questioned the propriety of having the Florida official with ultimate authority over elections being a state chairman for a presidential campaign before now, and in the coming days, the question will devolve into outright accusations of partisanship and impropriety. Harris has called herself “thrilled and honored” to be part of the Bush campaign, and served as a Bush delegate during the Republican National Convention. During the campaign, she often traveled around Florida representing the ticket. Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL) says of Harris: “She is clearly a partisan Republican—and there’s nothing illegal about that. And I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, expecting them to perform their public functions appropriately. But her actions will speak volumes about whether she is qualified. If she does this fairly, fine. But if she acts as an emissary for Bush to steal this election in Florida, she will delegitimize Florida’s vote count.” Harris gives some initial media interviews on November 8, and according to a 2004 Vanity Fair article, “appear[s] overwhelmed and uninformed.” She does not know what county elections supervisors have been doing, and seems unaware of the chaos surrounding the Palm Beach County “butterfly ballot” (see November 9, 2000) and other ballot disputes. The Bush campaign senses trouble and assigns Harris a “minder,” Florida Republican lobbyist Mac Stipanovich, a former campaign advisor for Jeb Bush and a close Bush ally. Stipanovich, the Vanity Fair article will observe, “appealed to Harris’s grandiosity. (Her emails replying to Bush supporters later revealed that she had begun identifying with Queen Esther, who, in the Old Testament, saved the Jews from genocide. ‘My sister and I prayed for full armour this morning,’ she wrote. ‘Queen Esther has been a wonderful role model.’) He told her that nothing less than the course of history rested on her shoulders. ‘You have to bring this election in for a landing,’ he repeated again and again.” Under Stipanovich’s tutelage, Harris quickly learns to stay on message and repeat the given talking points. Stipanovich, who remains out of sight of the media, will later describe his daily routine with Harris to documentary filmmaker Fred Silverman, saying: “I would arrive in the morning through the garage and come up on the elevators, and come in through the cabinet-office door, which is downstairs, and then in the evening when I left, you know, sometimes it’d be late, depending on what was going on, I would go the same way. I would go down the elevators and out through the garage and be driven—driven to my car from the garage, just because there were a lot of people out front on the main floor, and, at least in this small pond, knowledge of my presence would have been provocative, because I have a political background.” [Salon, 11/13/2000; Vanity Fair, 10/2004] Most importantly to the Bush campaign, Harris is a part of the campaign’s message propagation plan to insist that Bush has indisputably won the Florida election (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000).
Entity Tags: George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, Donald L. Evans, CNN, Ed Kast, George W. Bush, Katherine Harris, Vanity Fair, John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, Fred Silverman, Mac Stipanovich, Robert Wexler
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections
The four news networks, ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, and NBC News, retract their earlier projection that Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush has won Florida and thereby won the US presidency (see 2:15 a.m. November 8, 2000). The state is again rated as “too close to call.” [Leip, 2008]
New York Daily News columnist Mike Barnicle, considered by many to be a liberal, tells MSNBC viewers that Democratic presidential contender Al Gore should concede the election. Barnicle says, referring to Gore’s father, former Democratic Senator Albert Gore Sr.: “This could be Al Gore’s moment. It could be the moment where he finally gets the chance to live up to his great father’s ideals and have the courage to step aside.” [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 11/16/2000; NewsBusters, 2011]
A screenshot from NBC News’s November 19, 2000 ‘Meet the Press’ broadcast, featuring Tim Russert using a whiteboard to illustrate electoral vote tallies. [Source: NBC / Infoimagination (.org)]NBC political commentator Tim Russert recommends that Democratic presidential contender Al Gore either concede the election or wrap up his challege to the reported election results (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000 and After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000) to avoid being called “a whiner.” Russert says that the election recounts are a “crisis” that must be resolved as quickly as possible. Gore “can’t extend it to too long, nor can he become a whiner about Florida at some point,” he says, and adds: “If they continue then to file lawsuits and begin to contest various areas of the state, then people will begin to suggest: ‘uh-oh, this is not magnanimous. This is being a sore loser.’ I think the vice president understands that as well.… If it starts dragging into petty politics and we get to Thanksgiving and we still don’t know who our president is, I think the public will not have much patience with the candidate they believe is dragging it out.” The progressive media watchdog Web site Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) will note that polls show strong majorities of Americans favor continuing the recount process if it will ensure the accuracy of the voting results, even weeks into the recount process. FAIR will write, “[M]ost public opinion polls suggest that citizens are taking a much more reasonable approach to the situation than some of the elite media, supporting a process that emphasizes fairness rather than speed.” [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 11/16/2000]
Representatives Robert Wexler (D-FL) and Mark Foley (R-FL), both representing districts in the Palm Beach County area of Florida, argue about the confusing “butterfly ballot” that plagued many Palm Beach voters (see 7:00 a.m. November 7, 2000 and After and November 9, 2000) with interviewer Larry King on CNN. Much of the debate centers on the ballot design and its approval by Palm Beach elections supervisor Theresa LePore, a Democrat. (In his 2001 book Down and Dirty, author Jake Tapper will note that LePore was originally registered as a Republican, then an independent, before registering as a Democrat, and is not particularly partisan with any party.) Foley, a Bush campaign supporter, defends LePore and the ballot, saying that the entire ballot situation is caused by recalcitrant Democrats unwilling to accept defeat, while Wexler, arguing on behalf of the Gore campaign, says the ballot is illegal and cost Al Gore the votes he needed to win Florida and the presidency. Wexler accurately describes many Palm Beach voters as “hysterical” because they feared they had accidentally voted for third-party candidate Pat Buchanan and not for Gore, and says the ballot design does not comply with Florida law. “Illegal is illegal, confusion is confusion, and the presidency shouldn’t hinge on it,” Wexler says. Foley is inaccurate in saying that Buchanan has a large base of support in Palm Beach, though he jokes that some of those putative pro-Buchanan voters “may be deranged.” Foley denies Wexler’s description of “mass confusion” at the Palm Beach polling places, and notes, accurately enough, that “a Democratic supervisor of elections [LePore] approved the layout and approved the ballot.” King says that as a Democrat, Wexler “signed off” on the ballot design, drawing a retort from Wexler: “That’s not exactly so, Larry. Many people did complain to the supervisor of elections when they saw the sample ballot.” LePore, watching the discussion on television, is angered by Wexler’s charge; she later says she mailed out 655,000 sample ballots to voters, gave copies to all 150-odd candidates on the ballot, mailed copies to local Democratic and Republican representatives, and provided copies for publication in the Palm Beach Post and the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, and received no complaints whatsoever. Wexler goes on to note that LePore sent out an unprecedented voter advisory reminding voters how to cast their votes for their desired presidential candidate, “which I’ve never seen done.” LePore is further angered by Wexler’s failure to acknowledge that he was one of the people who requested the advisory. “What a liar!” LePore thinks as she watches Wexler’s comments. Wexler argues that “the presidency of the United States hangs in the balance.… The entire election system of America is on trial right now. We need to make certain it is done in a fair way.” [St. Petersburg Times, 11/10/2000; Tapper, 3/2001]
Entity Tags: Larry King, CNN, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., County of Palm Beach (Florida), Jake Tapper, Mark Foley, Patrick Buchanan, Theresa LePore, Robert Wexler, George W. Bush
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections
An editorial in the Los Angeles Times reassures the American populace that the Florida recounts (see November 10, 2000) are being handled according to law and custom, and do not constitute a “crisis” as other news outlets and pundits have claimed (see Evening, November 8, 2000 and 11:35 p.m. November 9, 2000). “If there are legal challenges, the suspense could stretch for weeks,” the editorial warns. “But in the end, Americans can be assured that this election will be settled in due time, fairly and legally—a democratic confidence still sadly too rare in the world.” Calls to abandon the Electoral College in favor of raw popular vote talles are wrong, the editorial says: “On its face it makes sense, but the electoral college is a foundation of our federal system, in which much power rests with the states. Yes, by basing the number of electors on Senate as well as House representation, smaller states have proportionately more power. But if the popular vote were all that mattered, what candidate would ever waste time on small or thinly populated states like Wyoming or Maine?” The Times agrees with many Democrats that third-party candidate Ralph Nader cost Democrat Al Gore a clear victory in Florida (see November 8-9, 2000) and other states as well. “If [Republican George W.] Bush wins, he will bear the stigma of a minority-vote president, putting his promise to end the bitter infighting in Washington to the severest possible test,” the Times writes, and warns that if Bush does take the presidency, he and his fellow Republicans must work with Democrats to avoid “four years of deadlock.” It concludes: “Through all the turmoil and frustration of Wednesday, two people in particular handled the situation with public calm and grace—George W. Bush and Al Gore. Both provided a welcome example of leadership in the midst of confusion and turmoil. That in itself bodes well for the nation.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/9/2000]
The headline in today’s Palm Beach Post. [Source: Palm Beach Post / Authentic History]In the aftermath of the Florida election results (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000), television and press news outlets offer a round of explanations, excuses, and apologies for the mistakes and miscues that marked election-night coverage (see 7:50 p.m., November 7, 2000, 9:30 p.m. November 7, 2000, 2:15 a.m. November 8, 2000, and 3:57 a.m. - 4:15 a.m. November 8, 2000). Knight-Ridder newspapers say the election night will “forever… be known” as “The Night That Television Got It Wrong.” The Baltimore Sun observes: “Whipsawed between presidential election returns that turned on a dime, and production schedules that couldn’t, newspaper editors crossed their fingers in the early morning and started their presses. And many got the story wrong.” The New York Times says that network executives are “examining how the errors could have occurred,” and goes on to state that many in academia, politics, and the news media are calling the mistakes “perhaps the most egregious election-night gaffes in the modern television era.” CBS News says: “We all made our own calls. All of us made the wrong call twice. It was different people, different eyes looking at it. Each of us thought when we looked at the data that it was a good call. It did not appear to be as risky as it turned out to be.” California pollster Mark DiCamillo says: “Everybody is dying to know who won when the polls close. There’s tremendous pressure that builds. You’ve been looking at exit poll data. It’s very hard to say it’s too close to call. It’s the pressure cooker on election night television coverage.” [National Journal, 11/9/2000]
In an attempt to appear nonchalant for the press, Al Gore goes jogging with his daughter Karenna and with members of the press filming the proceedings. [Source: Authentic History]The presidential campaigns of Vice President Al Gore (D-TN) and George W. Bush (R-TX) make very different decisions as to how to handle affairs as the Florida recount continues to delay the naming of a victor in the 2000 presidential race (see Mid-Morning, November 8, 2000 and November 9, 2000). Gore returns to Washington, where he will remain for most of November, in an attempt to be seen as “remaining above the fray.” Bush, on the other hand, meets with advisors and begins alerting the media as to the members of his prospective presidential administration; aides tell reporters that the Bush team will begin announcing Cabinet appointments within a week. Bush himself will soon return to his ranch in Crawford, Texas. The Bush strategy is simple: to insist that Bush has already won the election and to act as if he is president-elect (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000). [Vanity Fair, 10/2004; Leip, 2008] Bush’s running mate Dick Cheney says, “We look forward to getting this matter resolved as quickly as possible so that we can get on with the important business of transition.” ABC reports that the Bush campaign wants “to create a sense of unstoppable momentum. They believe that the voters have spoken and that they have to get about the business of creating a new government.” The Washington Post reports that Bush starts the day by “feeding his dog and two cats and making coffee for his wife, displaying a nonchalance amid crisis that could portend an amiable style if he were to wind up as president.” The Post reports that Bush “acted” the part of president when meeting with reporters in the courtyard of the governor’s mansion in Texas. [National Journal, 11/9/2000] The Gore campaign has said it would not engage in transition actitivies until the election dispute is resolved; of Bush’s transition activities, Gore aide Roy Neel, the campaign’s transition director, says, “It is mind-boggling to me that they would be so presumptuous.” [New York Times, 11/9/2000]
ABC News’s Nightline broadcasts an hour-long analysis of the Florida election recount situation (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000 and November 9, 2000). However, host Ted Koppel interviews three representatives from the Bush presidential campaign (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000) and none from the Gore campaign, leading to what the progressive media watchdog Web site Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) will later call a slanted report. All three Bush aides call the recount situation a “crisis” that must be resolved immediately (see Evening, November 8, 2000), deride reports of voter manipulation and minority voters denied their right to vote (see November 7, 2000), and accuse the Gore campaign of attempting to steal the election through legal maneuvering. “Koppel did not subject his guests to tough questioning,” FAIR will note. [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 11/16/2000]
In an editorial, the Washington Post castigates the Gore campaign for continuing to press for recounts in Florida. After acknowledging that George W. Bush’s lead in that state “appear[s] to have melted to fewer than 300 votes” as the recounts continue (see 5:00 p.m. November 9, 2000), and noting that for Gore to “call for as careful a count as possible in an election as close as this, with so much a stake, seems unobjectionable to us; it can only help to ensure legitimacy,” it then slams Gore campaign manager William Daley for his suggestion that Gore may file lawsuits to ask for manual recounts. Daley said, referring to the widely held belief in the Gore camp that if the votes are tallied completely, Gore would have significantly more votes than Bush, “If the will of the people is to prevail, Al Gore should be awarded a victory in Florida and be our next president.” The Post calls Daley’s remark “poisonous,” saying that Daley is attempting to imply that the Bush camp is trying to steal the election, and demands that Gore “disown” it immediately. The Post also chides Gore officials for implying, somehow, that “Gore’s narrow lead in the popular vote somehow gives him superior status—if not quite a partial claim to the office, then a greater right to contest the electoral outcome in Florida. But that’s false, and they know it. The electoral vote is what matters.” The editorial chides the Bush campaign for leaking its “transition plans” and trying to give “the impression of measuring for new curtains in the Oval Office,” as Bush has not been certified the winner of the race. “Florida hasn’t certified its results, and Mr. Bush has no more claim to the title of president-elect than the vice president. Both sides need to back off at this stage. They are risking a political war that could spread far beyond Florida, one that would be far harder to stop than to begin.” The Post concludes by advising the Gore campaign that calling for recounts is far different from filing lawsuits to force recounts; the first is acceptable, but the second “should be approached with enormous caution and restraint.” [Washington Post, 11/10/2000] In 2010, the Center for American Progress will note that Daley’s claim that Gore “should be awarded a victory in Florida and be our next president” was a claim Bush campaign lawyer James Baker “was saying pretty much every day on Bush’s behalf.” The Post does not have a similar reaction to Baker’s claims. [Center for American Progress, 12/9/2010] The same day the Post editorial is published, the New York Times publishes a piece by historian Richard Reeves that flatly falsifies presidential history in its call for Gore to abandon his post-election challenge (see November 10, 2000). The Post also publishes an editorial by former Republican Senator Bob Dole asking Gore to concede for the good of the nation (see November 11, 2000).
Entity Tags: New York Times, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Al Gore presidential campaign 2000, Center for American Progress, James A. Baker, Robert J. (“Bob”) Dole, Washington Post, George W. Bush, William Michael (“Bill”) Daley, Richard Reeves
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Domestic Propaganda
In an editorial, the New York Times sounds a cautionary note about the Florida presidential election, warning both sides to avoid what it calls “scorched earth” solutions. It begins by accusing the Democratic presidential nominee, Vice President Al Gore, of “escalat[ing] the atmosphere of combat surrounding the presidential election results with his decision to go to court in Florida” (see November 10, 2000). The Times acknowledges that “Gore has a right as a private citizen to take his grievances to court. But he and Governor George W. Bush [the Republican candidate and apparent frontrunner] are also political figures seeking the world’s most important leadership position. Part of the test of presidential leadership, it seems to us, is finding a way to resolve electoral matters in the political arena.” The Times calls the Gore campaign’s discussion of potential lawsuits “worrying,” accuses it of a “rush to litigation,” and says the Gore campaign should not be using phrases like “constitutional crisis.” Nor should it talk about “efforts to block or cloud the vote of the Electoral College on December 18” (though Bush campaign advisors have threatened just such efforts—see November 1, 2000 and After). The Times says it agrees with CNN’s Bill Schneider that to challenge the machine tallies in Florida would be to choose a “treacherous path.” The Times acknowledges that reports of voting irregularities (see November 7, 2000, Mid-Morning, November 8, 2000, and November 9, 2000) “need to be taken seriously,” but not so much so as to question the results as already reported. To call for manual recounts or file legal challenges, the Times writes, would “paralyze… the succession process, undermine… the finality of presidential elections, and make… nervous a world that looks to the United States as a model of political stability. Neither the prospect of legal warfare nor Mr. Bush’s rush to put together a transition team is helpful at this point.” [New York Times, 11/10/2000]
Historian and presidential biographer Richard Reeves fundamentally misrepresents history in a New York Times editorial asking Vice President Al Gore (D-TN) to end the Florida election standoff by conceding to George W. Bush (R-TX). Reeves notes correctly that the 1960 presidential election between Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat John F. Kennedy was extraordinarily close. Reeves asserts that Nixon and Kennedy discussed the situation after the votes were initially tallied and Nixon decided not to challenge the results. “If Nixon had decided to pursue a challenge, he might have had a good case,” Reeves writes. “Republicans were producing claims of fraud, waving sworn depositions from election officials in Illinois and Texas. It was great stuff: there were 6,138 votes cast by the 4,895 voters registered in Fannin County, Texas; in the 38th precinct of Chicago’s sixth ward, 43 voters seemed to have cast 121 votes in the hour after the polls opened. But whatever else he was, Nixon was a patriot. He understood what recounts and lawsuits and depositions carried out over months—even years—would do to the nation. He was also a realist, and he knew that investigations might well turn up examples of his own party’s tradition of recording votes for folks dead or alive in southern Illinois and a few other venues.” Reeves goes on to note that Kennedy’s slight popular vote lead translated into a strong Electoral College lead, and that Nixon’s patron, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, “was angry about the alleged fraud but finally told Nixon that he could not back him in a challenge to the results.” As Nixon reportedly explained to a reporter afterwards, “The country can’t afford the agony of a constitutional crisis, and I damn well will not be a party to creating one just to become president or anything else.” Reeves uses the example of Nixon’s patriotism and restraint in arguing that Gore should emulate Nixon and gracefully concede the election. [New York Times, 11/10/2000] However, Reeves fundamentally misrepresents Nixon’s actions and historical events. Nixon was, as Reeves writes, convinced that Kennedy fraudulently won the election. And rumors of election fraud had circulated even before Election Day, such as in Chicago, where Democratic majorities were considered suspect. When the votes were tallied and Kennedy declared the winner, angry Republicans demanded an investigation. Nixon later said in both interviews and his own memoirs that he refused to dispute the election. Publicly, Nixon conceded the election to Kennedy, but privately, he encouraged his aides and fellow Republicans to overturn the results. In the weeks after the election, many newspapers pursued the story, fueled by Republicans who made a bevy of allegations and charges of election fraud and rampant cheating. Slate’s David Greenberg later writes: “[T]he Republican Party made a veritable crusade of undoing the results. Even if they ultimately failed, party leaders figured, they could taint Kennedy’s victory, claim he had no mandate for his agenda, galvanize the rank and file, and have a winning issue for upcoming elections.” Three days after the election, Senator Thruston Morton (R-KY), the chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), launched bids for recounts and investigations in 11 states, including Texas, Illinois, and New Jersey. Days later, close Nixon aides sent agents to conduct what they called “field checks” in eight of those states. Another aide tried to create a “Nixon Recount Committee” in Chicago. Recounts were indeed obtained. Grand juries were empaneled and a special prosecutor was appointed. The FBI launched investigations into voter fraud and election theft. The recounts and investigations proved nothing of significance, and one by one, they lapsed. The last recount, in Illinois, lasted for over a month after the election; on December 9, 1960, when recount tallies gave Nixon a mere 943 extra votes, Republicans filed a lawsuit in federal court to summarily grant Illinois’s 27 electoral votes to Nixon, which was dismissed. Republicans then took their case to the Illinois Board of Elections, which, even though it had a majority of Republicans comprising it, rejected the petition. Even after December 19, when the Electoral College formally certified Kennedy as the winner, recounts and legal challenges were still in the works. [Slate, 10/16/2000; Salon, 11/10/2000] Boston Globe columnist David Nyhan, considered a liberal like Reeves, echoes Reeves’s portrayal of Nixon in a column that is published the same day as Reeves’s. Nyhan calls Nixon’s supposed concession that president’s “most magnaminous act” and recommends that Gore step aside. [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 11/16/2000]
Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Federal Bureau of Investigation, David Nyhan, David Greenberg, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., US Electoral College, Thruston Morton, Richard M. Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, New York Times, Republican National Committee, John F. Kennedy, Illinois Board of Elections, Republican Party, Richard Reeves
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Domestic Propaganda
Former US Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) writes an op-ed for the Washington Post urging Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore to abandon his attempts to win the presidential election and concede the election to Republican George W. Bush. “It was a close election, but it’s over,” Dole writes. Dole begins by recalling his own experience from 1976, where Republican President Gerald Ford, with Dole as his running mate, chose not to challenge a narrow election loss to Democrat Jimmy Carter. “It took a while, but I was proud of Gerald Ford when he did the right thing by not contesting the election,” Dole writes. Dole asserts that two separate recounts have taken place [in reality, only one, a machine recount, has occurred—see November 10, 2000] and both verify Bush as the winner of the Florida vote. Instead of gracefully conceding, Dole writes, the Gore campaign is “making every effort to keep the nation divided for weeks with recounts, lawsuits, and endless politicization of the election.” Dole urges Gore “to put his country’s agenda ahead of his agenda; to put the people’s interests before his personal interests.” The American people need closure after a long presidential campaign, Dole argues, and to drag out the process “is bad for the people.” Gore “risks alienating even more Americans” by continuing to press for manual recounts. “Participation in our democracy continues to decline. More and more people are turned off by politics and are tuning out of elections. It is precisely this type of politicization that continues to disenchant people. They want leadership, not lawsuits. They need someone committed to what is good for the country, not what is good for a post election campaign.” Asking for recounts “is bad for the country.” Bush needs time to plan and execute a smooth transition into the presidency, Dole writes, time that Gore is not giving him. Bush “must begin planning his administration. He must prepare a budget and begin selecting a cabinet. He must begin meeting with world leaders and a Congress already bitterly divided. A smooth transition will help to ensure a successful presidency and a more secure and prosperous nation for the next four years.” And finally, history will look askance at Gore for being “the first presidential candidate to challenge his election defeat in the courts. The presidency should be won through inspiration, not litigation.” [Washington Post, 11/11/2000]
Entity Tags: George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, Robert J. (“Bob”) Dole, Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr, James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr., Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Washington Post, George W. Bush
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Domestic Propaganda
Conservative columnist George Will lambasts the Gore presidential campaign for trying to “steal” the presidential election through unwarranted legal manipulation (see Early Morning, November 8, 2000 and November 9, 2000). Will begins his Washington Post column by comparing the Gore request for recounts to “the blue dress,” a reference to President Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and accuses Democrats of “complaining that the Constitution should not be the controlling legal authority” over elections. Will continues: “The mendacity of Al Gore’s pre-election campaign is pertinent to the post-election chaos. He ran with gale-force economic winds at his back, and with a powerful media bias pulling him along.… Even on election night: by calling Florida for Gore before all Floridians had voted, the networks almost certainly hurt Republican turnout in Florida, and out West” (see 7:50 p.m., November 7, 2000). Will does not mention Fox News’s inaccurate call of Florida for Bush (see 2:15 a.m. November 8, 2000 and November 7-8, 2000). Gore is attempting to steal the election because of his “corrupt… hunger for power” and his “serial mendacity,” Will states, accusing Gore of “desperately seeking lawyering strategies and a friendly court to hand him the presidential election.” He is, Will states, the quintessential liberal, attempting to impose his will “through litigation rather than legislation. Liberalism’s fondness for judicial fiat rather than democratic decision-making explains the entwinement of the Democratic Party and trial lawyers.” Will ridicules reports that the Palm Beach County “butterfly ballot” may have denied Gore votes (see November 9, 2000), and calls Democrats’ questioning of that ballot “sinister.” The claims that Palm Beach voters were confused by the ballot are, Will writes, “baseless.” Will says that the November 17 addition of absentee ballots (see November 18, 2000), with their “large military, hence Republican, component,” will almost certainly lock down the Florida vote for Bush. However, Will writes, “Gore operatives probably will still toil to delegitimize the election. Their actions demolish the presidential pretensions of the dangerous man for whom they do their reckless work.” Will concludes: “All that remains to complete the squalor of Gore’s attempted coup d’etat is some improvisation by Janet Reno, whose last Florida intervention involved a lawless SWAT team seizing a 6-year-old [referring to Cuban-American youngster Elian Gonzales, whom Reno ordered to be sent back to Cuba with his father instead of being allowed to remain in the US with a group of more distant relatives]. She says there is no federal role, but watch for a ‘civil rights’ claim on behalf of some protected minority, or some other conjured pretext. Remember, Reno is, strictly speaking, unbelievable, and these things will continue until these people are gone.” [Washington Post, 11/12/2000] The progressive media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) will note, “The comment about a ‘protected minority’ seems to be a reference to the complaints of voter fraud and intimidation coming from African-American communities in Florida” (see November 7, 2000). [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 11/16/2000]
According to media analyses performed by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and by the team of Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Paul Waldman, the Sunday talk show coverage of the Bush-Gore conflict in Florida between November 12 and December 10 is heavily skewed towards painting George W. Bush as the legitimate president (see After 3:30 a.m. November 8, 2000) and Al Gore the losing contender who continues to carry on after having legitimately lost the election. On December 3 and December 10, panelists on ABC’s This Week refer to Bush’s future presidency 27 times. Tim Russert, the host of NBC’s Meet the Press, does so 19 times and calls Bush’s running mate Dick Cheney the “vice president.” In a December 3 interview, Russert asks Cheney if he feels Gore is being a “sore loser” (see November 24, 2000 and After). On December 3, ABC’s Sam Donaldson attempts to get Gore’s running mate, Joseph Lieberman, to concede the election on-air. ABC’s Cokie Roberts attempts to get a concession from Gore campaign representative George Mitchell. Jamieson and Waldman later determine that in the five Sunday shows aired by the three networks during this time period, the word “concede” appears in 23 questions. In 20 of these questions, the hypothetical conceder is Gore. In the other three questions, the hypothetical conceder is no one. Similarly, the hosts and guests on these talk shows, and on other network news broadcasts, frequently warn of “dire consequences” to America’s constitutional democracy if the Florida question is not settled immediately. The hosts also issue frequent warnings that the citizenry’s patience is at “the breaking point,” though polls consistently show that most Americans are content to let the recall process work itself out. CAP later notes, “The Baker-Bush team [referring to James Baker, the head of the Bush campaign’s ‘quick response’ recount team—see Mid-Morning, November 8, 2000] worked hard to create this crisis atmosphere in the hopes of increasing the pressure on Gore to relent for the good of the country, the markets, and the maintenance of world peace.” During this time period, Russert tells viewers, “We could have chaos and a constitutional crisis.” NBC’s Tom Brokaw tells viewers: “If the Florida recount drags on, the national markets are at risk here. National security is involved.” Pundits on ABC’s This Week warn of “turmoil” if Gore does not concede; pundits on CBS’s Face the Nation remark on “spinning out of control.” Columnist David Broder says this period of US history is worse than the turmoil the country weathered after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. [Center for American Progress, 12/9/2010]
Entity Tags: George Mitchell, Tom Brokaw, Center for American Progress, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., ABC News, Tim Russert, David Broder, Sam Donaldson, Paul Waldman, James A. Baker, George W. Bush presidential campaign 2000, George W. Bush, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Joseph Lieberman, NBC News, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Cokie Roberts
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections
The US House Committee on Energy and Commerce holds a hearing on the news networks’ election night decision to project George W. Bush the winner of the Florida election, and thereby the winner of the US presidential election (see November 7-8, 2000). One of the matters at hand is Fox News’s choice to have its election night coverage anchored by John Prescott Ellis, President Bush’s cousin and an intensely partisan Bush supporter (see October-November 2000). The chairman of the committee is W.J. “Billy” Tauzin (R-LA).
Opening Statements - In his opening statement, Tauzin tells the assemblage that the hearing is to “give us a real sense of what went wrong in terms of the election night coverage of the presidential election of November 2000.” He notes that news coverage issues have been raised in every election since the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon election. Early calls—the practice of news outlets to “call,” or project, winners in states before elections in other states have closed—have long been acknowledged as having a “deletorious” effect on voting, and the use of “exit polling”—polls of voters taken outside polling booths—have proven both “valuable” and “dangerous.” Voter News Service (VNS), the independent consortium that provided polling and other data to the networks and press agencies for their use during their election coverage, uses exit polling to help those news outlets “project” winners in races. Tauzin spends much of his opening statement attacking VNS and the use of exit polling as the “source” of the election night dissension, and says that on the whole, VNS data “produces statistical biases in favor of Democrats in this case today and against Republicans, that the statistical flaws tend to overstate the Democratic vote in the exit poll and understate the Republican vote.” Tauzin says that investigations have “discovered no evidence of intentional bias, no evidence of intentional slanting of this information,” and instead says the entire problem rests with VNS and its use of exit polling data. In their opening statements, many Republicans echo Tauzin’s remarks. Ranking minority member John Dingell (D-MI) calls the election night coverage “a monumental screw-up which I think has embarrassed an awful lot of people.” Dingell repeats Tauzin’s claim that no evidence of intentional bias has been found—calling such allegations “inflammatory”—and says that the focus of future hearings should be on the issue of voter disenfranchisement. Having said all that, he goes on to say that the networks’ decision to call Florida for Bush in the early hours of November 8, 2000 was premature, and lent itself to later allegations that attempts by Democratic challenger Al Gore were baseless and troublesome. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) accuses the networks of trying to influence Florida voters in the Panhandle, a traditionally Republican stronghold, by prematurely calling the state for Gore eight minutes before polls closed in that region. In questioning, Sherrod Brown (D-OH) notes the almost-immediate appearance of the “Sore Loserman” campaign (derived from the names of the Democratic candidates, Gore and Joe Lieberman), which attempted, successfully, to paint attempts by the Gore campaign to force vote recounts as attempts to “steal” the election.
Focus on Fox - Henry Waxman (D-CA) is the first to mention Fox News. He reads from a Los Angeles Times editorial, quoting: “Suppose that a first cousin of Al Gore had been running one of the network news teams issuing election night projections. Suppose that having previously recused himself from a columnist job saying his objectivity would suffer from family loyalty, this cousin had chatted with Gore six times on Election Day. Suppose the same cousin had been the first to declare Gore as the winner in Florida on election night, helping coax the rival networks to follow suit, leading George W. Bush to call up Gore in order to concede, thereby helping to create that Gore was the duly elected president of the United States long before all the votes had been counted. Can anybody reasonably doubt that the pundits would be working themselves into a nonstop lather charging the liberal media as accessories to grand larceny? Can we imagine, say, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox news channel right-leaning heads dropping the subject?” Waxman says this was absolutely the case, but with Fox News and John Ellis, not Gore and an imaginary Gore cousin at another network. “[O]f everything that happened on election night this was the most important in impact. It created a presumption that George Bush won the election. It set in motion a chain of events that were devastating to Al Gore’s chances and it immeasurably helped George Bush maintain the idea in people’s minds than he was the man who won the election.” Several other Democrats echo Waxman’s statements.
Issues with Florida Election Practices - Peter Deutsch (D-FL) cites issues of rampant voter disenfranchisement of African-Americans, a traditionally Democratic voting bloc, with over 100,000 ballots, mostly from African-American voters, apparently not counted. Deutsch says flatly that “there is no question, it is no longer debatable that if the vote in Florida were counted, Al Gore would be president of the United States.” Bobby Rush (D-IL) cites a large number of incidents where minority group voters were “harassed by police departments” in Florida and in other states besides. In many instances these voters were stopped from voting entirely; in others, their votes were not counted. Other Democrats, such as Eliot Engel (D-NY), echo Deutsch’s and Rush’s concerns; Engel says: “Al Gore was not the only one who lost that night. The American people lost that night, and the news media also lost that night.”
Testimony regarding Independent Review of Election Night Coverage - The first witness is Joan Konner, a professor of journalism at Columbia. Konner led a panel commissioned by CNN “to look at what went wrong in [CNN’s] television coverage of the presidential election 2000.” Her panel submitted a report on the election night coverage to CNN, and CNN provided that report to the committee. “[S]omething went terribly wrong,” she says. “CNN executives, correspondents, and producers themselves describe election night coverage as a debacle, a disaster, and a fiasco; and in our report we agree.” She blames the problems with CNN’s coverage on “excessive speed and hypercompetition, combined with overconfidence in experts and a reliance on increasingly dubious polls. We have stated that the desire to be first or at least not to be consistently behind the others led the networks to make calls unwisely based on sketchy and sometimes mistaken information.” The choice to create, fund, and use VNS by all the networks was primarily a cost-cutting decision, she says, but that choice was a mistake: “Relying on a single source eliminates the checks and balances built into a competitive vote-gathering and vote system. It eliminates the possibility of a second source for validating key and possible conflicting information.” Another member of the panel, James Risser of Stanford University, notes that the report’s findings apply equally to other networks along with CNN.
Media Panel - After much questioning of the CNN panel, a second panel is sworn in. This panel includes: Fox News chairman Roger Ailes; CBS president Andrew Heyward; CNN chairman Tom Johnson; NBC president Andrew Lack; ABC president David Westin; VNS director Ted Savaglio; VNS editorial director Murray Edelman; and the Associated Press’s president, Louis Boccardi. In an opening statement, Savaglio admits that VNS made “errors” in vote tabulation and predictives based on “flaws” in the statistical analyses. Two major errors were made on election night, Savaglio says, the first leading to the incorrect awarding of Florida to Gore early in the evening, and the second provision of data that indicated Bush had a statistically insurmountable lead in Florida that did not include an accurate tabulation of votes cast in Volusia County as well as errors in other county tabulations and estimates. Boccardi says that the Associated Press used VNS-provided data in the erroneous Gore projection, but “takes full responsibility” for the error. The Associated Press did not join in with the second, Fox News-led projection of Bush’s victory. “[T]he race was too close to call” at that point, he says. “It would be right to surmise that the pressure on AP at that moment [to join the networks in calling the election for Bush] was enormous.” Heyward testifies that CBS, like CNN, hired an independent panel to assess its election coverage, and has a number of improvements to be made for future coverage. “Our method of projecting winners, one that, as you have heard, has produced only six bad calls in over 2,000 races since the 1960s, failed us this time; and as a well-known candidate would say, failed us big time in the very state that held the key to this election,” he says. He also notes that charges by Republican committee members that there is an inherent bias in the statistical models against Republicans “has been rejected by every single outside expert who examined each of the networks, even those experts, and you heard from them today, who are the most highly critical of us.” Lack asks why there was not more media coverage and examination of other voting-related problems, from “ineffective voting machines” and “confusing ballots” to allowing felons to vote.
Ailes's Statement - Ailes blames VNS for Fox’s “mistakes” in its reporting, saying: “As everyone knows, Voter News Service, a consortium with a good track record, gave out bad numbers that night. In the closest race in history the wheels apparently came off a rattle trap computer system which we relied on and paid millions for.” He claims, “Through our self-examination and investigation we have determined that there was no intentional political favoritism in play on election night on the part of Fox News.” Ailes does not mention his choice to use Ellis as Fox’s election night anchor in his verbal statement, but in a written statement he submits to the committee, he says that Ellis was not the person who made the final decision to declare Florida for Bush. The news division’s vice president, John Moody, made the final call. As for hiring Ellis, he praises Ellis’s professionalism and experience, and writes: “We at Fox News do not discriminate against people because of their family connections. I am more than happy to give you examples of offspring of famous politicians who are employed at Fox News.” He also says that he was aware that Ellis was speaking to both George W. and Jeb Bush throughout the night, and writes: “Obviously, through his family connections, Mr. Ellis has very good sources. I do not see this as a fault or shortcoming of Mr. Ellis. Quite the contrary, I see this as a good journalist talking to his very high level sources on election night.” Though Ellis has freely admitted to sharing VNS data with both Bushes, Ailes writes, “Our investigation of election night 2000 found not one shred of evidence that Mr. Ellis revealed information to either or both of the Bush brothers which he should not have, or that he acted improperly or broke any rules or policies of either Fox News or VNS.” He concludes: “[I]n my heart I do believe that democracy was harmed by my network and others on November 7, 2000. I do believe that the great profession of journalism took many steps backward.”
Questioning the Media Representatives - Almost immediately, Ailes raises the question of skewed exit polling that appears to favor Democrats, though experts have refuted these claims in just-given testimony, and Savaglio has just said that exit polls exhibit no such bias. Ailes tells the panel: “I do know that when Republicans come out of polls and you ask them a question they tend to think it’s none of your business and Democrats want to share their feelings. So you may get some bias there that is inadvertent, just because it’s a cultural thing and unless you send the Republicans to sensitivity training you’re not going to get them to do that.” Tauzin says that a study of VNS results tends to bear out Ailes’s claim. Westin says if there is bias in exit polling, it cuts both ways, an observation with which Tauzin also agrees. Savaglio admits that after midnight, VNS provided substantially inaccurate information to the networks that led them to conclude Bush had a slight but insurmountable lead in Florida. Lack denies the rumor that Jack Welch, the CEO of NBC’s parent company General Electric, made the decision for NBC News to follow Fox’s lead in declaring Bush the presumptive winner in Florida. Waxman accepts Lack’s denial, but notes that he has been told Welch’s command to declare Bush the winner is preserved on videotape, “filmed by NBC’s advertising and promotions department.” Lack says if the tape exists, he will provide it to the committee. Bart Stupak (D-MI) asks the representatives directly if they believe any bias towards one party or another exists in their networks’ coverage, and all answer strongly in the negative. Heyward says that rumors of networks such as his trying to “slant” their coverage to give the idea of an “inevitable” Gore victory are entirely negative, and says: “[C]ertainly we displayed the popular vote graphic 15 times between 7 and 11. President Bush was ahead every single time; on the electoral count, 75 out of
100 times.… The video [shown by the commission at the beginning of the hearing] that gave the impression that the networks were saying Gore’s got it in the bag I believe was misleading, yes.” Westin agrees with Heyward, and says the networks generally gave the impression of “a much more balanced, much closer race throughout the night.” Under questioning by Gene Green (D-TX), Ailes contradicts previously presented evidence and says no one at the election desk, Ellis or anyone else, was in contact with “Austin” (meaning the Bush campaign and George W. Bush personally) at all that night. [House of Representatives, Committee on Energy and Commerce, 2/14/2001]
Entity Tags: CBS News, Sherrod Brown, Bobby Lee Rush, Roger Ailes, Raymond Eugene (“Gene”) Green, Ted Savaglio, Tom Johnson, US House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Voter News Service, ABC News, Andrew Heyward, Andrew Lack, Associated Press, W.J. (“Billy”) Tauzin, Peter R. Deutsch, NBC News, Rupert Murdoch, Louis Boccardi, Fox News, Eliot L. Engel, David Westin, Clifford Bundy (“Cliff”) Stearns, CNN, Murray Edelman, George W. Bush, John Prescott Ellis, Jack Welch, Joan Konner, John Dingell, John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, Joseph Lieberman, James Risser, Henry A. Waxman, Bart Stupak
Timeline Tags: 2000 Elections, Domestic Propaganda
Conservative media pundit Bill O’Reilly tells his listeners, “You know, I don’t take Saddam Hussein all that seriously anymore as far as a world threat. Maybe I’m wrong and naive here. Should we be very frightened of this guy?” [Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), 5/2003]
Jayna Davis, appearing on a Fox News broadcast. [Source: Libertarian Republican (.com)]Former investigative reporter Jayna Davis, who once worked for KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, tells Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly she has amassed evidence that she says proves Osama bin Laden was behind the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Former Army soldier Timothy McVeigh is awaiting execution for carrying out the bombing (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Davis says that she attempted to give her evidence, comprised of court records, 24 witness statements, and reports from law enforcement, intelligence, and terror experts, to the FBI, which she says refused to accept the material. Davis says the FBI is involved in an elaborate conspiracy to conceal the existence of a Middle Eastern terror cell that carried out the bombing; law enforcement authorities have long dismissed the idea (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After) that the bombing was carried out by anyone other than McVeigh and his accomplice Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998). According to Davis’s version of events, a Middle Eastern terror cell was operating only blocks away from the Murrah Federal Building, the site of the bombing, and an Iraqi national who formerly served in Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard was in contact with McVeigh on the day of the bombing. It was the Iraqi, not McVeigh, she says, who drove the Ryder truck containing the bomb to the federal building; he fled in a brown Chevrolet pickup truck. Davis says in the minutes after the bombing, an all-points bulletin was issued for the Iraqi, but it was inexplicably withdrawn shortly thereafter. Davis says the conspiracy consists of McVeigh, Nichols, and at least seven Middle Eastern men, with bin Laden masterminding the operation. “The evidence we have gathered definitely implicates McVeigh and Nichols,” she says. “I want to make that very clear. They were in it up to their eyeballs.” Of the FBI’s refusal to consider her evidence, she tells O’Reilly: “I was flabbergasted. I am unable to imagine any reason they would not accept it.” [WorldNetDaily, 3/21/2001]
Esquire Magazine publishes a number of letters written by convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) to Phil Bacharach, a former reporter for the Oklahoma Gazette. Most of the material in the letters is trivial, with McVeigh joking about his favorite television shows and complaining about conditions in his cell, but at least one letter touches on his anger about the children who died in the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Nowhere in the letters does he discuss the bombing that killed 168 people, including 19 children. Bacharach, who now works as press secretary for Governor Frank Keating (R-OK), corresponded with McVeigh for two years before joining Keating’s staff, when the letter exchanges were terminated. Bacharach says that anyone looking for answers regarding the bombing will not find them in the letters. “It is beyond me to reconcile the Timothy McVeigh who murdered 168 people with the writer of these letters,” he writes. “True, this correspondence offers only a small window through which to look. I do know one thing: In the written word, at least, he has not a whisper of conscience.” The letters were written while McVeigh was incarcerated at a “supermax” penitentiary in Florence, Colorado; he now awaits execution in a federal prison in Indiana. According to the letters, McVeigh is fond of The Simpsons, King of the Hill, and Star Trek, and was not happy when he was moved from the cell he kept spotlessly clean to a cell “brutally thrashed by a pig inmate,” a leader of the Latin Kings street gang. He mocks Oklahoma County District Attorney Bob Macy, who had promised to try McVeigh on 160 state counts of murder, calling him “Bozo” and “a punk.” He calls the FBI “wizards at propaganda” who manipulated the facts of the Branch Davidian tragedy. A letter from November 26, 1996 sheds some light on McVeigh’s feelings about the Davidian tragedy, and may help explain his rationale for the bombing. In that letter, he wrote: “The public never saw the Davidians’ home video of their cute babies, adorable children, loving mothers, or protective fathers. Nor did they see pictures of the charred remains of children’s bodies. Therefore, they didn’t care when these families died a slow, tortuous death at the hands of the FBI.” Bacharach says it was an unwritten rule between them that they not discuss the bombing. Bacharach says in the letter exchange, he hoped to understand “what made a person who didn’t seem like evil-incarnate commit that evil act.” That never happened, he writes. “It is this fact—that he was not dead behind the eyes, a sheer lunatic—that troubles me the most. He didn’t have the right to be normal, glib, and pleasant, I thought. He owed the dead of Oklahoma City the decency of at least showing his evil.” [Associated Press, 3/27/2001]
The people who died in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), even the children and babies, were merely “collateral damage,” according to Timothy McVeigh, who is awaiting execution for his role in the bombing (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). McVeigh admitted to his participation in the bombing to two Buffalo News reporters, Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, who wrote the book American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing. The book is due to be published within days. “I understand what they felt in Oklahoma City,” McVeigh told the authors. “I have no sympathy for them.” The authors quote McVeigh as saying: “I recognized beforehand that someone might be bringing their kid to work. However, if I had known there was an entire day care center, it might have given me pause to switch targets. That’s a large amount of collateral damage.” CNN reported that according to Danny Defenbaugh, the FBI’s lead investigator in the case, there was no doubt that McVeigh knew there would be children among his victims (see March 28, 2001). In an ABC News interview, the authors say that McVeigh “never expressed one ounce of remorse” for his victims in their interviews with him, though they witnessed him become emotional over his remembrance of killing a gopher. According to the authors, McVeigh regrets only that the deaths of the children detracted from his message about the Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992) and Waco (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992) debacles. McVeigh told the authors, using a reference to the song “Dirty for Dirty” by Bad Company: “What the US government did at Waco and Ruby Ridge was dirty. I gave dirty back to them at Oklahoma City.” The authors note that McVeigh said the triggering event for him was the government’s ban on some types of assault weapons (see September 13, 1994): when that happened, McVeigh told them, “I snapped.” Dr. John Smith, a psychiatrist who evaluated McVeigh, asked McVeigh why he continued with the bombing even though he knew children were in the building. “[H]e said, ‘One, the date was too important to put off,’” Smith says, noting that the date of the bombing, April 19, was the two-year anniversary of the Branch Davidian debacle, “and he went into a tirade about all the children killed at Waco.” According to Michel and Herbeck, McVeigh told them he alone planned the bombing, and when his accomplice Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) began to show reluctance in continuing (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995), he forced him to keep working with him by threatening his family (legal sources dispute that claim, noting that Nichols never raised the idea of coercion in his defense). McVeigh denied that anyone else took part in the bombing, quoting a line from the movie A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth.” McVeigh continued, “Because the truth is, I blew up the Murrah Building, and isn’t it kind of scary that one man could wreak this kind of hell?” He also told the authors that he was disappointed the building did not come down entirely, saying: “Damn, I didn’t knock the building down. I didn’t take it down.” McVeigh told the authors he knew he would get caught and even anticipated execution as a form of “state-assisted suicide.” Yet he worried initially about snipers as he was being charged. “He was ready to die but not at that moment—he wanted to make sure that his full message got out first,” Herbeck says. [New York Times, 3/29/2001; Associated Press, 3/29/2001; Oklahoma City Journal Record, 3/29/2001; Washington Post, 3/30/2001]
Victoria “Torie” Clarke joins the Defense Department. She is a public relations specialist who served as press secretary for President George H. W. Bush’s 1992 re-election campaign, worked closely with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and was an Assistant US Trade Representative during the first Bush’s presidency. In the private sector, she was president of Bozell Eskew Advertising, Vice President of the National Cable Telecommunications Association, and the Washington director for the PR firm of Hill & Knowlton, the firm so heavily involved in promoting and selling the 1991 Gulf War (see January 16, 1991 and After). She brings strong ideas to her new position about achieving what she calls “information dominance” in both the domestic and foreign “markets” (see February 2003). She directs what John Stauber, the executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, calls the “twin towers of propaganda” for the Pentagon: “embedding news media with the troops, and embedding military propagandists into the TV media” (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond). [Stennis Center for Public Service, 8/17/2007; New York Times, 4/20/2008; Bill Berkowitz, 5/10/2008]
Michael Frost Beckner. [Source: Public domain]Michael Frost Beckner, the creator of a forthcoming CBS drama series about the CIA, writes a 9/11-like storyline for an episode of his show in which Osama bin Laden has three American aircraft hijacked. [Variety, 11/20/2001] The series, which is scheduled to begin airing in late September, is called The Agency and will show the CIA tackling problems of national security, taking on villains such as Arab terrorists and Colombian drug dealers. [Guardian, 9/6/2001; Guardian, 10/5/2001; CNN, 10/31/2001] Beckner will later tell Variety magazine that, this month, he writes an episode of The Agency “in which bin Laden had three US planes hijacked.” He will apparently provide no further details of the storyline. Variety will report, “Needless to say, the script was never completed.” [Variety, 11/20/2001] Beckner will also reveal that a number of the storylines for the first series of The Agency were suggested to him by Chase Brandon, the CIA’s entertainment liaison officer. [Jenkins, 2012, pp. 65-66] Whether the storyline about bin Laden organizing plane hijackings was suggested by Brandon is unknown. Furthermore, Beckner will say that he has “done a lot of back and forth with the CIA” in his career as a writer, and explain that the agency “would let in anyone, including a little writer like me, to hear that al-Qaeda and bin Laden are going to attack us.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ] The CIA is in fact cooperating extensively with the producers of The Agency, such as by vetting scripts and allowing filming at CIA headquarters. [New York Times, 8/26/2001] The pilot episode of the show, which Beckner writes, will feature a storyline in which bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist group plots to blow up a department store in London (see September 27, 2001). [New York Times, 9/29/2001; Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ] And another episode, also written by Beckner, will be based around a planned terrorist attack in the US using anthrax (see October 18, 2001). [Variety, 10/16/2001; Jenkins, 2012, pp. 66]
Gore Vidal and friend. [Source: Economist]Author Gore Vidal says he will attend the execution of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Vidal was offered one of three witness slots McVeigh was given for friends or family members. Vidal says he has “exchanged several letters” with McVeigh since McVeigh wrote him in 1998 about an article Vidal wrote on the Bill of Rights. Vidal says that while he does not approve of the bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), he and McVeigh share some views on the federal government. “He’s very intelligent,” Vidal says of McVeigh. “He’s not insane.” Vidal says he and McVeigh agree that the federal government went far beyond its limits in the FBI’s assault on the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas, an assault that resulted in the deaths of 78 people (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “This guy’s got a case—you don’t send the FBI in to kill women and children,” Vidal says. “The boy has a sense of justice.” Vidal says he intends to write an article for Vanity Fair about the execution. [New York Times, 5/7/2001]
The original cover design for The Coup’s album Party Music. [Source: 75 Ark]Cover artwork is designed for a forthcoming CD, which looks eerily like the attack on the World Trade Center that occurs three months later. The CD, “Party Music,” is the fourth album by a little-known hip-hop group called The Coup, which is known for its political activism. [CNN, 9/13/2001; Washington Post, 5/22/2002] The intended cover design shows the two members of the group standing in front of the Twin Towers. One of them is pressing a button on a guitar tuner, as if it was a detonator, and two fireballs are exploding from the top floors of the WTC above them. [Village Voice, 11/2/2001] Days after 9/11, Wired magazine comments, “If it weren’t for the super-imposed images of the Oakland, California, hip-hop duo known as The Coup, the scene could pass for a remarkably precise replica of the horrific tragedy that befell New York City on Tuesday morning.” The CD is in fact initially scheduled for release in early September, but at some point before 9/11, it is pushed back two months for release in November. Furthermore, as Wired describes, “Timing of the original album printing was disturbingly in sync with real-world events. The printers were set to crank out copies of the fiery World Trade Center image on Tuesday [September 11]… when the label put in a last-minute call, urging them to stop the presses.” [Wired News, 9/13/2001] The group’s lead member, Raymond “Boots” Riley, is described by Kansas City newspaper The Pitch as a “confessed communist” who “has built a career out of making bold political statements.” [Pitch, 11/8/2001] Riley later says he’d come up with the idea for the CD cover along with his photographer, and they’d finished work on it by the beginning of June. He says, “Any similarities [with 9/11] are totally coincidental, and it was originally supposed to be more of a metaphor for destroying capitalism—where the music is making capitalist towers blow up.” [Stranger, 9/20/2001] A new cover will be designed and used when the CD is eventually released. [Pitch, 11/8/2001] But copies are sent out prior to 9/11 to members of the press and others, and reviews appear in several publications before September 11 that show the original cover artwork of the exploding WTC. [Wired News, 9/13/2001]
Dick Wolf. [Source: Deadline]Writers at NBC work on a five-hour big-budget drama miniseries called Terror, which will be about Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda group committing a series of terrorist attacks in New York. [Variety, 9/10/2001; Los Angeles, 4/2002; USA Today, 12/5/2002] Terror will combine the casts of all three of NBC’s Law & Order crime drama series: the original show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. [Entertainment Weekly, 9/7/2001; Variety, 9/10/2001]
Story Includes Attack Killing over 1,000 in New York - The storyline the writers come up with begins at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. There, a man who is a devotee of bin Laden tells a group of children that he is going to America on a mission for Allah, which the whole world will know about soon. Using a United Arab Emirates passport, he then enters the US across the Canadian border in a rental car. After arriving in New York, he sets off explosives in the subway under Times Square, killing over 1,000 people. [Los Angeles, 4/2002; USA Today, 12/5/2002] Clues then lead to a bioterrorist release of anthrax being discovered. The story culminates in the threat of a release of smallpox.
Filming to Begin in September - Terror is intended to be broadcast in May 2002 as a two-hour movie on a Sunday followed by one-hour episodes over the next three nights. According to Dick Wolf, the creator of Law & Order, the miniseries will have a large budget. “[T]his is expensive,” he will later say. [Variety, 3/19/2001; Variety, 9/10/2001] NBC is scheduled to begin filming in late September this year, according to some accounts. [Knight Ridder, 9/14/2001; Los Angeles, 4/2002] Wolf will say that filming is set to begin on September 24. [USA Today, 12/5/2002] But according to CNN, it is scheduled to begin the week after 9/11. [CNN, 9/9/2002]
Show's Creator Suggested Terrorism Storyline - The proposed show came about after Wolf was contacted earlier this year by Steve White, NBC’s executive vice president for movies, miniseries, and special projects, and asked if he had any ideas for a five-hour miniseries. Wolf suggested “terrorism in New York City,” which was a story he had “long wanted to do,” according to Los Angeles magazine. “[T]he only story I could think of that justified five hours is terrorism,” Wolf will comment. White agreed to the idea. When Wolf then told Neal Baer, one of Law & Order’s executive producers, that he wanted to do a miniseries about terrorism, Baer said the miniseries “should be [about] bioterrorism.”
Writers Spend Two Days in New York Working on Story - In June 2001, Wolf gets together with a number of his colleagues, including Baer and several writers, in New York, to develop the storyline for Terror. Wolf has already come up with a 40-page outline for the miniseries. Now, the group spends two days working on it. [Variety, 9/10/2001; Los Angeles, 4/2002] By August, according to Baer, “we were really deeply involved in the story.” Baer will recall that those working on the miniseries “would joke that we hoped the real thing didn’t pre-empt our work. Obviously, we had no idea of what was to come.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ]
NBC Does Extensive Research for Show - NBC spends nine months conducting meticulous research for Terror, according to Wolf. [Variety, 9/10/2001] Baer talks to experts at the Rand Corporation think tank, hires a consultant from Stanford University, and reads books on biological warfare. [Los Angeles, 4/2002] Those involved with the miniseries also talk with experts at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia. [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ] And, according to Wolf, they talk to “top law enforcement people on the state, federal, and local levels” about bioterrorism. [Variety, 9/10/2001] Baer will comment that as a result of their extensive research, “We knew a lot of things most people didn’t know, because we spoke with so many experts all over the country.” At one point, the team working on the miniseries is talked to by the FBI, “because our accumulation of so much information raised a red flag.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ]
Miniseries Canceled in Response to 9/11 - Terror will be canceled less than a week after the 9/11 attacks. [Variety, 9/17/2001] It is one of a number of television dramas and movies featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten following 9/11 (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Denver Post, 9/17/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001] Baer and others involved with the show are actually in New York, only a couple of miles away from the World Trade Center, on the morning of September 11, doing planning work for the miniseries (see (8:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/9/2002]
Entity Tags: University of Minnesota, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dick Wolf, University of Michigan, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, RAND Corporation, Johns Hopkins University, NBC, Neal Baer, Stanford University
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
FBI agent Ken Williams. [Source: FBI]Phoenix, Arizona, FBI agent Ken Williams sends a memorandum warning about suspicious activities involving a group of Middle Eastern men taking flight training lessons in Arizona. The memo is titled: “Zakaria Mustapha Soubra; IT-OTHER (Islamic Army of the Caucasus),” because it focuses on Zakaria Soubra, a Lebanese flight student in Prescott, Arizona, and his connection with a terror group in Chechnya that has ties to al-Qaeda. It is subtitled: “Osama bin Laden and Al-Muhjiroun supporters attending civil aviation universities/colleges in Arizona.” [Fortune, 5/22/2002; Arizona Republic, 7/24/2003] Williams’ memo is based on an investigation of Sorba that Williams had begun in 2000 (see April 2000), but he had trouble pursuing because of the low priority the Arizona FBI office gave terror investigations (see April 2000-June 2001). Additionally, Williams had been alerted to suspicions about radical militants and aircraft at least three other times (see October 1996; 1998; November 1999-August 2001). In the memo, Williams does the following:
Names nine other suspect students from Pakistan, India, Kenya, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. [Die Zeit (Hamburg), 10/1/2002] Hijacker Hani Hanjour, attending flight school in Arizona in early 2001 and probably continuing into the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001), is not one of the students, but, as explained below, it seems two of the students know him. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 135 ; Washington Post, 7/25/2003]
Notes that he interviewed some of these students, and heard some of them make hostile comments about the US. Additionally, he noticed that they were suspiciously well informed about security measures at US airports. [Die Zeit (Hamburg), 10/1/2002]
Notes an increasing, “inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest” taking flight lessons in Arizona. [Die Zeit (Hamburg), 10/1/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 135 ]
Suspects that some of the ten people he has investigated are connected to al-Qaeda. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 135 ] One person on the list, Ghassan al Sharbi, will be arrested in Pakistan in March 2002 with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002). Al Sharbi attended a flight school in Prescott, Arizona. He also apparently attended the training camps in Afghanistan and swore loyalty to bin Laden in the summer of 2001. He apparently knows Hani Hanjour in Arizona (see October 1996-Late April 1999). He also is the roommate of Soubra, the main target of the memo. [Los Angeles Times, 1/24/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 521]
Discovers that one of them was communicating through an intermediary with Abu Zubaida. This apparently is a reference to Hamed al Sulami, who had been telephoning a Saudi imam known to be Zubaida’s spiritual advisor. Al Sulami is an acquaintance of Hanjour in Arizona (see October 1996-Late April 1999). [Mercury News (San Jose), 5/23/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 520-521, 529]
Discusses connections between several of the students and a radical group called Al-Muhajiroun. [Mercury News (San Jose), 5/23/2002] This group supported bin Laden, and issued a fatwa, or call to arms, that included airports on a list of acceptable terror targets. [Associated Press, 5/22/2002] Soubra, the main focus of the memo, is a member of Al-Muhajiroun and an outspoken radical. He met with Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, the leader of Al-Muhajiroun in Britain, and started an Arizona chapter of the organization. After 9/11, some US officials will suspect that Soubra has ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. He will be held two years, then deported to Lebanon in 2004. [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/2001; Los Angeles Times, 1/24/2003; Arizona Republic, 5/2/2004; Arizona Monthly, 11/2004] Though Williams doesn’t include it in his memo, in the summer of 1998, Bakri publicized a fax sent by bin Laden to him that listed al-Qaeda’s four objectives in fighting the US. The first objective was “bring down their airliners.”
(see Summer 1998). [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/2001]
Warns of a possible “effort by Osama bin Laden to send students to the US to attend civil aviation universities and colleges” [Fortune, 5/22/2002] , so they can later hijack aircraft. [Die Zeit (Hamburg), 10/1/2002]
Recommends that the “FBI should accumulate a listing of civil aviation universities and colleges around the country. FBI field offices with these types of schools in their area should establish appropriate liaison. FBI [headquarters] should discuss this matter with other elements of the US intelligence community and task the community for any information that supports Phoenix’s suspicions.” [Arizona Republic, 7/24/2003] (The FBI has already done this, but because of poor FBI communications, Williams is not aware of the report.)
Recommends that the FBI ask the State Department to provide visa data on flight school students from Middle Eastern countries, which will facilitate FBI tracking efforts. [New York Times, 5/4/2002]
The memo is addressed to the following FBI Agents:
Dave Frasca, chief of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) at FBI headquarters;
Elizabeth Harvey Matson, Mark Connor and Fred Stremmel, Intelligence Operations Specialists in the RFU;
Rod Middleton, acting chief of the Usama bin Laden Unit (UBLU);
Jennifer Maitner, an Intelligence Operations Specialist in the UBLU;
Jack Cloonan, an agent on the New York FBI’s bin Laden unit, the I-49 squad; (see January 1996 and Spring 2000).
Michael S. Butsch, an agent on another New York FBI squad dealing with other Sunni terrorists. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/10/2001 ; US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 135 ]
However, the memo is not uploaded into the FBI’s information system until the end of the month and is apparently not received by all these people (see July 27, 2001 and after). Williams also shares some concerns with the CIA (see (July 27, 2001)). [Mercury News (San Jose), 5/23/2002] One anonymous government official who has seen the memo says, “This was as actionable a memo as could have been written by anyone.” [Insight, 5/27/2002] However, the memo is merely marked “routine,” rather than “urgent.” It is generally ignored, not shared with other FBI offices, and the recommendations are not taken. One colleague in New York replies at the time that the memo is “speculative and not very significant.” [Die Zeit (Hamburg), 10/1/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 135 ] Williams is unaware of many FBI investigations and leads that could have given weight to his memo. Authorities later claim that Williams was only pursuing a hunch, but one familiar with classified information says, “This was not a vague hunch. He was doing a case on these guys.” [Mercury News (San Jose), 5/23/2002]
Entity Tags: Jennifer Maitner, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Fred Stremmel, Ghassan al Sharbi, Hani Hanjour, I-49, Jack Cloonan, Elizabeth Matson, Islamic Army of the Caucasus, David Frasca, Michael Butsch, Al-Muhajiroun, Zakaria Mustapha Soubra, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, Al-Qaeda, Rod Middleton, Osama bin Laden, Radical Fundamentalist Unit, Mark Connor, Ken Williams, Abu Zubaida
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
The Free Congress Foundation (FCF), an influential organization headed by longtime conservative operator Paul Weyrich and patronized at its weekly lunches by Republican political operatives such as Karl Rove, [Time, 4/22/2001] issues a document entitled “The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement.” It is written by Eric Heubeck. The document is a matter-of-fact overview of the exact tactics that Rove, Weyrich, and the conservative movement will use to keep moderates and liberals out of office and off the media radar. Heubeck writes, in part, “We must, as Mr. Weyrich has suggested, develop a network of parallel cultural institutions existing side-by-side with the dominant leftist cultural institutions. The building and promotion of these institutions will require the development of a movement that will not merely reform the existing post-war conservative movement, but will in fact be forced to supersede it—if it is to succeed at all—because it will pursue a very different strategy and be premised on a very different view of its role in society….” Heubeck writes that the process will take place in three stages: developing a “highly motivated elite able to coordinate future activities,” developing “institutions designed to make an impact on the wider elite and a relatively small minority of the masses,” and transforming “the overall character of American popular culture….” Heubeck says the movement will be “entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions…. We will maintain a constant barrage of criticism against the Left. We will attack the very legitimacy of the Left. We will not give them a moment’s rest. We will endeavor to prove that the Left does not deserve to hold sway over the heart and mind of a single American. We will offer constant reminders that there is an alternative, there is a better way. When people have had enough of the sickness and decay of today’s American culture, they will be embraced by and welcomed into the New Traditionalist movement. The rejection of the existing society by the people will thus be accomplished by pushing them and pulling them simultaneously. We will use guerrilla tactics to undermine the legitimacy of the dominant regime…. We must create a countervailing force that is just as adept as the Left at intimidating people and institutions that are used as tools of left-wing activism but are not ideologically committed, such as Hollywood celebrities, multinational corporations, and university administrators. We must be feared, so that they will think twice before opening their mouths…. We will be results-oriented rather than good intentions-oriented. Making a good-faith effort and being ideologically sound will be less important than advancing the goals of the movement….” Heubeck says that television and video are the most “conducive to propagandistic purposes” of any media, “and our movement must learn to make use of this medium. A skillfully produced motion picture or television documentary has tremendous persuasive power…. Rational arguments simply do not have this power, and all arguments made in print tend to appeal to the rational, critical faculties of the mind to a greater or lesser degree….” He writes that the movement intends to present “all the examples of cultural decadence, irrationality and disingenuousness in public debate, combined with our commentary, selectively edited and arranged for maximum impact….” [Free Congress Foundation, 7/13/2001] The FCF manifesto outlines a part of Rove’s overall strategy of retaining the White House, Congress, and the judicial branch for 2004, 2008, and beyond—which began in the same week that Bush took office in January 2001. [Time, 4/22/2001]
James Cameron. [Source: Contactmusic (.com )]Hollywood film studio 20th Century Fox is working on a movie, called Deadline, which would feature terrorists hijacking a commercial aircraft. [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2001; Washington Times, 12/10/2001; Baltimore City Paper, 1/2/2002] Deadline is being written by brothers Peter and David Griffiths, who also wrote the screenplay for the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Collateral Damage. The Griffiths have already completed two drafts of the script for Deadline. [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2001; Variety, 2/7/2002] Reports will describe the movie’s storyline as “involving terrorists taking over a jetliner”; featuring “the hijacking of an airliner”; and featuring “terrorists taking over a commercial aircraft.” Further details, however, are unknown. The movie is “in top-secret development at 20th Century Fox,” according to the Los Angeles Times. Deadline is being produced by James Cameron, the director of movies such as Titanic and The Terminator. And Tony Scott, who previously directed blockbuster movies such as Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State, has expressed an interest in Deadline, according to sources close to the film. [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2001; Washington Times, 12/10/2001; Baltimore City Paper, 1/2/2002] However, 20th Century Fox will suspend work on the film in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. It will be one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten after 9/11 (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Village Voice, 12/4/2001; Washington Times, 3/7/2002] In November 2008, Variety magazine will report that the movie has been revived, with the new name Nagasaki Deadline. Variety will report that the storyline centers on “an emotionally damaged FBI agent who must decipher historic events in a desperate race to avert a terrorist plot.” It is unclear if this was the original plot of the movie or if the story has been changed since 9/11. [Variety, 11/11/2008] In 2010, it will be reported that a director has been found for the movie. [Deadline, 6/28/2010; Variety, 6/29/2010] By 2013, no further details of the movie will have been announced.
Jackie Chan. [Source: Reuters]A scene for a Hollywood movie about a terrorist plot to blow up the World Trade Center was originally scheduled to be filmed at the top of one of the Twin Towers at this time, but the filming has been canceled because the script for the scene is late to arrive. [ABC News, 9/19/2001; Empire, 9/19/2001; Orlando Sentinel, 9/27/2002] The action-comedy movie, titled Nosebleed, which was written in 1999 (see February 1999-September 11, 2001), is set to feature the well-known martial artist and actor Jackie Chan as a window washer at the WTC who uncovers a terrorist plot to bomb the Twin Towers. [Variety, 2/7/1999; Entertainment Weekly, 9/24/2001]
Actor 'Would Probably Have Died' if Filming Took Place - Chan will later tell the Hong Kong newspaper Oriental Daily News, “Filming was scheduled to have taken place at 7:00 a.m. [on September 11] and… I had to be at the top of one of the towers for one of the scenes.” [ABC News, 9/19/2001; Empire, 9/19/2001] The scene, Chan will say, was going to be filmed at the “Top of the World restaurant.” [Orlando Sentinel, 9/27/2002] Presumably he is referring to Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower. Everyone who is in Windows on the World when Flight 11 hits the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) will subsequently die. [NPR, 9/11/2003] Chan will comment, “I would probably have died if the shooting had gone ahead as planned.” Today’s filming at the WTC has been canceled, reportedly because the script for the scene that would have been filmed is late. [ABC News, 9/19/2001; Empire, 9/19/2001] “The action was good, but, somehow, the script not ready,” Chan will say.
Actor Is in Canada for Another Film - Instead of doing the scene for Nosebleed, Chan is in Toronto, Canada, where filming began the previous day for another movie he is starring in. That movie, The Tuxedo, is an action-comedy that Steven Spielberg is involved in producing. Chan will say of The Tuxedo, “I only did this movie because Steven Spielberg asked me himself.” [Reuters, 6/17/2001; Canoe, 7/11/2001; Orlando Sentinel, 9/27/2002] He will recall learning of the attacks in New York during filming, saying: “After the first shot, I turned around and everyone was looking at one monitor, and nobody had responded to me. They said, ‘Jackie, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.’ Then we [saw] the second plane crash. We knew it was a terrorist attack and everyone started crying.” Chan will add, “The whole day I was like a walking dead man.” [Columbia Chronicle, 9/23/2002]
Actor Learned 'Secrets' of the WTC in Preparation for Film - Chan has done a lot of groundwork for Nosebleed. “We had visited the [WTC] before September 11,” he will recall. “The producer. My manager. We had dinner upstairs. We were getting all kinds of information. I was going to play a window washer, so they were telling me things like how many windows the building had.” Chan has therefore learned “the ‘secrets’ of the towers—how air pressure was regulated with doors that might be useful as gags in one of his trademark fights—which sides of the buildings one could work on to avoid the wind,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. [Orlando Sentinel, 9/27/2002; Rocky Mountain News, 9/28/2002] Production of Nosebleed will be canceled as a result of the 9/11 attacks. [PBS, 10/24/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001]
Neal Baer. [Source: Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles]A group from NBC is in New York, near the World Trade Center, doing preparatory work for a drama miniseries about al-Qaeda committing a series of terrorist attacks in the city. [Variety, 9/10/2001; Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ; CNN, 9/9/2002; USA Today, 12/5/2002] The big-budget five-hour miniseries, called Terror, will combine the casts of all three of NBC’s Law & Order crime drama series: the original show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. It is intended to be broadcast in May 2002. Its storyline follows a devotee of Osama bin Laden who goes from an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan to New York. There, he sets off explosives in the subway under Times Square, killing over 1,000 people. A bioterrorist release of anthrax is subsequently discovered. [Variety, 9/10/2001; Los Angeles, 4/2002; USA Today, 12/5/2002]
Group Doing Planning Work for Show - This morning, Neal Baer, one of Law & Order’s executive producers, is in New York with some of his colleagues, doing preproduction planning for Terror. The group is at a facility at Chelsea Piers, on Manhattan’s West Side, only a couple of miles from the WTC. Baer and his colleagues are “ironing out details” for the miniseries, according to CNN. After the attacks on the WTC take place, they will watch in shock as people run up the West Side Highway, “first panicky groups fleeing the initial hit, then ash-covered survivors of the towers’ collapse.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ; CNN, 9/9/2002]
Magazine Has Front-Page Story about Show - Writers have been working on Terror for several months (see June-September 11, 2001) and filming is scheduled to begin later this month. [Los Angeles, 4/2002; Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ] This morning, Variety magazine even has a front-page story about the miniseries. [Variety, 9/10/2001; CNN, 9/9/2002] But Terror will be canceled less than a week after the 9/11 attacks. The show’s producers will say that it would be “[i]nappropriate to produce the Law & Order miniseries dealing with terrorists, dealing with terrorism, in light of the horrifying events that have unfolded over the past week.” [Variety, 9/17/2001]
Karl Rove, Andrew Card, and Dan Bartlett.
[Source: White House, US Office Pristina, Kosovo, White House]President Bush is told that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center for the first time by Karl Rove, his senior adviser, according to some accounts, although other accounts will state that he is first alerted to the crash by another member of his staff. Bush has just arrived at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, where he is going to attend a children’s reading event (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 41-42; Bush, 2010, pp. 126; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250; Priess, 2016, pp. 240; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Rove Tells Bush about the Crash - During the drive to the school, several members of his staff were informed about the crash at the WTC (see (Between 8:48 a.m. and 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [White House, 8/12/2002; Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003] Rove received a call alerting him to what had happened as he was arriving at the school (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will later recall that he then walks over to Bush, who is “with Secretary of Education Rod Paige, shaking hands with staff and teachers outside the school,” and tells him about the crash. [New Yorker, 9/25/2001; Rove, 2010, pp. 249-250; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who arrived at the school around the time the president did, will give a similar account, writing that while Bush is shaking “hands with the teachers and staff who had lined up to greet him,” Rove “stepped beside the president and told him about the plane” hitting the WTC. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 138-139]
Bush Thinks the Crash Was 'a Terrible Accident' - Rove tells Bush the crash appears to have been an accident involving a small, twin-engine plane. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Bush nods his head, gives “a quizzical look,” and says, “Get more details,” Rove will describe. [Rove, 2010, pp. 250] The president’s initial thoughts in response to the news are: “How could the [pilot] have gotten so off course to hit the towers? What a terrible accident that is.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 42; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] He says: “This is pilot error. It’s unbelievable that somebody would do this.” He confers with Andrew Card, his chief of staff, and says the plane’s pilot “must have had a heart attack.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Someone Else First Gives Bush the News, Other Accounts Will State - Rove will claim that he “was the first to tell [Bush] the news” about the crash. [Rove, 2010, pp. 250] However, according to other accounts, Bush is first told about the crash by some other member of the White House staff. For example, Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, will say she was the first person to inform Bush about it, running up to his limousine and giving him the news as soon as he arrived at the school (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 11/26/2001; Dayton Daily News, 8/17/2003; Priess, 2016, pp. 240] And in 2002, Bush will tell journalist and author Bill Sammon that he was first told about the crash by Card. He will say that as he was heading into the school, while Blake Gottesman, his personal aide, was giving him some final instructions in preparation for the reading event, Card said to him, “By the way, an aircraft flew into the World Trade Center.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 41-42; Washington Times, 10/7/2002] But on other occasions, Bush will state that he was first told about the crash by Rove. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 126] Bush is also told about the crash, after he arrives at the school, by Dan Bartlett, his communications director, according to some accounts. In response to the news, Bartlett will say, Bush asks, “Was it bad weather [that caused the crash]?” [White House, 8/12/2002; Draper, 2007, pp. 135] After learning about the crash, Bush will go to a classroom from where he will talk on the phone with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who is at the White House, and discuss what has happened with her (see (Shortly Before 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Times, 10/7/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 126-127]
Brian Wilson. [Source: Publicity photo]There is apparently no increase in the level of security at the Capitol building in Washington, DC, even though First Lady Laura Bush has arrived at the nearby Russell Senate Office Building and more than 10 minutes have passed since a second plane hit the World Trade Center. [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 64; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8; Bush, 2010, pp. 198] At 9:16 a.m., Bush arrived at the Russell Senate Office Building, located just north of the Capitol building, where she was scheduled to testify before a Senate committee at 10:00 a.m. [USA Today, 9/10/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 198]
Reporter Sees No Signs of Increased Security - The first lady is considered one of the nation’s “most visible targets,” and, as one of the Secret Service’s “permanent protectees,” like the president, she has a detail of special agents assigned to her. [US Department of the Treasury, 5/8/2001; Office of Management and Budget, 7/2001, pp. 82 ; United States Secret Service, 2002] And yet, even though Bush has arrived on Capitol Hill, and over 10 minutes have passed since the second aircraft hit the WTC (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), there is apparently no increase in the level of security at the Capitol building. Fox News correspondent Brian Wilson will later recall that when reporting from the Capitol building around this time, he is “talking about the first lady being in the Capitol and saying that I had not seen any signs of tighter security in the building.”
Reporter Surprised at Plan to Hold a Photo Op - Wilson is also surprised that, although the Senate hearing Bush was scheduled to attend has been canceled, the first lady is still going to make a public appearance. He will comment that “they were (incredibly) trying to set up a brief photo opportunity.” [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 64; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8] (Wilson is presumably referring to Laura Bush’s appearance before reporters and cameras alongside Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Judd Gregg (R-NH), which takes place at 9:41 a.m. (see 9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/11/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 199] )
Capitol Evacuated Later On - The Capitol building will only be evacuated at 9:48 a.m., apparently in response to reports of a plane heading toward it (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; CNN, 9/11/2006] The first lady will only be taken away from the Russell Office Building to a “secure location” by members of the Secret Service at 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 200]
A local television channel shows live coverage of Air Force One, the president’s plane, landing at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 198; Sammon, 2002, pp. 120-121; Sylvester and Huffman, 2002, pp. 138] Air Force One, accompanied by two F-16 fighter jets, arrives at Offutt at 2:50 p.m. (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Salon, 9/12/2001; Bamford, 2004, pp. 89] As it is coming in to land, reporters on the plane notice the television in the press cabin showing a local Nebraska news affiliate interrupting the national coverage of the terrorist attacks in order to show live video of Air Force One descending toward Offutt. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 120-121] “We had the eerie experience of watching ourselves landing live on the local TV channel broadcast in our cabin,” Ann Compton of ABC Radio, who is traveling with the president, will later comment. [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 198] It is unclear why local news crews are at Offutt in time to report Air Force One arriving there. Personnel at the base only learned the president’s plane would be landing there about 20 to 30 minutes ago. [Omaha World-Herald, 9/8/2002; NET News, 12/27/2011] And reporters on Air Force One were not told that the plane was going to land at Offutt. [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 198; Sylvester and Huffman, 2002, pp. 138] According to journalist and author Bill Sammon, Nebraska reporters “instinctively gathered outside the gates of the local air base at this time of national crisis.” These reporters have “made no agreement with the White House to keep the president’s location a secret,” which is presumably why Air Force One’s arrival at Offutt is being shown live on television. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 120] Earlier today, a local television channel reported the arrival of Air Force One at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, even though the president’s location was meant to be a secret (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Salon, 9/12/2001; Rove, 2010, pp. 258]
The Wall Street Journal editorial page reacts to the 9/11 attacks by advocating that the US attack “terrorist camps in Syria, Sudan, Libya, and Algeria, and perhaps even in parts of Egypt.” [American Conservative, 3/24/2003]
Paramount’s Sherry Lansing at a 2001 meeting to discuss the media’s role in battling terrorism. She is flanked by Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger, Karl Rove, and CBS owner Sumner Redstone. [Source: Fred Rouser / Reuters]Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, a group of senior media executives meet repeatedly with White House officials, including top political strategist Karl Rove, to discuss ways that the entertainment industry can help improve America’s image in foreign markets. The gathered officials discuss the use of “soft power”—using the influence of American movies and television shows to sway public opinion, especially among Muslim and Arab populations. Television producer Bryce Zabel, the chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, says in a memo that the US must regard itself like a consumer brand: “Products like Coca-Cola are far more effectively branded around the globe than the United States itself. The American entertainment and communications industry has the technological and creative expertise to improve relations between our country and the rest of the world.” Hilary Rosen, the chairwoman of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and a participant in the meetings, recalls in 2008 that Rove and other White House officials wanted support similar to that provided by Hollywood to the US government during World War II. “They wanted the music industry, the movie industry, the TV industry to produce propaganda,” she will recall. “Rove was putting a lot of pressure on us.” A 2008 New York Times report will conclude, “There were few tangible results from the meetings.” Harvard professor Joseph Nye, who coined the term “soft power” in 1989, will observe in 2008: “[W]hat’s interesting about the last eight years is that polls show a decline in American attractiveness.… But then you ask the follow-up questions and you see that American culture remains attractive, that American values remain attractive. Which is the opposite of what the president has said—that they hate us for who we are and what we believe in.” [New York Times, 11/30/2008]
Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell on the 700 Club. [Source: Tampa Bay Coalition]During a guest appearance on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club, televangelist Jerry Falwell tells listeners who he believes is responsible for the 9/11 attacks: homosexuals, abortionists, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Falwell: “I fear, as Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense said yesterday, that this is only the beginning. And with biological warfare available to these monsters; the Husseins, the bin Ladens, the Arafats, what we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact, if in fact God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.”
Robertson: “Jerry, that’s my feeling. I think we’ve just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven’t even begun to see what they can do to the major population.”
Falwell: “The ACLU’s got to take a lot of blame for this.”
Robertson: “Well, yes.”
Falwell: “And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.’”
Robertson: “Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we’re responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system.”
Falwell: “Amen. Pat, did you notice yesterday? The ACLU, and all the Christ-haters, the People For the American Way, NOW [the National Organization for Women], etc. were totally disregarded by the Democrats and the Republicans in both houses of Congress as they went out on the steps and called out on to God in prayer and sang ‘God Bless America’ and said ‘let the ACLU be hanged.’” [Washington Post, 9/14/2001; People for the American Way, 9/17/2001; Unger, 2007, pp. 217-218]
In a prayer during the broadcast, Robertson intones: “We have sinned against Almighty God, at the highest level of our government, we’ve stuck our finger in your eye. The Supreme Court has insulted you over and over again, Lord. They’ve taken your Bible away from the schools. They’ve forbidden little children to pray. They’ve taken the knowledge of God as best they can, and organizations have come into court to take the knowledge of God out of the public square of America.” [CNN, 9/14/2001; People for the American Way, 9/17/2001] The next day, after a firestorm of critical response (see September 13-14, 2001), Falwell will retreat somewhat from his remarks (see September 14, 2001), and again three days later (see September 17, 2001). But three years later, he will misrepresent his remarks and once again attack homosexuals (see November 28, 2004).
Bryce Zabel. [Source: Publicity photo]Bryce Zabel, a longtime television writer and producer, was set to meet executives at the cable channel USA Network on this day, to present to them details of a miniseries he has been working on about an act of terrorism in the United States and how it leads to a global conflict, but the meeting and the miniseries are canceled as a result of the 9/11 attacks. [Dallas Observer, 9/20/2001; New York Times, 9/24/2001; NPR, 9/6/2002] Zabel, who was recently elected as chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, previously created television shows such as Dark Skies and The Crow: Stairway to Heaven. [Deseret News, 8/12/2001; Dallas Observer, 9/20/2001] He is scheduled to meet with USA Network executives today, to present his plans for a miniseries called World War III for consideration. The miniseries, according to the Dallas Observer, would be “about how an act of terrorism on United States soil expanded into global conflict.”
Show's Creator Considered 9/11-Like Scenarios - Zabel has been working with members of the US military to help him decide what kind of terrorist attack to incorporate into the storyline of World War III. “My partner and I had worked carefully with the Air Force and some Pentagon war planners to figure out the possible scenarios by which such a conflict could come into being,” he will later recall. Zabel and the military officials apparently considered scenarios resembling the 9/11 attacks: “The irony is that we had sort of rejected something as radical as what just happened [on September 11] as being a little too much,” Zabel will say. Therefore, according to Zabel, the 9/11 attacks meant that “the cautionary tale we hoped to tell in fiction ended up becoming a cautionary tale told on the evening news, and there almost is no need for the wake-up call, because America has been woken up.”
Show Canceled due to 9/11 - It is unclear how long Zabel has been working on World War III, but according to the Dallas Observer, his scheduled meeting with USA Network executives to discuss the miniseries has been “on his calendar for weeks.” [Dallas Observer, 9/20/2001] The meeting and the miniseries are both canceled as a result of what happened on September 11. [NPR, 9/6/2002] “Obviously this show died when the victims died,” Zabel will say. [New York Times, 9/24/2001] Zabel will also note, two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, that his miniseries would have “reflected exactly what’s going on in the world right now.” [Media Life, 9/25/2001] World War III is one of a number of television dramas and movies featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten following 9/11 (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Denver Post, 9/17/2001; Newsweek, 10/7/2001]
Televangelist Jerry Falwell backs away from his remarks blaming homosexuals, abortionists, and civil liberties groups for the 9/11 attacks (see September 13, 2001). He says his comments were taken “out of context,” explains that he was “making a theological statement, not a legal statement,” and adds: “I put all the blame legally and morally on the actions of the terrorist.… I would never blame any human being except the terrorists, and if I left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else, I apologize.” But America’s “secular and anti-Christian environment left us open to our Lord’s [decision] not to protect. When a nation deserts God and expels God from the culture… the result is not good.” [Washington Post, 9/14/2001] Falwell uses the Bible to justify his remarks: “I do believe, as a theologian, based upon many Scriptures and particularly Proverbs 14:23, which says ‘living by God’s principles promotes a nation to greatness, violating those principles brings a nation to shame.’” The ACLU and other civil liberties organizations “have attempted to secularize America, have removed our nation from its relationship with Christ on which it was founded,” he asserts. “I therefore believe that that created an environment which possibly has caused God to lift the veil of protection which has allowed no one to attack America on our soil since 1812.” [CNN, 9/14/2001]
The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an influential neoconservative think tank, publishes a letter addressed to President Bush and signed by magazine publisher William Kristol, Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle (see September 16, 2001), and 38 other neoconservatives and hardliners. It is reprinted by Kristol’s Weekly Standard shortly thereafter. The authors threaten to brand Bush as a “wimp,” guilty of “surrender in the war on international terrorism” if he fails to carry out their demand to make “a determined effort” to overthrow Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, “even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the [9/11] attack[s].” [Project for the New American Century, 9/20/2001; Rich, 2006, pp. 28] Any failure to attack Iraq, the authors say, “will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.” Invading Iraq is not their only demand. To retain their support, the letter reads, Bush must also target the terror organization Hezbollah for eradication, and retaliate against Syria and Iran if they do not break their ties with Hezbollah. The letter calls Israel “America’s staunchest ally against international terrorism.” Conservative isolationist Pat Buchanan will later write that the real motive for this letter seems to be tied to Israel: “Here was a cabal of intellectuals telling the commander in chief, nine days after an attack on America, that if he did not follow their war plans, he would be charged with surrendering to terror. Yet, Hezbollah had nothing to do with 9/11. What had Hezbollah done? Hezbollah had humiliated Israel by driving its army out of Lebanon. President Bush had been warned. He was to exploit the attack of 9/11 to launch a series of wars on Arab regimes, none of which had attacked us. All, however, were enemies of Israel.… The War Party [Bush administration neoconservatives] seemed desperate to get a Middle East war going before America had second thoughts.” [Project for the New American Century, 9/20/2001; American Conservative, 3/24/2003]
Voice of America logo. [Source: Voice of America]The publicly funded Voice of America (VOA), which broadcasts its radio signal throughout much of Europe and the Middle East, pulls a 12-minute interview with Taliban leader Mullah Omar after Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and senior National Security Council officials object to the broadcast. [Guardian, 9/26/2001] The VOA has been attempting to exert some editorial independence ever since it was removed from State Department oversight in 1999 and placed under the oversight of a board of governors. [Guardian, 9/25/2001]
'Voice of America is Not ... the Voice of the Taliban' - The VOA’s plan was to run excerpts from the interview as part of a four-minute segment on Afghan reactions to a speech by President Bush. Instead, many in the White House and elsewhere object, arguing that running such a broadcast merely gives a voice to terrorists. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher tells reporters, “We told members of the board of broadcast governors that we didn’t think it was appropriate for the Voice of America to be broadcasting the voice of the Taliban into Afghanistan and we didn’t think it was consistent with their charter.” [Guardian, 9/25/2001; National Public Radio, 7/23/2004] “… Its charter says that they should explain US government policy and present responsible discussion about it. We don’t consider Mullah Omar to be responsible discussion.” Unless Omar is prepared to announce the turnover of Osama bin Laden, currently under the protection of the Taliban, such an interview would provide “no news or anything newsworthy,” Boucher says. “Carrying the interview would be confusing to the millions of listeners to what is essentially a US government broadcast, paid for by the US government.” [CNN, 9/25/2001] Another State Department official says, “Voice of America is not the Voice of Mullah Omar and not the Voice of the Taliban.” One VOA staffer retorts, “If this is an indication of the gag order they’re going to impose on us, we can’t do our jobs.” [Guardian, 9/25/2001; National Public Radio, 7/23/2004]
'We Tell the Whole Story' - VOA’s deputy director for external affairs, Joe O’Connell, says in response, “We were never going to give him an open mike.” A member of VOA’s Board of Governors, Norman Pattiz, chairman of radio conglomerate Westwood One, tells CNN that the decision not to air the broadcast was made by VOA staffers and not by the governors. [CNN, 9/25/2001; Salon, 4/21/2003] (The New York Times reports that Pattiz indicated staffers had discussed the interview but had not decided whether to suppress it.) Pattiz goes on to say: “I happen to believe that any legitimate news organization in the world would do that interview. And if the United States is going to be a proponent of a free press, it has to walk the walk.” [New York Times, 9/26/2001] “A lot of people in the United States are angry and think the Voice of America is not serving their country the way we should,” says VOA spokeswoman Tara King. “They are getting the wrong impression, but we feel we are providing reliable news. The people in Afghanistan are tuning into us because they trust us, and we tell the whole story.” [Reporters' Committee for a Free Press, 9/28/2001]
Mass Resignations Threatened - In a letter to the board, over 100 VOA journalists describe themselves as “deeply distressed to learn of the suppression” of Mullah Omar’s interview. “These comments were legitimate news,” the letter states. “We believe the integrity of the VOA is at stake. This censorship sets a most unfortunate precedent and damages our credibility with our worldwide audience.” [CNN, 9/25/2001; Committee to Protect Journalists, 9/27/2001] Andre DeNesnera, the VOA news director, writes in an e-mail to staff: “The State Department’s decision is a totally unacceptable assault on our editorial independence, a frontal attack on our credibility. This certainly was a dark, dark day for those of us who have—for years—fought to uphold journalist ethics, balance, accuracy and fairness.” [Committee to Protect Journalists, 9/27/2001] The VOA staff threatens a public mass resignation and eventually runs a drastically edited version of the interview—“like 22 seconds” of tape, then-director Myrna Whitworth will later recall. After VOA runs the edited interview, a government spokesperson warns that the station’s “defiance” would be looked into. Whitworth will be relieved of her duties shortly thereafter and replaced, she will recall, “by a gentleman who had strong ties to the National Security Council.” When she leaves, she leaves a memo telling reporters “not to fall under the spell of self-censorship.” She exhorts journalists to “[c]ontinue to interview, anyone, anywhere.” [Guardian, 9/25/2001; Toronto Star, 9/8/2002; National Public Radio, 7/23/2004]
Entity Tags: Myrna Whitworth, Richard Armitage, National Security Council, Osama bin Laden, Norman Pattiz, Joe O’Connell, Mullah Omar, Andre DeNesnera, Taliban, Bush administration (43), Tara King, Richard A. Boucher, Voice of America, US Department of State
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
In an op-ed column for the neoconservative Weekly Standard, writers Thomas Donnelly and Gary Schmitt state that the US’s enemies “want to push the United States out of the Middle East. Our response must be to prevent that.” Donnelly and Schmitt, members of the Project for the New American Century think tank (PNAC—see January 26, 1998 and September 2000), say that such an effort “will require more than a vague, unfocused ‘war on terrorism.‘… Last week’s strikes represent a new and more complex phase of this war. But this is not a new war. This is a ‘theater war’ in the classic sense. Neither [O]sama bin Laden nor Saddam [Hussein] cares much about America’s role in Europe or East Asia. They want us out of their region.”
Reasserting Dominance in Middle East - The US can win this “struggle for power in the Persian Gulf” by “reasserting our role as the region’s dominant power; as the guarantor of regional security; and as the protector of Israel, moderate Arab regimes, and the economic interests of the industrialized world.” Donnelly and Schmitt trace the US’s problems in the region back to the decision not to overthrow Hussein in 1991 (see January 16, 1991 and After). “As Saddam has crawled back from defeat,” they write, “bin Laden has grown increasingly bold. Meanwhile, our regional allies have begun to hedge their bets, not only with the terrorists and Iraq, but with Iran as well.” The US should focus on routing both bin Laden and Hussein from the region, they say. It is unclear if Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks, they say, though they assert that Hussein was “implicated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993 and October 2000).… But as with bin Laden, we have long known that Saddam is our enemy, and that he would strike us as hard as he could. And if we have learned anything at all from [the] past week, it is that adopting a defensive posture risks attacks with unacceptable consequences. The only reasonable course when faced with such foes is to preempt and to strike first.” Overthrowing Hussein “is the key to restoring our regional dominance and preventing our enemies from achieving their war aims.… When Bush administration officials speak of ‘ending’ regimes that participate in the war against America, they must mean Saddam Hussein’s Iraq” (see Before January 20, 2001).
Cowing Other Nations, Restoring 'Global Credibility' - Overthrowing the Iraqi government will also cow Iran, Syria, and other regional threats, the authors say, and “will restore the global credibility tarnished in the Clinton years. Both our friends and our enemies will be watching to see if we pass this test.” Although attacking Afghanistan is not necessary, toppling the Saddam regime will not be difficult in a military sense, and “the larger challenge will be occupying Iraq after the fighting is over.”
Surpluses Will Pay for Effort - The so-called “lockboxes”—Social Security funds and others—previously kept from being spent on other government programs are, the authors write, “yesterday’s news,” but the sharp increases in defense spending that this war effort will require will not be difficult to fund: “given the surpluses that exist, there is no impediment to such increases.” [Weekly Standard, 9/24/2001]
The Voice of America radio station (VOA) prints a transcript of the recently censored interview it did with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. It also airs a short excerpt from the interview. VOA did not air it on its slated broadcast date of September 21 due to objections from the US’s Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, and senior officials on the National Security Council (see September 21-26, 2001). Omar tells the interviewer that his organization is sheltering Osama bin Laden because the issue is not bin Laden, but “Islam’s prestige [and] Afghanistan’s tradition.… If we did, it means we are not Muslims… that Islam is finished.” He says that he sees the US’s war on terrorism as two conflicting promises: “One is the promise of God, the other is that of Bush. The promise of God is that my land is vast. If you start a journey on God’s path, you can reside anywhere on this earth and will be protected.… The promise of Bush is that there is no place on earth where you can hide that I cannot find you. We will see which one of these two promises is fulfilled.… We are confident that no one can harm us if God is with us.” When asked what he means in his repeated statements that “America has taken the Islamic world hostage,” Omar replies: “America controls the governments of the Islamic countries. The people ask to follow Islam, but the governments do not listen because they are in the grip of the United States. If someone follows the path of Islam, the government arrests him, tortures him or kills him. This is the doing of America. If it stops supporting those governments and lets the people deal with them, then such things won’t happen. America has created the evil that is attacking it. The evil will not disappear even if I die and Osama dies and others die. The US should step back and review its policy. It should stop trying to impose its empire on the rest of the world, especially on Islamic countries.” [Guardian, 9/26/2001; Committee to Protect Journalists, 9/27/2001]
Characters from ‘The Agency.’ [Source: CBS]The pilot episode of a major new CBS drama series called The Agency was originally scheduled to be broadcast on this day, and would have featured a storyline about Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist group plotting to blow up a department store in London, England, but the episode is postponed due to its resemblance to the events of September 11. [New York Times, 9/29/2001; CNN, 10/31/2001; Jenkins, 2012, pp. 62-63] The Agency, according to The Guardian, is “a new CBS drama, full of best-and-brightest types rolling up their sleeves and attacking problems of national security.” [Guardian, 10/5/2001] The series will “tell stories of everyday life inside ‘The Agency,’” according to the New York Times. [New York Times, 5/6/2001] The Guardian has reported that the show’s villains will include “Arab terrorists, Colombian drug dealers, Iraqis, and German urban guerrillas.” [Guardian, 9/6/2001] Wolfgang Petersen, who directed blockbuster movies such as In the Line of Fire and Air Force One, is the show’s principal executive producer. [Dallas Morning News, 9/27/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/29/2001]
Storyline Includes Planned Al-Qaeda Attack - The storyline of the pilot episode of The Agency features “terrorists from Osama bin Laden’s cells, waging a holy war against the West,” according to the New York Times. Early in the episode, it is revealed that the CIA has identified al-Qaeda as a security threat and that the terrorist group is planning a major attack in Europe. Fortunately, a CIA officer was able to infiltrate al-Qaeda and discovered the date of the planned attack. However, the agency has just three days to thwart the plot. Agents then discover that the terrorists intend to bomb the Harrods department store in London. They pass on this information to British intelligence officers, thereby helping to prevent the attack at the last minute. [New York Times, 9/29/2001; Jenkins, 2012, pp. 62-63] Bin Laden’s name is mentioned twice in the episode. [Dallas Morning News, 9/27/2001]
CIA Liaison Assisted with Script - Michael Frost Beckner, the creator of The Agency, will later say that he wrote the show’s pilot episode “over a year before 9/11,” presumably meaning around mid-2000. [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ] He worked with Chase Brandon to develop the script, and submitted early drafts to Brandon for approval. [Jenkins, 2012, pp. 56] Brandon is the CIA’s entertainment liaison officer, and before taking that post spent 25 years in the agency’s elite clandestine service. [Guardian, 9/6/2001; Guardian, 11/14/2008]
Storyline 'Originated from the CIA' - The similarity between the storylines of The Agency and real-world events, according to CNN, is because the show’s producers and writers have been “researching each storyline in detail. They read intelligence manuals, pull from actual CIA cases, and confer at length with the show’s consultant, retired [CIA] operative Bazzel Baz.” [CNN, 10/31/2001] Bill Harlow, the CIA’s chief spokesman, will suggest that the reason for the similarity is that the show “simply got lucky that the headlines intersected with its storylines so neatly.” But Beckner will reveal that the storyline for the pilot episode was suggested to him by Brandon. “In other words,” author Tricia Jenkins will note, the story about al-Qaeda plotting to bomb Harrods “originated from the CIA.” [Jenkins, 2012, pp. 66-67] Beckner will also say the pilot episode resembled what happened in the US on September 11 because the CIA “would let in anyone, including a little writer like me, to hear that al-Qaeda and bin Laden are going to attack us.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ]
Show's Premier at CIA Headquarters Canceled - The Agency received extensive assistance from the CIA during its production. As well as the CIA reviewing scripts, it is the first television series that was permitted to film inside CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and it used agency employees as extras. The pilot episode was even going to be premiered at CIA headquarters, on September 18, but the event was canceled because the agency was busy responding to the 9/11 attacks. [New York Times, 8/26/2001; Hollywood Reporter, 9/17/2001; Jenkins, 2012, pp. 56]
CIA Liaison Thinks Series 'Couldn't Be More Timely' - CBS cancels the broadcast of the pilot episode on September 27, when it was originally scheduled to be aired, in response to the 9/11 attacks. Gail Katz, one of the show’s executive producers, will comment, “Our show seems to be too close to what’s in the headlines” and it is therefore “not appropriate for viewing.” [CNN, 10/31/2001] Instead, another episode of The Agency is aired, in which agents work to prevent the assassination of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. [Variety, 9/23/2001; New York Times, 9/29/2001] Brandon, however, is upbeat about the series coming out at a time when terrorism has become such a major issue. “If anything, a show like The Agency couldn’t be more timely,” he will say. This, according to Brandon, is because, “Right now, the American public needs a sense of reassurance.” Brandon will add: “Our whole national consciousness is going to change. And I think a responsible film or TV episode about the agency, even one that weaves elements of terrorism into the storyline, can show the magnitude of what’s at stake.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/29/2001] Indeed, the show’s tag line is “Now, more than ever, America needs the unsung heroes of The Agency.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/2/2001]
Modified Version of Episode Later Broadcast - The pilot episode of The Agency is one of a number of movies and television dramas featuring storylines about terrorism that are canceled or rewritten in response to 9/11 (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Denver Post, 9/17/2001; Village Voice, 12/4/2001] A subsequent episode, based around a planned terrorist attack in the US using anthrax, will also be rescheduled, because its original broadcast date coincides with the actual anthrax attacks in the US (see October 18, 2001). [Variety, 10/16/2001; People, 11/6/2001] A modified version of the pilot episode, with all references to bin Laden removed, will be broadcast on November 1. [South Florida Sun Sentinel, 10/25/2001; Jenkins, 2012, pp. 145]
Nicholas Meyer. [Source: Shanghai TV Festival]Filming was originally going to start in Winnipeg, Canada, around this time for Fall from the Sky, a big-budget CBS TV movie about the investigation of a jumbo jet crash in which the possibility that Osama bin Laden was responsible is one of the lines of inquiry. [Observer, 9/30/2001; Irish Independent, 10/7/2001; Winnipeg Free Press, 3/22/2002] Fall from the Sky was co-written by Nicholas Meyer, who previously wrote several of the Star Trek movies, and Brian Rehak. [Variety, 9/19/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/31/2003; Los Angeles Times, 7/22/2010] It has been budgeted at $7.2 million and is set to star Forest Whitaker, who previously played jazz legend Charlie Parker in Clint Eastwood’s movie Bird.
Hundreds Killed in Fictional Plane Crash - Fall from the Sky would be set a couple of years in the future and involve the crash of a plane that is one of a new generation of passenger jets. According to some reports, 700 people die in the fictitious crash. [Chicago Sun-Times, 8/20/2001; Winnipeg Free Press, 3/22/2002] But according to Variety magazine, 400 people are on the plane that crashes. [Variety, 9/19/2001; Variety, 9/24/2001] Whitaker was to have played the National Transportation Safety Board investigator who leads the examination of the crash. The story would “concentrate on the meticulous process of gathering scientific evidence after the tragedy,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times. [Chicago Sun-Times, 8/20/2001; Winnipeg Free Press, 3/22/2002] Meyer has said that the planned TV movie would “not show the crash—only pieces [of plane wreckage] on the ground.” [Variety, 9/24/2001] However, Jamie Brown, the CEO of a special effects company that was going to work on Fall from the Sky, will later say his company planned to depict “the destruction of a super jumbo jet” for the TV movie. [Winnipeg Free Press, 12/5/2001]
Possible Bin Laden Responsibility Investigated - Furthermore, the storyline of Fall from the Sky includes “the investigation of a theory that the crash had been the work of Osama bin Laden,” according to The Observer. [Observer, 9/30/2001] But according to Meyer, it turns out that terrorists were not responsible. [Variety, 9/19/2001; Variety, 9/24/2001] Whitaker will say that the story “dealt a lot with the FAA and issues of concealment. It almost read as if it was a true story, because of the political things that were going on inside of it.” [Winnipeg Free Press, 3/22/2002] It “shows the political pressures brought to bear on the investigation,” Meyer will say. [Variety, 9/24/2001]
Production Canceled due to 9/11 - Fall from the Sky was in preproduction in September. Filming was scheduled to begin in Winnipeg on October 2, according to some reports. [Playback, 11/12/2001; Winnipeg Free Press, 3/22/2002] But according to Variety magazine, it was set to begin on October 8 or October 9. Production was halted within two weeks of 9/11. [Variety, 9/19/2001; Variety, 9/24/2001] The Winnipeg Free Press will comment, “Naturally, the deliberate, catastrophic destruction of four passenger jets on September 11 made a TV movie about a fictional jumbo jet crash untenable for CBS.” [Winnipeg Free Press, 3/22/2002] Fall from the Sky is one of a number of movies and television dramas that are canceled or rewritten as a result of the 9/11 attacks (see (January 1998-2001); February 1999-September 11, 2001; June-September 11, 2001; Before Before September 11, 2001; September 13, 2001; September 27, 2001; November 17, 2001). [Denver Post, 9/17/2001; Irish Independent, 10/7/2001] Meyer has commented that his TV movie “was in its own way rather timely,” and added, “I think it’s unfortunate that it’s been canceled.” [Observer, 9/30/2001] Another, unnamed, TV movie dealing with an airline disaster was set to begin production in Vancouver, Canada, around this time, according to the Canadian magazine Playback, although further details of that movie are unstated. [Playback, 11/12/2001]
National Review editor Jonah Goldberg announces that the magazine has dropped conservative pundit Ann Coulter’s column over her incendiary column that advocated the US indiscriminately bombing Muslim countries, slaughtering their leaders, and forcibly converting their populations to Christianity (see September 13, 2001). According to Goldberg, it was Coulter, not the National Review, who chose to sever the relationship through her unprofessional behavior. Goldberg calls Coulter a “smart and funny” writer who lost control of her emotions in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the loss of her friend Barbara Olson (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001) in the attacks. In retrospect, Goldberg says, it was a “mistake” to have run the column in the first place. Her response to the outpouring of criticism towards her column was what Goldberg calls “a long, rambling rant… that was barely coherent.” What Coulter needed was a good editor, Goldberg says, and National Review refused to run the response. Coulter responded angrily, denying that she hates Muslims and advocated forcible conversion. But, Goldberg says, the dispute was never over her content, but over her writing style. “Ann didn’t fail as a person—as all her critics on the Left say—she failed as WRITER [sic], which for us is almost as bad.” According to Goldberg, Coulter refused to continue the discussion with the National Review editors; instead she “proceeded to run around town bad-mouthing [the magazine] and its employees” and claimed to be the victim of censorship. At that point, Goldberg writes, it became incumbent to fire Coulter. “What’s Ann’s take on all this?” Goldberg continues. “Well, she told the Washington Post yesterday that she loves it, because she’s gotten lots of great publicity. That pretty much sums Ann up.” [National Review, 10/2/2001]
Neoconservative William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, says on NBC’s Meet the Press that the first Bush administration erred in 1991: “The biggest mistake we have made—it’s our mistake, it’s not the mistake of the Arabs—was not finishing off Saddam Hussein in 1991.” Kristol garners a tremendous amount of coverage during the months after the 9/11 attacks, relentlessly advocating for the overthrow of Hussein. [PBS, 4/25/2007]
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tells reporters that they should only print expurgated transcripts of the statements made by Osama bin Laden and other terror leaders, for fear that they might incite anti-American violence or worse, contain coded messages to other terrorists. “At best,” the messages are nothing more than “propaganda inciting people to kill Americans,” Fleischer says of bin Laden’s statements. “At worst, he could be issuing orders to his followers to initiate such attacks.” [BBC, 10/11/2001] The statements, and their presumed coded messages, might wind up “in the hands of people who can read it and see something in it,” Fleischer says. [Rich, 2006, pp. 31] Fleischer’s demand dovetails with a request from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that the five major television networks not broadcast complete versions of videotaped statements from bin Laden and others (see October 11, 2001). Most American newspapers follow the lead of the New York Times in refusing to comply with Fleischer’s demand. The Times will write in response: “The White House effort is ill advised. … Even if full statements [from bin Laden] were withheld from networks and newspapers, any bin Laden associate… could easily pick them up from foreign broadcast outlets or webcasts. More important, the American people should have unfettered access to information about the terrorist leader and his views.” [Current Events, 11/9/2001]
Five major US television networks agree to self-censor their news broadcasts of statements by Osama bin Laden and his associates. The agreement, made by ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox News, comes after a conference call between National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and the heads of the networks; Rice’s call comes after White House press secretary Ari Fleischer warns reporters that statements from suspected terrorists could contain anything from incitement to coded messages, and asks them not to print full transcripts of bin Laden’s messages (see October 10, 2001). [BBC, 10/11/2001; Rich, 2006, pp. 31] Rice asks that, instead of automatically airing bin Laden videotapes, news executives should carefully review the tapes and remove any “inflammatory language” before broadcasting. [Current Events, 11/9/2001] The networks say they will now review them first, and edit or censor them as needed. While the American news networks are willing to comply with Rice’s recommendation, the Arab news network Al Jazeera disagrees: chief editor Ibrahim Halil says, “I don’t think the United States, which taught the world about freedom of expression, should now begin to limit it.” Al Jazeera has been the first to broadcast many of the statements in question, broadcasts which were often picked up by American news networks and shown in their entirety. [BBC, 10/11/2001]
'A Silky Form of Censorship' - According to the New York Times, the five networks have never before consulted one another as a group and made such a collective policy decision about news coverage. The executives deny that they were threatened or pressured by Rice or any other White House officials: “Ms. Rice made no specific request of news organizations, other than that we consider the possible existence of such messages in deciding whether and how to air portions of al-Qaeda statements,” says an ABC spokesman. They also deny that the decision amounts to censorship. CBS says it is committed to “responsible journalism that informs the public without jeopardizing American lives.” CBS president Andrew Heyward says: “The issue… was raised by the transmission of unedited, extended propaganda messages from a terrorist group… with the will to kill thousands of people. No network wants to serve as the platform for that propaganda.” And Fox News chairman Roger Ailes notes that “[Rice] was very, very careful to talk about freedom of the press and not to suggest how we do our job.” Matthew Felling of the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a media watchdog group, has a different view. He calls the decision “a silky form of censorship.” Network executives say that the likelihood of bin Laden using his statements to send coded messages to “sleeper” agents in the US is unlikely, and if he is, the agents could get the statements from printed transcripts or Internet video. “What sense would it make to keep the tapes off the air if the message could be found transcripted in newspapers or on the Web?” one executive asks. “The videos could also appear on the Internet. They’d get the message anyway.” [BBC, 10/11/2001; Current Events, 11/9/2001]
Notion that Censorship Could Disrupt Al-Qaeda Communications Fantastical, Says Media Critic - Author and media critic Frank Rich is fascinated by the assumptions behind Rice’s assertions: in 2006, he will write that the Bush administration “entertain[s] at least a passing fantasy that al-Qaeda, despite its access both to the Internet and to the Arabic superstation Al Jazeera… could be disrupted by having its videos kept off the likes of Fox.” The administration’s “ambitions to manage the news [knows] no bounds.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 31]
British Broadcasters Refuse Similar Request - A similar request by the British government is flatly refused; the BBC issues a short statement reading, “Government interference will be resisted.” The Canadian government does not issue such a request, leaving the decision of whether to air unedited broadcasts of the terrorists’ statements up to news executives and editors. [Toronto Star, 9/8/2002]
Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Al Jazeera, Center for Media and Public Affairs, CNN, Andrew Heyward, Ari Fleischer, Al-Qaeda, CBS News, ABC News, New York Times, Roger Ailes, Fox News, Condoleezza Rice, Ibrahim Halil, Frank Rich, Matthew Felling, NBC News, British Broadcasting Corporation
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
An al-Qaeda representative offers to arrange a television interview of Osama bin Laden. There are two versions of how this offer is made. According to CNN, an al-Qaeda contact of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera, with which it has a footage-sharing agreement, invites CNN and Al Jazeera to submit questions to bin Laden. CNN, worried about accusations of improper conduct, contacts the other major US television news stations and tells them it will share any footage that emerges. It also says it will only air the interview as long as it is newsworthy and not “propaganda.” CNN then draws up six questions about al-Qaeda’s role in 9/11 and the recent anthrax attacks in the US. It gives the questions to Al Jazeera, which adds another 25 and sends them to its Kabul bureau, which, in turn, passes them on to its al-Qaeda contact. The ethics of this are hotly debated in the US media, with Fox News publicly refusing to participate. Nevertheless, an Al Jazeera manager will later say: “I assure you they [Fox] contacted me to send more questions of their own. I got calls and emails from them.” Fox will later admit to the contacts, but say it would only have agreed to take part in the event of a regular interview. However, Al Jazeera media relations manager Jihad Ballout will contradict CNN’s account of the offer, saying the two organizations are approached independently, and al-Qaeda eventually chooses Al Jazeera. [Miles, 2005, pp. 175-176, 179-180] The interview will take place on October 20 (see October 20, 2001).
Days after National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice persuaded the five major American news broadcasters to self-censor their coverage of statements issued by Osama bin Laden and other terror suspects (see October 11, 2001), Rice is publicly asked if the government believes, as she then asserted, that bin Laden and others might be using those statements as ways to convey coded messages to “sleeper” agents inside the US. Rice acknowledges that the government is busily analyzing those statements for any such coded messages. Of her request that the networks censor their coverage of bin Laden, Rice says: “The point to the networks—and let me just say that I think the networks have been very responsible in the way that they have dealt with this—my message to them was that it’s not to me to judge news value of something like this, but it is to say that there’s a national security concern about an unedited, 15 or 20-minute spew of anti-American hatred that ends in a call to go out and kill Americans. And I think that that was fully understood.” She cannot verify that any coded messages have yet been discovered, saying, “We are still concerned about whether there might be some signaling in here, but I don’t have anything more for you on that yet.” [White House, 10/15/2001]
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) takes to the floor of the House to praise conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. In his “Tribute to Rush Limbaugh,” DeLay says of Limbaugh’s role in the Republican’s capture of the House in 1994, “[He] did not take his direction from us, he was the standard by which we ran. [He] was setting the standard for conservative thought.” [Jamieson and Cappella, 2008, pp. 46]
Chase Brandon. [Source: Daily Mail]An episode of the CBS drama series, The Agency, about a planned terrorist attack in the United States using anthrax was scheduled to be broadcast on this day, but is postponed in response to the actual anthrax attacks taking place in the US. [Variety, 10/16/2001; Associated Press, 10/17/2001; People, 11/6/2001] The Agency shows the CIA tackling problems of national security, taking on villains such as Arab terrorists and Colombian drug dealers. [Guardian, 9/6/2001; Guardian, 10/5/2001]
German Terrorist Plans to Attack Washington with Anthrax - The episode, titled “A Slight Case of Anthrax,” which was filmed in August, features a German man who is planning to attack Washington, DC, using anthrax sprayed from a crop duster plane. The man has acquired the same anthrax that the US government developed and sold to Iraq when it was an ally. The CIA discovers that he was behind an anthrax attack in Belgium, and Washington is his next intended target. CIA agents then scramble to stop the terrorist before he can reach the capital. [St. Petersburg Times, 10/29/2001; E! Online, 11/2/2001; People, 11/6/2001; Jenkins, 2012, pp. 68] Al-Qaeda was originally going to be responsible for the anthrax attacks in the storyline, according to Michael Frost Beckner, who wrote the episode. However, CBS said: “This al-Qaeda thing, you’ve got to get off that. No one is interested. Trust us.” The episode was consequently redrafted so that it featured “Iraqis making an anthrax attack through German terrorist proxies.” [Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ]
Episode Canceled due to Actual Anthrax Attacks - The US is currently in the middle of a series of terrorist attacks using anthrax (see October 5-November 21, 2001). [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/8/2001] Anthrax has been discovered in three states and the District of Columbia in the past two weeks. At least 13 people either have anthrax or were exposed to its spores, and one person has died. The episode of The Agency about anthrax attacks is therefore canceled and is replaced with another episode of the show. CBS spokesman Chris Ender explains, “We certainly don’t want to do anything to add to the country’s fears about anthrax.” [E! Online, 10/16/2001; Associated Press, 10/17/2001] “A Slight Case of Anthrax” was in fact going to be broadcast a week ago, on October 11, but had to be rescheduled because President Bush decided to hold a prime-time news conference that evening. [Variety, 10/16/2001; Associated Press, 10/17/2001]
Storyline Was Suggested by CIA Liaison - Gail Katz, one of the show’s executive producers, will later suggest why the storyline about anthrax so closely resembles real-world events, commenting: “This is a series which is dealing with reality. It has to deal with threats like this that concern us.” [E! Online, 11/2/2001] Bazzel Baz, a former CIA operative who is a technical adviser for The Agency, will say, “We know how the CIA works, so if we write a script about anthrax or about a bomb or about an assassination or about bin Laden, it’s probably going to happen.” [CNN, 10/30/2001] Tracey Rabb, the show’s publicist, will comment, “[Y]ou really can’t do a serious drama about the CIA without colliding with topical events.” [People, 11/6/2001] However, Beckner will reveal that the storyline for “A Slight Case of Anthrax” was suggested to him by Chase Brandon, the CIA’s entertainment liaison officer. Author Tricia Jenkins will note that this means it “originated from the CIA.” [Jenkins, 2012, pp. 66] The CIA has in fact cooperated extensively with the producers of The Agency, such as by reviewing the show’s scripts. [New York Times, 8/26/2001]
Episode Airs in November - “A Slight Case of Anthrax” will finally be broadcast on November 8. [E! Online, 11/2/2001; People, 11/6/2001] The pilot episode of The Agency, which features a storyline in which Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist group plots to blow up a department store in London, was also canceled and will be broadcast on November 1 (see September 27, 2001). [New York Times, 9/29/2001; South Florida Sun Sentinel, 10/25/2001; Hollywood, Health and Society, 4/2/2002 ]
Neoconservative writers Robert Kagan and William Kristol predict “a wide-ranging war in locales from Central Asia to the Middle East and, unfortunately, back again to the United States,” of which the Afghanistan conflict is merely “an opening battle.” The “unequivocal destruction of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden” are the first steps in a larger conflict that must “spread and engulf a number of countries in conflicts of varying intensity,” requiring US forces to invade “multiple” countries. “It is going to resemble the clash of civilizations that everyone has hoped to avoid. And it is going to put enormous and perhaps unbearable strain on parts of an international coalition that today basks in contented consensus.” Kagan and Kristol say that both the 9/11 attacks and the recent anthrax mailings are likely the work of Iraq, and thus President Bush “ha[s] no choice” but to destroy the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. The continued security of Israel is of paramount importance, they write; the US must join with Israel in battling Islamist terrorism in the region by any means necessary. There is virtually no difference between the Taliban and the Palestinian Authority, they write; both must be shut down. Putative US allies such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia might object, and may even declare war against Israel. If so, they must be given the same treatment as the Taliban, the Palestinians, and Iraq: overthrow and domination. “With or without a new Arab-Israeli war, it is possible that the demise of some ‘moderate’ Arab regimes may be just around the corner.” [Weekly Standard, 10/29/2001]
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