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O'Reilly Factor: Senior Correspondent Confirms That ABC News Defers to the Government

Reported by Marie Therese - December 8, 2005

Yesterday [12-07-05] on the O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly accused ABC News of endangering the safety of the citizens of Poland and Romania because the station reported that those two countries allowed the CIA to incarcerate a dozen alleged Al Qaeda terrorists in special detention camps. Tonight [12-08-05] his guest, ABC News' Senior Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross, denied that this was the case, then fizzled out during the rest of the interview.

ROSS: I think you're dead wrong about this. I think it's important for American citizens and for the rest of the world to know what's happening in these cases. We reported the fact that Poland and Romania had these prison facilities, established two or three years ago to hold twelve top, really bad terrorists.

O'REILLY: Right.

ROSS: We reported it after those terrorists had been moved out of those two countries to a third country, whose name we know.

O'REILLY: Did you know about it before?

ROSS: Before?

O'REILLY: Before they were moved.

ROSS: We've known about it for about three or four weeks. Before they were moved, we knew about it.

O'REILLY: OK. So you held the story until they got them out of there?

ROSS: We held the story until we could confirm it and then we told the CIA four days before our broadcast ...

O'REILLY: Would you ...

ROSS: ... that we planned to broadcast it.

O'REILLY: Would you have run the story if the Al Qaedas had still been in Romania and Poland?

ROSS: I think it is unlikely. We have not identified the name of the country where those twelve ...

O'REILLY: Well, you see ...

ROSS: ... suspects are now. We would hold that because that's operational. But I think it's fair game to report what has happened.

O'REILLY: Alright. Well, that's encouraging. So, so you do think about the implications of the story ...

ROSS: All the time.

O'REILLY: ... as far ...

ROSS: All the time.

O'REILLY: ... as far as it affects the US in its war on terror.

ROSS: On a regular basis, Bill, at ABC News, at least, and at NBC before I - when I worked there. On a regular basis we consider these issues at the top levels of management. We are in constant communication with people at the Pentagon, the CIA and others wherever we think there could be a national security issue. This is not a light thing. It's important.

O'REILLY: OK. And I'm glad to hear that.

O'Reilly then tried to make Mr. Ross take responsibility if at some hypothetical future time, terrorists attacked Poland or Romania. Ross brushed that off, saying that the two countries are already allied with the United States as a part of the Coalition of the Willing.

O'Reilly finally took the easy way out by personalizing the argument, stating "I don't need to know that top Al Qaedas are being held in Romania and Poland. As an American citizen, it's a decision I'm making. I don't need to know that. ... I knew already they were holding them in foreign countries. I don't need what the countries are. That's not vital information to me, unless there's something going on there that's illegal." [Note how Bill assumes that what HE wants is what the rest of the country wants! What unbridled hubris!]

To his credit Ross pointed out that, under the terms of certain European Union rules, such detentions might be illegal.

Then Mr. Ross contradicted his earlier statements saying: "And my default position is to tell as much as I know to our viewers." When he said this, he apparently forgot that he had earlier copped to tailoring the news to fit what the Pentagon and CIA wanted. Does Mr. Ross tell his viewers everything or does he kowtow to the government? I don't think he can have it both ways.

Later, in a response to a question about newly available Abu Ghraib photographs, Ross said: "I don't think they're that newsworthy. We know the story, we know the outcome, but it doesn't trouble me that what is known is made public. ... I don't think World News Tonight, for instance, would think that's a major story [but] we'd make a case by case decision."

Ross ended by saying "Our obligation is to the truth. Let the chips fall where they may." O'Reilly became agitated and commented that this was a tough position to take "when the chips are human lives." Ross disagreed, saying "I don't think we put human lives at risk. I think we do our best job when we are open and honest. That's the strength of America."

COMMENT

Brian Ross was a big disappointment. As I watched this interview, what I saw was a man who's spent too many years trying to please his bosses.

Were you to ask him, I doubt that he would see an inherent incompatibility between claiming, on the one hand, that his organization faithfully checks in with the government and, on the other, adheres to a philosophy of an open and honest press.

An old Beatles song kept running through my head while writing this post. I think it sums up my feelings about what what transpired. It also reminded me that 25 years ago the world lost a unique and special voice when John Lennon was gunned down by a madman.

He’s a real nowhere man,
Sitting in his nowhere land,
Making all his nowhere plans
For nobody.

Doesn’t kave a point of view,
Knows not where he’s going to,
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?
Nowhere man, please listen,
You don’t know what you’re missing,
Nowhere man, the world is at your command.

He’s as blind as he can be,
Just sees what he wants to see,
Nowhere man can you see me at all?
Doesn’t kave a point of view,
Knows not where he’s going to,
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?
Nowhere man, don’t worry,
Take your time, don’t hurry,
Leave it all till somebody else
Lend you a hand.

He’s a real nowhere man,
Sitting in his nowhere land,
Making all his nowhere plans
For nobody.

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