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FOX News: The Torture-Friendly Network

Reported by Ellen - March 16, 2007 -

Considering the lengths to which FOX News went last night (3/15/07) during Hannity & Colmes to discredit the notion that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was tortured before he confessed to playing a role in dozens of terror plots, and yet never presented a guest with any real knowledge about how he was treated, one can’t help but think there must be something to the claim. I don’t know why they bothered, other than as a PR effort for the Bush administration. When guest Curtis Sliwa said “I’m all for torturing these guys,” nobody seemed too upset.

Rather than debate the issue of Mohammed’s confession and the conditions under which it was made, the top story was, believe it or not, Rosie O’Donnell’s comments on The View about the subject. Then came the predictable attacks from Sean Hannity (who seems to have some kind of obsession with O’Donnell. Barely a night goes by without some kind of report on her.) and the conservative Sliwa.

Sean Hannity once again proved that facts are for other folks. He declared, “There’s no evidence that anybody’s been tortured, none whatsoever.” In fact, there is evidence. Even Sliwa mentioned that Mohammed had been waterboarded, a practice that is now prohibited. Raw Story confirms that, saying that ABC News reported "CIA officers told ABC News that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed lasted the longest under water boarding, two and a half minutes, before beginning to talk." Furthermore, Mohammed, himself, claims he had been tortured, though he also says his confession was not made under duress. However, NPR notes that “human rights advocates have alleged that he was tortured, and legal experts say that could taint all his statements.”

But that issue was largely unaddressed as the focus remained on Rosie’s “wild accusations” throughout the first segment.

Sliwa, obviously pleased with his sense of humor, declared, “Every time when I watch The View, I get tortured for the 10 minute diatribe Rosie O’Donnell gives. It’s torturing to me. If I could deal with that torture, he could deal with a little waterboarding." Everybody laughed.

Comment: The only thing I found funny was Sliwa's ridiculous outfit. Dude, lose the beret already. You look like you haven't changed wardrobes since the 70's.

In the next segment, there was a credible guest, former Senator and 9/11 Commissioner Slade Gorton.

Hannity focused on the torture allegations right at the start, though once again he slyly tried to make it about O’Donnell. “To put aside the issue of Rosie O’Donnell… there is no evidence at all, whatsoever, that any of this was taken under duress. Isn’t that correct?”

Gorton ducked the question. “I believe that he is the highest ranking Al Qaeda-type terrorist who the United States actually has in custody… Many of the things to which he confessed publicly over the weekend were things we learned in interrogations that took place way back in 2004 when we were writing the 9/11 Commission Report.” Gorton added that while Mohammed may have exaggerated some of his role. “I believe essentially in the truth of everything to which he’s confessed.”

Hannity, protesting too much, once again pressed Gordon. “There’s no evidence that this was taken under duress, right?”

Gorton responded, “Well I don’t know what kind of questioning went on. But I am convinced that while we probably didn’t give him all of his Fifth Amendment rights, that the interrogations have elicited the truth about his role and about his attitutude toward Americans and about his terroristic intent.”

In other words, Gorton thinks it’s quite possible Mohammed was tortured or “aggressively interrogated" but that the truth came out (except for the exaggerations). Did Hannity care about this information for which he had pushed so hard? No, he instantly changed the subject to Clinton being “offered bin Laden by the Sudanese” and Sandy Berger’s theft of classified documents.

For the record, Gorton said the reason Clinton didn’t take bin Laden was because he could not do anything with him. There was no indictment against bin Laden and, even if the US took him, we would have had to release him. But Hannity has been told that before and I suspect it won’t be long before he’s back to the old “offered on a silver platter” talking point.

Alan Colmes did touch on the question of torture by asking why Mohammed’s confession is coming out now and “What kind of pressure was brought to bear on him to make those confessions?”

Gorton ducked the issue again. “This was simply a hearing to determine whether this man was an enemy combatant.”

Video of the “Rosie controversy” below, followed by the Gorton interview.