CyberAlert -- 09/24/1999 -- FBI's Freeh Opposed Pardons, But Nets Don't Care; Beatty Better Than Reagan

FBI's Freeh Opposed Pardons, But Nets Don't Care; Beatty Better Than Reagan

1) Peter Jennings and Dan Rather delivered nearly identically worded items on Clinton's veto of the tax cut.

2) In unprecedented testimony, FBI agents said the Justice Dept. thwarted their probe of Charlie Trie, but not a word about it on ABC, CBS, MSNBC, NBC or CNN. Only FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume cared. Skipped too by the Washington Post and New York Times.

3) The FBI vigorously opposed the FALN pardons and warned it would return "hardened terrorists" to society. MSNBC ran a story and GMA gave it 17 seconds, but not a syllable on ABC, CBS, CNN or NBC.

4) Warren Beatty would "be better" as President than was Ronald Reagan, Barbra Streisand told Today. She also maintained that "history will say that" Bill Clinton "has been a great President."

cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)Thursday night, September 23, ABC and NBC led with the lost Mars explorer, CBS began with another death sentence in the Texas dragging death, CNN opened with Clinton's veto of the tax cut while FNC led with rescue efforts in Taiwan.

Other than CNN, only NBC dedicated a full story to Clinton's veto of what Tom Brokaw called, "That big tax cut passed by Republican majorities in Congress." The short items announced by the ABC and CBS anchors were almost identical:

-- Peter Jennings on ABC's World News Tonight: "The President vetoed the Republicans' $800 billion tax cut bill as he promised he would. He says it is too big and would undermine efforts to shore up Social Security and Medicare. Republicans say the President stole a tax cut from working Americans."

-- Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News: "As he said he would, President Clinton today vetoed the Republicans' $800 billion tax cut plan. The President favors more modest cuts and keeping more money to shore up Medicare and Social Security. Republicans say the President quote 'has stolen this tax cut from working American families,' unquote."


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)Four FBI agents testified before the Senate Government Affairs Committee on Wednesday, September 22, as to how the Justice Department subverted their probe of Democratic campaign fundraising, specifically in the case of Charlie Trie. But of all the networks only FNC found it newsworthy. Not a syllable about it Wednesday night or Thursday morning on ABC, CBS, NBC as well as PBS. MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams skipped it too as did CNN's The World Today and Inside Politics. But, it should also be noted that while FNC's Washington-based Special Report with Brit Hume aired a full story from Carl Cameron, the New York boys did not play his piece on the 7pm ET Fox Report.

On the newspaper side of things, while the Washington Times bannered the news across the top of the September 23 front page, "FBI Agents Say Justice Blocked Probe," the New York Times and Washington Post ignored the charges. USA Today gave the testimony a few paragraphs at the top of its Washington column of news items.

Instead of picking up on the charge of major political corruption of the Justice Department, on September 22 ABC relayed White House outrage over a GAO report on the cost of presidential travel. Peter Jennings noted: "At the White House today the President's spokesman called Republicans 'ignorant' because they criticized the amount of money spent on Mr. Clinton's travel. Congressional auditors reported yesterday that it cost $72 million for three trips the President took last year, including $42 million on one trip to visit six nations in Africa."

ABC also featured a story on how condors are a nuisance in a California community and claims of safety problems with the Alaska pipeline while NBC devoted a full report to a fire on a Carnival cruise ship.

Broadcast network, CNN and NBC viewers never learned what FNC's Carl Cameron relayed on the September 22 Special Report with Brit Hume. He began:
"In rare public testimony, four career FBI agents told Congress that the Justice Department's brass repeatedly thwarted their campaign finance investigation of President Clinton's long-time friend and fundraiser Charlie Trie."
Kevin Sheridan, FBI Special Agent: "I was kind of surprised at the time that we were experiencing some resistance."
Cameron: "One agent said he was specifically told that Justice would not investigate illegal foreign contributions at the White House or in the President's presence."
Daniel Wehr, FBI Special Agent: "The reason given to me was that that's the way the American political process works, and I was scandalized by that."
Cameron: "Another agent complained to FBI Director Louis Freeh in writing that among Justice officials, quote, 'The impression left is the emphasis is on how not to prosecute matters.' Republicans are furious."
Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM): "It reeks with impropriety."
Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN): "I do not eliminate the possibility of obstruction of justice within the Justice Department."
Cameron: "Democrats suggested that instead of a cover-up to protect the President, the problem is Justice Department incompetence."
Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT): "First, it's hard to come away from this story, even just reading the interview summaries, without a sense of dismay."
Cameron: "Some of the dismay stems from incidents at Charlie Trie's house in 1997. Despite FBI surveillance of evidence being destroyed, as Fox News first reported this spring, the Justice Department refused to approve search warrants."
Ivian C. Smith, former FBI Special Agent in Charge: "But I was actually quite astounded at the type of documents that were being destroyed."
Roberta Parker, FBI Special Agent: "We continued to see that there was evidence that was going out in the trash."
Cameron: "Justice officials admitted that their amount of supervision of the FBI was unprecedented, but denied that politics shaded their judgment or their case."
Lee Radek, Department of Justice: "I have never, ever made a prosecutive or investigative decision based on partisan political considerations."
Cameron: "Some of the evidence that was retrieved from Trie's garbage, sources say, indicated that the White House was in touch with Trie and kept him apprised of the various investigations against him. Agent Parker detailed what she called her boss's foot-dragging in three spiral notebooks. Congress subpoenaed those notebooks this summer, but after Parker turned them over to the Justice Department to forward them to Congress, 27 key pages got ripped out before lawmakers got ahold of the notebooks, and the pages have since vanished."

Cameron concluded with a bit of first-hand observation of how agents scoffed at denials of politicalization:
"Now Congress is promising all types of new investigations, but unlike congressional probes of the past that targeted Democrats or the White House, these will focus almost entirely on the Department of Justice. And while the DOJ, the Department of Justice, supervisors were denying any wrongdoing or political overtones in all of this, those FBI agents were in the back of the room, Brit, snickering, heard in a number of cases to say, 'Bull,' and a bit more."

Later, in the show's roundtable segment, Brit Hume observed: "I've been in this town a long time. I don't recall FBI agents ever testifying to anything like that before."

Nonetheless, about eight minutes later, FNC's Fox Report skipped Cameron's report. After a look at post-disaster problems in North Carolina and Taiwan the Fox Report went to a story with an "exclusive" interview with Dr. Henry Lee about the JonBenet case, a story that consisted of about one sentence from Lee.

Jerry Seper's front page Washington Times story added some detail to the charges Cameron outlined. Here are some excerpts from his September 23 story:

....At one point, the special agent in charge of the FBI's LittleRock, Ark., field office wrote personally to FBI Director Louis J. Freeh to complain about what he called an "increasing amount of frustration by the working street agents engaged in this matter."

"I am well aware of such matters as 'prosecutive discretion,'but I am convinced the team at [the Justice Department] leading this investigation is, at best, simply not up to the task," wrote Ivian C. Smith in the Aug. 4, 1997, missive. "I would point out, based on my own experience with both Whitewater and [the campaign-finance investigation,] attorneys without prior investigative or prosecutorial experience should not 'lead' such investigations," said Mr. Smith, now retired. "Investigators should be allowed to fulfill traditional investigative roles."

Mr. Smith said he did not hear personally from Mr. Freeh, although within three months, the director recommended in a memo to Attorney General Janet Reno that she seek the appointment of an independent counsel to investigation campaign finances -- a suggested she rejected....

[Senator]Thompson said that in 1997, the FBI learned that an assistant to Trie at his Little Rock office was destroying documents FBI agents believed should have received under a subpoena, but Justice Department lawyers rejected the FBI's request to conduct a search of the his office "for the purpose of stopping this destruction of evidence."

Mr. Smith, along with agents Daniel Wehr, Roberta Parker and Kevin Sheridan, told the committee that their Justice Department supervisor, Laura Ingersoll, who eventually was replaced as the campaign-finance probe's lead attorney, prevented them from executing search warrants they sought to stop the destruction of evidence.

The agents said they were blocked from serving the search warrants because Miss Ingersoll did not believe they had established probable cause to show that a crime had been committed. The agents argued, however, that the probable cause standard set by Miss Ingersoll was more than was legally required.

Mr. Wehr also testified that contrary to claims by Miss Reno and other top Justice Department officials that the inquiry would be vigorous and all-encompassing, Miss Ingersoll told the agents they should "not pursue any matter related to solicitation of funds for access to the president," adding that the reason given was: "That's the way the American political process works."

He told the committee he was "scandalized" by the remark. He also said that at one point he was blocked from pursuing an informant who said he had seen Trie bring in "duffel bags full of cash" for delivery to the Democratic Party.

Miss Parker, who also is an attorney, testified that Miss Ingersoll instructed the agents assigned to the case that the

Justice Department "would not take into consideration" evidence involving Mr. Clinton's legal defense fund and an obstruction of the Senate's investigation.

She also said 27 pages from a spiral notebook recounting her disagreements with Justice Department lawyers disappeared after she turned over her notes to FBI superiors when Congress sought information about the disagreements. She said the pages, which have yet to be discovered, were torn out of the book, although she had no information on who was responsible....

END Excerpt


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)FBI Director Louis Freeh "unequivocally opposed" the release of the FALN members, fearing that could reinvigorate the terrorist group, the New York Times revealed Wednesday morning in a top of the fold, front page story. But the ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC evening shows skipped the revelation Wednesday night, as did two of the three broadcast networks on Wednesday morning.

MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, which has a deal with he New York Times to preview the next day's paper, ran a story Tuesday night, but it was spiked from Wednesday's Today. Despite the fact the news was also blasted across the front of Wednesday's New York Post, the hometown paper of the morning shows, CBS's This Morning ignored the news. The Post announced, "FBI Boss Feared Freed FALN Bombers Would: RETURN TO TERROR." Total Wednesday morning show coverage: MRC analyst Jessica Anderson found this 17-second item read by Antonio Mora on the September 22 Good Morning America:
"Newly released documents show FBI Director Louis Freeh opposed President Clinton's clemency offer to sixteen Puerto Rican militants. Freeh drafted but never signed a letter to the House Judiciary Committee expressing his concern that the militants would resume terrorist activities after they were freed."

The night before, on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams, the show picked up on President Clinton's UN appearance as Lisa Myers contrasted it with the FBI revelation. As transcribed by the MRC's Mark Drake, Myers intoned on the 9pm ET September 21 show:
"Even as the President lectures the UN to be tough on terrorism, he's again under withering fire in Congress for freeing eleven Puerto Rican terrorists from prison. Today the FBI's top terrorism expert warns that the President's action may reinvigorate the FALN, a group responsible for a 130 bombings in this country, scores of deaths and injuries in the '70s and '80s. "A draft letter to Congress by FBI Director Louis Freeh says his agency is 'unequivocally opposed' to release of 'hardened terrorists' and that 'most remained committed to violence.' Trying to quiet the storm, the President in a letter today claimed politics played no role in his decision that he offered clemency because the prisoners weren't convicted of violence and their sentences were 'unduly severe.'

"That did not sit well with the retired New York detective blinded and without part of his hand thanks to an FALN bomb. House Chairman Dan Burton read from a pre-sentencing report by law enforcement officials noting that one of the terrorists authorized a murder while in prison. The President is still withholding documents which might reveal how he made his decision citing executive privilege but pressure is building among Democrats for him to voluntarily disclose more about an act which very few defend. Republicans gleefully point out that the last President who got in hot water over a pardon, Gerald Ford, waived executive privilege and testified before Congress, an option a Clinton adviser dismisses as absurd."

As Myers noted, on Tuesday the House Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the pardon decision. As noted in the September 22 CyberAlert, those hearings were ignored by ABC, CBS and NBC on Tuesday night, while CNN's The World Today spent 25 seconds summarizing Clinton's denial of any political considerations, but none of the shows followed up with Freeh's letter the next night. On Wednesday's Special Report with Brit Hume on FNC Jim Angle revealed the unsent draft of Freeh's letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde was included by accident in documents delivered to the House Government Reform Committee.

The September 22 New York Times provided this excerpt of the draft of Freeh's letter:

The request for commutation of the sentences of these imprisoned Puerto Rican terrorists associated with the F.A.L.N. was first made in 1994. Since that time, in response to requests for comments, the F.B.I. has consistently advised the Department of Justice , in writing, that the F.B.I. was opposed to any such pardon and/or commutation of sentences for any of these individuals. As recently as June 28, 1999, the F.B.I., in written correspondence, advised D.O.J. that the F.B.I. continued to oppose the release of these terrorists. Specifically, the F.B.I. pointed out to D.O.J. that as active members of Puerto Rican terrorist groups, these individuals sanctioned, supported and/or directly or indirectly participated in activities resulting in no fewer than nine fatalities, hundreds of injuries, millions of dollars in property damage and armed attacks on U.S. Government facilities.

D.O.J. was also advised the F.B.I. had reason to expect the release of these individuals would "psychologically and operationally enhance" the ongoing violent and criminal activities of Puerto Rican terrorist groups. The F.B.I. also pointed out that any such pardon of the "currently incarcerated terrorists would likely return committed, experienced, sophisticated and hardened terrorists to the clandestine movement."...

With respect to the condition attached to the commutation of sentences by the President, (i.e., that the terrorists renounce violence as a form of protest) the F.B.I. had previously advised D.O.J. that "few of the current prisoners have expressed remorse for their crimes or for their victims; rather, most remained committed to violence as a means to achieve Puerto Rican independence."

END Reprint of excerpt


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)In an interview aired on Wednesday's Today, Barbra Streisand maintained that she still thinks "history will say that" Bill Clinton "has been a great President" and that she'd vote for him again. She also insisted that Warren Beatty as President would "be better than Ronald Reagan."

MRC news analyst Geoffrey Dickens caught these insights in an interview the liberal movie star/singer and Lincoln bedroom guest conducted with NBC's Jamie Gangel. Here are the highlights.

Gangel: "Two people you know very well, two friends of your's appear to be running for office."
Streisand: "Two?!"
Gangel: "Do you want to talk about Warren Beatty first or Hillary Clinton first?"
Streisand: "Well, well I don't know, first of all, if he's really running. And two he'd be better than Ronald Reagan."
Gangel: "What about Hillary Clinton? You're a native New Yorker. What do you think about her running for the New York Senate?"
Streisand: "Well I think she's great. I mean she's, she has great ideas you know, she's a Democrat and why not? I mean why not Hillary? She's a fighter, you know, she's eloquent. I've never seen anybody talk without notes like she does. Have you ever seen her speak? She's amazing."
Gangel: "Have you decided who you are going to support in the presidential campaign?"
Streisand: "Not exactly."
Gangel: "Any leanings?"
Streisand: "Well my leaning is to Gore but I just want to find out more about Bradley before I totally commit."
Gangel: "You have been one of President Clinton's most loyal supporters. Given what happened in the last year were you all, at all disappointed?"
Streisand: "I think history will say that he has been a great President. He has human flaws. And he has possibly bad judgement."
Gangel: "Were you disappointed in his behavior?"
Streisand: "I think he took too many chances."
Gangel: "It was reckless?"
Streisand: "Kind of reckless. It's a complex thing. He's a person whose never had a father, who needs to be liked, you know."
Gangel: "Would you vote for him again?"
Streisand: "Yes I would vote for him again because I don't think his private sexual life has anything to do with how he runs the country. I just don't. We're getting too nosey, too gossipy, too, trying to get inside people's bodies and brains. It's not right, it's not right."

Political analysis from the mind of a Hollywood star which matches the thinking of much of the Washington press corps. -- Brent Baker


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