Tuesday, November 11, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Stonewalled by Sharyl Attkisson (Part 2)

This is a continuation of a book review of Sharyl Attkisson's new book Stonewalled: My Fight For Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington. To read Part 1 of my review, click here.

Chapter 4: Benghazi: The Unanswered Questions

For anyone who has followed this story, the attacks on our compound in Benghazi, Libya on the night of September 11, 2012, conjure up a web of deceit, duplicity and intrigue that we are still trying to decipher. The number of angles that could and should have been covered by reporters is multitudinous. However, outside of Fox News and a small number of mainstream reporters, the national press corps moved on after a short time. No story here. "Just a ginned up Republican story", they say. One of the few of those mainstream reporters that went against the grain and doggedly dug into Benghazi was Sharyl Attkisson. In Stonewalled, she chronicles her attempt not only to press through resistance from the Obama Administration, but from her own network.

Among the questions about Benghazi that she would ask were these, which she put to an Obama spokesman:

What were the President’s actions that night?

What time was Ambassador Stevens' body recovered, what are the known details surrounding his disappearance and death including where he/ his body was taken/ found/ transported and by whom? Who made the decision not to convene the Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) the night of the Benghazi attacks?

We understand that convening the CSG is a protocol under Presidential directive (NSPD-46). Is that true? If not, please explain. If so, why was the protocol not followed? Is the administration revising the applicable Presidential directive? If so, please explain.

Who is the highest-ranking official who was aware of pre-911 security requests from U.S. personnel in Libya?

Who is /are the official( s) responsible for removing reference to al-Qaeda from the original CIA notes?

Was the President aware of General David Petraeus' potential [sexual scandal] problems prior to Thursday, November 8, 2012?

What was the earliest that any White House official was aware? Please provide details.

What is your response to the President stating that on September 12, he called 9/ 11 a terrorist attack in light of his CBS interview on that date in which he answered that it was too early to know whether it was a terrorist attack?

Is anyone being held accountable for having no resources close enough to reach this high-threat area within 8 + hours on September 11 and has the administration taken steps to have resources available sooner in case of emergency in the future?

A Benghazi victim's family member stated that Mrs. Clinton told him she would find and arrest whoever made the anti-Islam video. Is this accurate?

If so, what was Mrs. Clinton's understanding at the time of what would be the grounds for arrest?

Good questions! She (and we) are still waiting for answers to these and many other questions about this sordid episode in which an American ambassador and three other brave Americans lost their lives.

By the way, can you imagine what the press would have done with this story if this had happened under George W. Bush's watch?

As elsewhere in the book, the stonewalling by "the powers that be" at CBS and other networks is as much the story as the stonewalling by the current administration. I find it very interesting to note that the president of CBS News is the brother of top Obama advisor Ben Rhodes. Though she doesn't ever come out and say it, I felt that Ms. Attkisson definitely leaves you feeling that she suspected that CBS President David Rhodes is trying to run interference for his brother and the Obama Administration. Just a few weeks after the scandal broke, Attkisson states that "the lights went out" on the story. All of sudden, top brass at CBS are not interested in any more Benghazi stories (especially with the elections coming up in a few weeks). She makes the following comments about that time:

The height of popularity for the Benghazi story inside CBS is when I get Colonel Wood (a Benghazi security specialist) on camera in October 2012. But even then, not everybody is happy. I happen to be in New York City, where I've just picked up an investigative Emmy for Fast and Furious. It's the first New York visit that my producer on the Benghazi story, Kim, has made with me. She quite correctly detects that she's getting the cold shoulder from New York colleagues she's never met before. I'm getting it, too. I tell her I call it the Big Freeze and not to worry. There's no point in trying to figure it out; their response isn't logic based. It's visceral. Having worked at CBS for nearly twenty years, I tell Kim that there are groups of people who are so ideologically entrenched, they literally see you as the enemy if you do stories that contradict their personal beliefs. They may not even consciously understand why it is that they hate you— and I do mean hate— but they do. "It has nothing to do with you," I explain to Kim. "They don't like you because you work with me." She thinks it's crazy. I'm used to it.

She tells later in the book that CBS intentionally withheld a damning portion of a Steve Kroft 60 Minutes interview with President Obama that he held on September 12, the same day that the president made the famous rose garden speech, in which he called the attack everything but terrorism. The president would later claim in a debate with Mitt Romney that he had called it terrorism. (He didn’t, he was talking about 9-11-01.) Had the 60 Minutes interview aired in its entirety, it would have shown clearly that the administration was trying not to call the attack “terrorism”. This would be one of the many reasons that Attkisson would leave CBS earlier this year.

Chapter 5: The Politics of Healthcare.gov (and Covering It)

In this chapter, Sharyl Attkisson details her behind-the-scenes work in trying to unearth the reasons for the disastrous rollout of the Obamacare website last fall. Here again, the chapter is as much about the resistance from her bosses at CBS and the overall antagonism of the press to following up in what should have been a goldmine of stories related to the failed website.

One of the more interesting things that she reveals in this book is the strategies that the Obama Administration uses in "working" the press, i.e. the various ways that they manipulate gullible reporters into following the administration line. In this chapter she defines some of these tactics:

KNOW YOUR ENEMY Get to know the reporters on the story and their supervisors. Lobby them. If they don't adopt your viewpoint, try to discredit them.
MINE AND PUMP When asked to provide interviews and information for a story, stall, claim ignorance of the facts, and mine the reporter for what information he has.
CONTROVERSIALIZE Wait until the story is published to see how much the reporter really knows . Then launch a propaganda campaign with surrogates and sympathizers in the media to divert from the damaging facts. Controversialize the reporter and any whistleblower.

As I mentioned before, this last one is being used against Ms. Attkisson now during the rollout of her book. The "controversialize" strategy is something that you see playing out over and over when the Administration and Democrats and their media surrogates run up against someone who is damaging them. Attkisson would further define this strategy this way:

"Controversialize," as in the PR tactic that involves launching a propaganda campaign using surrogates and sympathizers in the media to divert from the damaging facts. They try to turn the focus on personalities instead of the evidence.

In the Healthcare.gov rollout, they would do this to House Oversight Committee Republican Chairman Darrell Issa among others. If your eyes are open to it, you can see this strategy play out again and again against various administration opponents. And the press is only too happy to participate in the character assassinations that ensue.

Chapter 6: I Spy – The Government’s Secrets

The last chapter of the book (although the Conclusion, in which Ms. Attkisson tells of the reasons for her parting CBS, is as long as a chapter) tells the story that is getting so much publicity. With the NSA scandal as the backdrop, she gives and account of her experience in finding out that her computers had been hacked. This chapter is like something out of Mission Impossible, except it’s totally credible. Three separate analyses of both her personal computer and her CBS computer found extremely sophisticated software installed in her computers which could have only been done by the government. One of her computer experts (who she calls “Number One”) made the following statement to her after examining the computers:

“First just let me say again I’m shocked. Flabbergasted. All of us are. This is outrageous. Worse than anything Nixon ever did. I wouldn’t have believed something like this could happen in the United States of America”

Then, in one of the most chilling sections of the book, she records this part of her conversation with “Number One:”

There’s one more finding. And it’s more disturbing than everything else.
“Did you put any classified documents on your computer?” asks Number One. 
“No,” I say. “Why?”
“Three classified documents were on your computer. But here’s the thing. They were buried deep in your operating system. In a place that, unless you’re some kind of computer whiz specialist, you wouldn’t even know exists”
“Well, I certainly didn’t put anything there.”
“Just making an educated guess, I’d say whoever got in your computer planted them.”
That’s worth pausing to let the chill run all the way up the back of my neck to the part of my brain that thinks, Why? To frame me? A source? My heart accelerates. I’m thinking it, but it’s Number One who finally breaks the silence to say it.
“They probably planted them to be able to accuse you of having classified documents if they ever needed to do that at some point.”

One of the more disconcerting things in the whole book is the attitude that her CBS superiors had about her bugged computers. While initially supporting her and then having their own analysis done of her computers, they at first refuse to release the findings to her. She then states:

CBS finally agrees to provide me a copy of Patel’s draft report. I’ve had further conversations that lead me to conclude my company may try to spin my computer intrusions as something dubious and indefinite . I’m given additional pause for thought when I learn that some CBS managers are quietly implying to selected colleagues, who are happy to spread it around, that the computer intrusions might be a figment of my “paranoid” imagination. I can’t figure out why they would say such a thing when their own analyst had long ago confirmed the intrusions verbally and in writing, in no uncertain terms. Why would some in my own company now attempt to discredit the computer issue and their own forensic expert? Weren’t they as alarmed as I was to learn that unauthorized parties were in the CBS system…Even more disturbing, word came to me that a CBS manager had convened a private meeting with a colleague asking him to turn over the name(s) of the inside confidential sources who had first helped me identify the computer intrusions back in January. The colleague didn’t have that information. Weird.
This and other parts of the book lead me to conclude that, as disturbing as her findings are, she may have only scratched the surface of the collusion between the mainstream media and both the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress. You can just go back to the mid-term elections that were just held to see that something odd has been going on with the press. The website “Newsbusters” found that:

when Democrats were feeling good about their election prospects eight years ago, the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and ABC’s World News aired a combined 159 campaign stories (91 full reports and another 68 stories that mentioned the campaign). But during the same time period this year, those same newscasts have offered a paltry 25 stories (16 full reports and 9 mentions), a six-to-one disparity!
Overall Conclusions

Honestly, to say that “Stonewalled” is an eye-opener is something of an understatement. If there is any overall takeaway from this book, it is that we are at least being grossly underserved by the mainstream press in our country, and (I would add) we may be intentionally mislead by them. In most instances, she lays the blame not on the reporters but on the “media elites” who run the show, not only in the newsroom, but in the executive suites in New York.

Yet, ironically, we are also living in an age in which there is a wider variation of news outlets and sources of all kinds of news than ever before. I get my news from many different sources. I start with Fox News (which has itself been “controversialized” by the other members of the mainstream press). There’s no doubt that Fox leans conservative, especially in its evening commentary programming. However, I think its straight news programming is far and away better than any of the networks or the other cable channels. If it weren’t for Fox and a few courageous reporters like Ms. Attkisson, we would know virtually nothing about “Fast and Furious” and “Benghazi” and a host of other scandals that the mainstream media avoids. Yet, I also scour many news sources around the world daily, both liberal and conservative, before I make up my mind about what the real story is. We simple can’t allow ourselves to ingest the "homogenized, milquetoast news” that we’re being served up day after day. Sharyl Attkisson says it best at the conclusion of her book.
Do your own research. Consult those you trust. Make up your own mind.

Think for yourself.
For an inspirational lift, check out my new book, "Grace In Shoe Leather." It's an amazing story of grace and forgiveness that has made a difference in the lives of so many. You can download it here: http://amzn.to/1wLL5Mw    P.S. IT'S ON SALE TODAY - JUST 99 CENTS!!!!

Below are links to other articles I've written recently about current events:

The High Cost of Inaction
Is War In Europe Coming?
Oklahoma Beheading: Let's Call It What It Is!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Stonewalled by Sharyl Attkisson (Part 1)

I just finished reading one of the most remarkable and yet disturbing books that I've come across in some time.

Former CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson has written a blockbuster of a book with a blockbuster title: Stonewalled: My Fight For Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington. Despite the attempts to denigrate her in the media (which ironically follows the same pattern of "controversializing" an opponent which she describes in her book), she is eminently qualified to write this book. She has been a working journalist for more than thirty years (over twenty years of that time being with CBS News) and has been described in the Washington Post as a "persistent voice of news-media skepticism about the government's story." She is the recipient of five Emmy Awards and an Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting . Her work has appeared on the CBS Evening News, CBS Sunday Morning, 48 Hours, and CBS This Morning. Up until recently, Sharyl Attkisson has been "an insider's insider." She has done multiple investigative stories critical of both Republicans and Democrats.

Since the book came out last Tuesday, I have read and watched multiple interviews of Sharyl Attkisson. (Not one of these has been with any of the Big Three networks - surprise!). There is one sensational and disturbing section of the book in which Attkisson discloses that both her CBS computer and her personal computer were found to have unauthorized software installed on them that were too sophisticated for anyone but the government to have installed. Almost every interview focuses on this one part of the book, which is indeed incredible and frightening. One of the three separate investigators who analyzed her computers stated that it was "worse than anything Nixon ever did." However, few of these interviews really delve into the bigger picture of what the book is about. In this post, I want to concentrate on the first three chapters of the book. I plan to cover the last three next time, which includes the alarming section about the computer breach.

Chapter 1: "Media Mojo Lost: Investigative Reporting's Recession"

As a consumer of news for the last forty years (I remember watching the Watergate Hearings gavel-to-gavel when I was ten years old. I was a strange kid!), it has been obvious to me that the national news media was and still is flagrantly biased towards the left side of the political spectrum. The difference between the way that a Republican Administration and a Democratic Administration are reported on should be obvious to any thinking person. However, in Stonewalled, Attkisson not only confirms what I've known all along, but shows how endemic this tendency is, citing multiple examples by playing "The Substitution Game" throughout the book. In each of these sections, she chronicles how the mainstream media covers a story coming from the Democratic side, then posits how reporters would have covered the same story if it had come from the Republican side. One example that she gives is then-Senator Obama's remark in 2008 presidential campaign that he had visited fifty-seven states. The news media by and large gave Obama a pass. While stating that everyone knows that he meant forty-seven states, she states, "the remark, nothing more than a verbal gaffe, didn't make big headlines. Substitution Game: What if Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin had uttered the same misstatement? Do you think the news media would've been so quick to overlook it?" Anyone who paid attention to the way the press excoriated Palin would know the obvious answer to that question.

Yet, Attkisson, in her book, shows that the endemic liberal bias of the press is only one of the barriers to fair and honest reporting of the facts. She also makes the following point:

Pushing original and investigative reporting has become like trying to feed the managers spinach. They don't like the taste, but they occasionally hold their nose and indulge because it's good for them—or because it looks good. They much prefer it to be sugarcoated , deep-fried, or otherwise disguised so that it goes down easier.

She states that the mainstream press as a whole has lost its "mojo", which she describes as the press's "ability to serve vigorously and effectively as the Fourth Estate (and be the) watchdog to government and other powers that may otherwise overstep their bounds." The national news media has become compliant. In many cases, they have allowed the government under the Obama administration to bully them into submission. They also practice "playing it safe."

Playing it safe means airing stories that certain other trusted media have reported first, so there's no perceived "risk" to us if we report them, too. We're not going out on a limb; we're not reporting anything that hasn't already been reported elsewhere. But it also means we're not giving viewers any reason to watch us. Playing it safe can mean shying away from stories that include allegations against certain corporations, charities, and other chosen powerful entities and people. The image of the news media as fearless watchdogs poised, if not eager, to pursue stories that authorities wish to block is often a false image. Decisions are routinely made in fear of the response that the story might provoke.

She later states:
The tendency to stick to mostly "safe" stories means you'll see a lot of so-called day-of-air reports on topics that won't generate pushback from the special interests we care about. Think: weather, polls, surveys, studies, positive medical news, the pope, celebrities, obituaries, press conferences, government announcements, animals, the British royals, and heartwarming features. They fill airtime much like innocuous white noise.

She describes this as "homogenized, milquetoast news." She illustrates this by comparing stories from one evening's news on the Big Three networks:

On February 21, 2014, all three networks lead with three minutes on the troubles in Ukraine. Everyone has two to three minutes on the weather: a new popular favorite dominating the news almost every night. Everyone has stories on the Olympics. Everyone does the exact same feature in the middle of their broadcasts about a woman who saved her baby nephew's life (a story widely circulated on the Web the day before). Everyone reports President Obama's decision to award the Medal of Honor. Two of the three networks devote more than two minutes of their precious, limited news time to tributes to their own network's employees: one who passed away and another who is retiring. Are we producing a newscast more for ourselves and each other rather than the public? What did we really tell America on this night that they didn't already know?

What are some of the stories they could have covered instead?

My own network is passing up stories on the crumbling Affordable Care Act; an exclusive investigation I offered about a significant military controversy; an investigation uncovering a history of troubles surrounding Boeing's beleaguered Dreamliner; and massive government waste, fraud, and abuse. Largely untouched are countless stories about pharmaceutical dangers affecting millions of Americans, privacy infringement, the debate over President Obama's use of executive orders, the FDA monitoring of employee email, the steady expansion of terrorism, the student loan crisis, the confounding explosion in entitlements, the heartbreaking fallout from the Haiti earthquake, continuing disaster for government-subsidized green energy initiatives, the terrorist influences behind "Arab spring," various congressional ethics investigations and violations, the government's infringement of and restrictions on the press, escalating violence on the Mexican border, the debt crisis, the Fed's role and its secrecy, to name just a few.

In this chapter, she also describes the many fascinating ways that the government, especially the current administration (which even the press now acknowledges to be the most obstructive in history), manipulates the press for their own ends. In one of the most shocking ways (to me) that they use it what is called "The Astroturf Effect," in which the Obama administration teams up with a cadre of special interests who:

…disguise themselves and write blogs, publish letters to the editor, produce ads, establish Facebook and Twitter accounts, start nonprofits, or just post comments to online material with the intent of fooling you into believing an independent or grassroots movement is speaking.

One of the "astroturf" websites is the ultra-liberal Media Matters, which is an Obama administration sycophant. Even before her book came out this last week, they have been publishing multiple articles supposedly "debunking" this book. Must be hitting close to home!

If the book had only this first chapter, it would have been worth the price of the book. However, there's much more.

Chapter 2: "Fast and Furious Redux | Inside America's Deadly Gunwalking Disgrace"

I admit that I didn’t follow “Fast and Furious” too closely when it was big in the news.  Actually, it wasn’t big in the news except on Fox, which covered it extensively.  It got labeled by the national media as a “Fox story” and pretty well faded out everywhere except on FNC.  However, the story that Sharyl Attkisson tells here is as much about the pushback that she got from “the powers that be” at CBS News as it is about “Fast and Furious.”  This chapter actually got me up to speed on the sickening details of the investigation.  It is just unbelievable that our government was involved in such a harebrained idea.  Not only did it tragically cost a border agent, Brian Terry, his life, but our government’s reckless and illegal “gunwalking” scheme probably cost countless Mexican lives as well.  It is just unbelievable to me that this got ignored by the media.  It is far worse than Watergate, and really a case could be made that it was worse than Benghazi, considering the number of lives that could have been taken (and may be yet taken) with these weapons.  In this chapter, she makes the case that the entire scheme could possibly have been conjured up as a Machiavellian way to promote the Obama administration’s gun control initiative.  By having these guns show up in Mexico, they could bolster the administration argument that we need tighter gun control laws in order to prevent guns from getting to Mexico! How convoluted is that!

Unfortunately, most of Attkisson's fine work on this scandal never made it to the network news, being relegated to the CBS News website. Somehow, this spectacular scandal just didn't interest the CBS News folks up in New York enough to merit attention. (See chapter 1 above.)

As a side note, I found it fascinating that one of the cities that she found evidence or allegations for "gunwalking" was Evansville, Indiana, just a few miles from where I'm writing this today. For me, that brings this literally "close to home!"

Chapter 3: "Green Energy Going Red: The Silent Burn of Your Tax Dollars"

The "poster child" for the Green Energy debacle was Solyndra. Just conjuring up the failed company brings up the image of hundreds of millions of our tax dollars being poured into a company that would soon go belly up. However, in this chapter, Sharyl Attkisson shows that Solyndra was just the tip of the iceberg. She tells of the "Think Global" electric car company (also right here in Indiana), which was given $17 million by the Obama administration. They ended up building a few dozen cars. An even more spectacular failure was another car company, Fisker, who built a car so bad that Consumer Reports stated, "We buy about 80 cars a year and this is the first time in memory that we have had a car that is undriveable before it has finished our check-in process." In this case, hundreds of millions of our tax dollars were wasted. Fisker would make 1800 undriveable cars before going bankrupt.

Unfortunately, Sharyl Attkisson's work on this scandal couldn't be shown on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. See Chapter 1 above. They had bigger fish to fry at the network's flagship news program. More weather, polls, celebrity gossip. In this case, it was relegated to the weekend news program…and the web. She was told that this was "old news." She goes on to tell of an anecdote provided by one of her colleagues:

Evening News executive producer Shevlin and a CBS News executive in New York were discussing those green energy notes I'd been circulating. Here's the account as told to me: 
EXECUTIVE Attkisson's green energy stories are pretty significant. . . . Maybe we should be airing some of them on Evening News? 
SHEVLIN What's the matter, don't you support green energy?

Click Here to read Part 2.

For an inspirational lift, check out my new book, "Grace In Shoe Leather." It's an amazing story of grace and forgiveness that has made a difference in the lives of so many. You can download it here: http://amzn.to/1wLL5Mw    P.S. IT'S ON SALE TODAY - JUST 99 CENTS!!!!

Below are links to other articles I've written recently about current events:

The High Cost of Inaction

Is War In Europe Coming?
Oklahoma Beheading: Let's Call It What It Is!








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