“60 Minutes” Broadcast Markets Book from CBS’s Own Publisher

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On Sun., April 29 the CBS “news” program “60 Minutes” spent a half hour marketing its own corporation’s new book: Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives by former CIA operative Jose Rodriguez.

The publisher, we find out late in the broadcast, is CBS-owned Simon and Schuster. So, in fact, CBS subjected its some 18 million viewers to a 30-minute infomercial covering facts and government propaganda the nation has heard since as far back as 2002.

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Rodriguez, former head of the CIA’s Clandestine Service, dramatically referred to as “the dark side”–as if to align it with a Harry Potter fairytale–insists that George W. Bush’s Justice Department constantly assured him and his cohorts that their “enhanced interrogation techniques” were legal. And Leslie Stahl, the “60 Minutes” interviewer, challenges that with a tone more of powder-puff football than investigative-reporting hardball.

For example, she doesn’t point out this: while the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, i.e., John Yoo, issued a memo in 2002 classifying techniques like waterboarding as legal-the memo was rescinded in 2004. That’s when Yoo’s replacement in Justice read Yoo’s material and challenged the White House on the CIA’s torture practices-actions condemned by the United Nations as torture since 1975.

The year 2004 is also when, according to The New York Times, the Bush Administration began calling torture “abhorrent,” a legally savvy position for Bush to take if he didn’t want to be tried for war crimes.

Stahl, in her interview, does point out that the FBI disagrees with Rodriguez on the successful results of torture in obtaining vital information. She quotes to him what the FBI told her, but she doesn’t interview anyone on camera-from the FBI, Obama White House, accused terrorists’ attorneys, the United Nations, the American Civil Liberties Union, or anywhere else-to refute Rodriguez’s claims and bring balance to the broadcast.

To bring forth voices of reasonable opposition to Rodriguez could, of course, negatively affect the new book’s marketability, i.e., book sales. And, please, let’s not have a news program negatively affect the corporation’s bottom line. We learned the detrimental effect of that in Paddy Chayefsky’s “Network,” didn’t we?

Last year, in this Peculiar Progressive column, we criticized “60 Minutes” in its one-sided report on the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s apprehending Victor Bout, who was accused of illegal gun sales with intent to kill American agents. CBS News Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian interviewed U.S. government sources for his story, but showed no effort to balance the story by interviewing Bout’s American lawyer, nor did he mention any effort to interview Bout himself. This program aired before Bout’s federal court trial, with Keteyian basically judging him as guilty, and honoring the federal agency that arrested him. That’s more a role, wouldn’t you say, for a government official rather than a major TV network’s news organization?

Both of these, Stahl’s and Keteyian’s reports, continue a dangerous practice of basically feeding the public one-sided stories which serve what President Dwight Eisenhower warned us about: the rising military-industrial complex. And, let’s face it, the federal government and the major media conglomerates now stand at the center of that.