Thursday, November 19, 2009

Radicalization Report Gone Unheeded, Oprah Pulls A Palin, Killings At The Canal: The Army Tapes Part Three, & Controversy In A Wal-Mart

Hi everyone. We begin tonight with the news that Defense Secretary Gates has ordered a review of military policies and the events leading up to Nidal Hassan's massacre of soldiers at Fort Hood. But CNN has learned that the Defense Department contacted independent cyberterrorism analyst Shannen Rossmiller before the Hasan shooting ever occurred, in order to look at how the military deals with procedures related to possible radicalism in their ranks. If fact, Rossmiller completed a report in April 2008 entitled "The Radicalization of Members Within DOD," which sounds a lot like what Gates is ordering now. Shades of Hurricane Pam.

For discussion of this, we're joined by Rossmiller herself, as well as Representative Pete Hoekstra, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. It's a pretty good discussion. Rossmiller explains the report a bit and notes that to her understanding, it was received by the intelligence community in the Defense Department. They also talk profiling and though admittedly Hoekstra sounds relatively reasonable, I can't help but see irony in his advocation that we learn from the Europeans regarding how to deal with home grown radicals. Think he wants us to learn about their law and order approach too? Yeah, not so much.

Transitioning to the news that--ZOMG!!!--Oprah is quitting. In two years. And...she's going to have her own cable network, so everybody can just unclench, okay? She's not leaving us. I thought Twitter was going to have a heart attack when the news broke. It's going to be okay, people. In a Tom Foreman piece, we get an abbreviated Oprah biography. You know the drill: media empire, weight issues, book club, and YOU GET A CAR! If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I don't exactly buy into the Oprah hype, but that doesn't mean I don't like her. She's definitely done much more good for this world than bad, and I'll admit to watching on many an occasion.

It's just that Oprah has a tendency to make everything about, well, Oprah. Take James Frey. Did Oprah eviscerate him in front of millions of people in defense of truth? No, she did it because she felt personally slighted and had to do damage control to her reputation. If she was really all about the truth, that Sarah Palin interview would have been a hell of a lot tougher. (By the way, I bet this story bumped our nightly Palin coverage, so, uh, thanks Oprah.) Anyway, after Tom's piece, Anderson Cooper talks to Ryan Seacrest by phone, which just makes me laugh. I dunno, something about Ryan's whole existence makes me laugh. But, uh yeah, there's nothing of note here. Well, except Ryan reminding me that Oprah also unleashed Dr. Phil on us. Not her best moment in my book.

On now to part three of the investigative series "Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes" with correspondent Abbie Boudreau. Tonight we learn how, after nine months of secrecy, the execution style murder of four Iraqis by U.S. soldiers was finally revealed. As reported previously, 13 men were on the mission that day that led to three sergeants committing murder. All 13 were questioned and interrogators found themselves up against a very strong brotherhood loyalty. But finally Jess Cunningham, now a former army sergeant, broke the silence. He insists he did the right thing.

David Court, attorney of First Sergeant John Hadley who is now serving time at Fort Leavenworth for the crime, doesn't find Cunningham's reveal to be exactly a noble act. In fact, at the time he came forward, Cunningham was facing disciplinary charges for assaulting Sergeant Michael Leahy, another soldier convicted in the murders. He has received immunity for testifying and is no longer in the Army. So in terms of viewing the case, that complicates things a bit. After the piece, Abbie tell us that Cunningham has been treated pretty badly since coming forward. Called a rat, property vandalized, things like that. It's sad. Ultimately he did the right thing, though perhaps not for the right reasons.

For discussion, we're joined by Army captain and Iraq war veteran Pete Hegseth, and Eugene Fidell, a military law attorney. They begin by talking about the whole 'band of brothers' thing and the extremely strong loyalty that soldiers have for one another. From Pete: "I don't think it's accurate to say that that band of brothers needs to extend to covering up war crimes that happen." And Eugene notes that when it comes to war crimes, there is an obligation to both report and investigate them. The panel then moves on to Cunningham's excuse that fear for his own safety prevented him from coming forward sooner. Pete agrees there's most likely truth there. I'm sure there is, and the fear is legitimate. Just ask Joe Darby or Justin Watt (old school 360 blog!).

Anderson asks about the validity of the argument that the men were simply trying to avoid having to release Iraqis who they believed had killed Americans and would do so again. Eugene thinks that kind of action is insubordination. Pete "completely disagrees," explaining the previously reported difficulties with keeping detainees locked up. But if you listen to the nuances, I'm not sure he's really disagreeing at all, but rather making sure a problem is acknowledged. Anderson sums it up nicely: "What you're saying is that's an argument for changing the ground rules in terms of what evidence is needed or how evidence is gathered against detainees. It's not an excuse for murder."

Transitioning to a Gary Tuchman piece on a racially charged controversy in Kennett, Missouri. I've missed some of this reporting, so time to play catch-up. When Heather Ellis, an African American, was 21-years-old, she was checking out at a local Wal-Mart, when she decided to switch lines. Customers--all white--accused her of cutting, and she allegedly began using profanity. Police were called and she was ultimately accused of hitting and kicking the officers, all white. Ellis claims they assaulted her. Oh boy. There's a surveillance video, but all it really shows is her pushing other customers' items back at the counter.

Three years later, Ellis is now facing 15 years in prison, which I have to say, regardless of her guilt seems a little extreme. As for that guilt, things aren't looking so great. I'm the first one to be wary about statements from cops, but when you have all those people saying the same thing against I said, doesn't look good. Plus, I think I'm a bit biased by my former retail experience. Because customers? They're craaazeh! This story almost seems tame to me. I mean, I once saw our loss prevention guy get mowed down by a shoplifter fleeing via vehicle, fly over the hood of the car, and then pop back up to continue the chase. Just a regular day in retail. Lesson we can learn from all this? Don't shop at Wal-Mart.

Also? I absolutely loved Gary reading the profanity-laced testimony of the customers (who were quoting Ellis): "One of them was Albert Fisher, who testified, 'She told me I was a stupid mother blanker.' He added, 'She let me know I didn't know who I was blanking with.' And then he says, when he asked her name, she said, 'My name is Donna blanking Duck'" When she said, 'If you try to arrest me, I'll kick your blanking blank,' according to the cop, he arrested her." My blanking blank? Gary! Such language! Oh, my innocent ears...

Next up, we learn that the government panel that issued the new mammogram guidelines did some clarifying today. Except, not really. Because their clarifying sounds suspiciously like what they said before. Help us, Sanjay Gupta, help us. Never fear, the doctor is here. And he recommends still getting mammograms starting at age 40. The Gupta has spoken. Case closed.

The "shot" tonight is done by Tom Foreman because it features Anderson. It seems the Silver Fox and Wolf Blitzer both have cameos in Stephen King's new book. And what better way to commemorate this fact than to have members of the crew do a dramatic reading? I think the last guy deserves an Oscar. As for the actual passages, out of the two anchors mentioned, I find it hilarious that it's the Wolfbot, ahem, "Wolfie," that ends up being the crush object. That Stephen King is never one to go with the pack, is he?

I thought the show was fairly good. Talking to Seacrest seemed a little excessive, but there's no way this show wasn't going to be all over the Oprah story. They love (to report on) her so! Abbie's series continues to be very well done. With tomorrow being Friday, I'm not sure I'll have a full review, but I do plan to blog the final segment and my thoughts. So until we meet again.

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