May
12
2014

ABC's 'Raging Debate' Over Edward Snowden

abcthisweek-snowdenABC This Week anchor Martha Raddatz (5/11/14) introduced a lookback at the Edward Snowden/NSA stories by saying, "A year later, Snowden still sparks a raging debate." But the show sure had a funny way of illustrating that fierce debate–with two guests who both attacked Snowden for revealing the extent of NSA spying.

Correspondent Pierre Thomas interviewed former NSA chief Keith Alexander, which Thomas introduced with this:

Edward Snowden is a traitor and could be a spy recruited by Russia to target the US. That's the suspicion of the man who was running the NSA when the breach happened last year.

But that seemed to overstate even Alexander's claims about Snowden, who admitted that he couldn't say whether Snowden was a spy. ("Is he a spy?" "I don't know the answer to that." So much for Raddatz's teaser: "Coming up, is Edward Snowden a spy?")

But Alexander did say, as Thomas summarized, that thanks to Snowden, "nations have our surveillance playbook and terrorists have changed how they operate." Why anyone would find Alexander a credible source is another matter (FAIR Blog, 10/14/13).

And for the other side in the Snowden debate, Raddatz brought in ABC contributor and former national security aide Richard Clarke. To him, Snowden "hurt our counterterrorism efforts" because he

revealed ways that NSA collects information. And the terrorists, and others, criminals and others around the world, have stopped using those methods of communication since he revealed them.

richardclarkeIn other words, Clarke basically said the very same thing Alexander said. And it's a claim that requires one to believe not only that terrorists did not know before Snowden that the US government would be tracking their communications, but also that the NSA was especially useful in uncovering terrorist plots to begin with.

As Clarke claimed: "We no longer have the heads-up that an attack is coming on our embassy in fill in the blank because of what he did." The reality is that there is little to no evidence that NSA's metadata dragnet has prevented terrorist attacks against the US (Gizmodo, 1/13/14).

The only dissenting view came in a two-sentence soundbite from Anthony Romero of the ACLU, who says that the debate over surveillance "would never have happened but for the actions of Edward Snowden."

Now if only media outlets like ABC could give that debate a little more in the way of balance.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.