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TV Hires That Keep the Debate Narrow

Former CIA deputy director Mike Morell was on Face the Nation last Sunday (1/19/14), arguing that the NSA's phone metadata program could have stopped the 9/11 attacks–a claim that many experts reject–and that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations are "the worst disclosures in the history of the US intelligence community," in part because "it will cost billions and billions of dollars to repair the damage."

It's not hard to find people in Official Washington who will say these kinds of thing, and Bob Schieffer made an important comment at the end of the interview:

Mr. Morell, I want to thank you for being with us this morning. And we're going to see a lot more of you starting tomorrow. Mike Morell will be joining CBS News as a contributor to all our broadcasts. So welcome aboard.

So apparently viewers will be hearing a lot more from Morrell–someone who, until he appeared in a puff piece on 60 Minutes (FAIR Blog, 10/29/13), had never done a TV interview before. Morell has been involved in the high-profile NSA Presidential Review Group, but in a Washington Post op-ed (12/27/13) he made clear that he supports broadening some of the agency's surveillance powers that the panel proposed scaling back:

Personally, I would expand the Section 215 program to include all telephone metadata (the program covers only a subset of the total calls made) as well as e-mail metadata (which is not in the program) to better protect the United States.

Morell is, of course, free to hold those opinions, though given his long tenure at the CIA, it's not terribly surprising that he sees the world the way he does. What's interesting, and disappointing, is that CBS thinks their network newscasts need to hear more regularly from someone who believes that the US government should keep a record of every phone call its citizens make and every email they send.

And they're not the only ones making curious decisions. As Yousef Munayyer noted (Permission to Narrate, 1/4/14), CNN has just hired former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren as a Mideast contributor. Munayyer noted that CNN's coverage of Israel/Palestine had already been tilted in favor of Israeli guests. So why the need to add one more? Will CNN be hiring a contributor to provide analysis from a Palestinian perspective?

These are the kinds of hires that remind you that corporate media aren't looking to expand the debate on important issues. They're interested in keeping things as narrow as they already are.

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Peter Hart

Peter Hart is the Communications Director at the National Coalition Against Censorship. Previously at the media watchdog group FAIR, Hart is also the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly. (Seven Stories Press, 2003).

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