Sunday, June 24, 2012

US Misdeeds in the Middle East

Mitt Romney has repeatedly criticized Obama for going on an, “apology tour” to apologize for America abroad. Both Glenn Kessler and Politifact have described Romney’s claim as a clear falsehood. But what bothers me even more about the claim is its implication that the United States hasn’t done anything immoral enough to justify an apology. There are a million examples I could use (slavery, the mistreatment of Native Americans, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, etc.) but I will focus on two little known examples of US misdeeds in the Middle East.  

In 1951 a democratically elected parliament in Iran legislated that the profits from the production and sale of Iranian oil would go to the Iranian government rather than a British oil company. As a result, in 1953 the United States under the Eisenhower Administration participated in a coup with England to over through the democratically elected government in Iran to reinstate the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The shah ruled as a royal dictator who imprisoned, tortured, and executed political opponents until his over through in the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Unfortunately, his successors have continued the shah’s policy toward political dissent. The government of Iran has been adversarial to the US ever since the over through of the shah and the participation of the US in the 1953 Iranian coup has greatly contributed to anti-American sentiment in Iran. Obama mentioned the US role in the coup in his 2009 Cairo speech.   

In 1980, shortly after the over through of the shah, the 8-year Iran-Iraq War began. The United States, under the Regan Administration, formed an alliance with Saddam Hussein. The US supplied Saddam’s government with weapons and economic support, as well as chemicals and biological specimens that could be used for military purposes. Saddam’s government was notorious for his massacre of the Kurds, the use of torture, and the execution of political prisoners. The US alliance with Iraq ended when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990. The US entered the war and prevented the Iraqi takeover of Kuwait. The US over threw Saddam in the 2003 invasion of Iraq that marked the beginning of the Iraq War.

The US has and continues to participate in immoral foreign policies. But this is not unique to America. Almost every country has some skeletons in its past, it is our ability to admit it that makes us a better country. Obama has done so; it is about time Romney does as well.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Don’t Bomb Iran!

I first learned about the call for military action against Iran in July 2009 when John Bolton appeared on The Daily Show. Bolton advocated for an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. In March of this year, Obama gave a speech about American-Israeli relations at AIPAC. That speech contained the following passage within a longer description of his policy toward Iran (emphasis added).

I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power: a political effort aimed at isolating Iran, a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored, an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.

Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.

During the Republican presidential primary, the major Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, competed with each other to see who could sound the most militaristic about Iran.

Zbigniew Brezinski, who served as a national security advisor to President Carter, told The Real News that he believed an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities could draw the US into a war with Iran. The New York Times reported that a classified war simulation by the US military found that an Israeli strike on Iran could lead to a wider regional war that could draw in the United States.

A war with Iran would be disastrous. There can be no doubt to the outcome of a war with a country in the Middle East where there is little support for the United States. We just finished one in Iraq.

The Iraq War lasted 8 years and 9 months and resulted in the deaths of 4,486 American soldiers. The war also brought about the deaths of 318 soldiers of our allies. Iraq Body Count documented that over 100,000 Iraqi civilians died during the Iraq War, a war that caused an entire country to collapse into total chaos for a number of years.

This fate is not a certainty should the US or Israel attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, but it is a possibility. And it is a possibility that should be avoided at all costs. The US should not attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and should strongly urge Israel to refrain from an attack as well.

It is also very likely that diplomacy could resolve the nuclear issue. US intelligence agencies do not believe that Iran has decided to build a nuclear weapon. In January, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, told Congress that there was no evidence that Iran had made a decision to create a nuclear weapon, but that it was keeping its options open.

Trita Parsi, the author of A Single Role of the Dice, a book about Obama’s diplomacy with Iran, spoke with The Daily Show in March 2012. He discussed a plan for Iran to send Low Enriched Uranium abroad and in return receive fuel pads that they could use to develop Uranium for cancer treatment. The Enrichment level of the fuel pads, however, would not be high enough to use to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran rejected this proposal in 2009. Turkey and Brazil got Iran to agree to the deal in May 2010, but the US refused to sign on because it had just obtained approval from Russia and China for more economic sanctions against Iran. Both the US and Iran have agreed to this plan in the past, albeit at different times. It is wholly possible that the current round of diplomatic negotiations could succeed in achieving it.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Espionage Act Update

The Obama Administration has prosecuted, under the Espionage Act, twice as many individuals that have leaked information to the press as all preceding administrations combined. He has prosecuted 6 individuals who have leaked information to the press; all of his predecessors combined had only prosecuted 3. I have covered Bradley Manning’s pre-trial detention and his first pre-trial hearing. In January I also covered the cases of 4 other leak-related Obama-era Espionage act prosecutions. Today, I bring you an update on those cases as well as the story of the sixth Obama-era leak-related Espionage act prosecution. I will also discuss the 3 leak-related Espionage Act prosecutions that occurred under previous administrations.

Thomas Drake

In 2011 the Obama Administration dropped all major charges against Drake, who pled guilty to the misdemeanor charge of misusing the agency’s computer system. On July 15, 2011 he was sentenced to a 1-year probation and community service.

Shamai Leibowitz

Shamai Leibowitz pled guilty to disclosing classified information on May 24, 2010. He was sentenced to 20 months in prison.

Stephen Jin-Woo Kim

Stephen Kim worked as an analyst for a contractor of the State Department. In June 2009 he told James Rosen of Fox News that North Korea would likely respond to a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning its nuclear and ballistic missile tests with a nuclear test. The test didn’t occur. In August 2010 the Obama Justice Department charged Kim with the Unauthorized Disclosure of National Defense Information and for lying to the FBI. Kim’s trial is ongoing.

Jeffrey Alexander Sterling

Jeffrey Sterling discussed Operation Merlin, a covert Clinton-era CIA operation concerning Iran’s nuclear program, with James Risen of the New York Times. Risen detailed the operation in his book. The CIA maintains that Risen’s description of the operation is inaccurate. Sterling was charged by the Obama administration with disclosing national defense information and obstruction of justice in January 2011. Sterling’s trial is ongoing.

Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning’s latest pre-trial hearing occurred June 6-8. The defense used the hearing to obtain documents from the government relating to the government’s response to the Wikileaks disclosure and a State Department damage assessment relating to the leaks. Manning’s trial is currently scheduled to take place sometime between November and January. Manning has now been detained by the US military for over 2 years.

John Kiriakou

John Kiriakou worked for the CIA from 1990 through 2004. Kiriakou participated in the capture of suspected terrorist Abu Zubaydah. In 2007 Kiriakou did an interview with Brian Ross of ABC News where he revealed that Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded. During the interview, Kiriakou said that Zubaydah became cooperative after only 30-35 seconds of waterboarding and that the information gained from the technique disrupted a number of attacks. In 2009 a Justice Department memo from 2005 was released that revealed Zubaydah had been waterboarded not once, but 83 times. Also in 2009 Ali Soufan, an FBI agent involved in the interrogation of Zubaydah, argued that valuable intelligence was obtained before “enhanced interrogation” was used. Soufan also believes that no information was collected from Zubaydah that couldn’t have been obtained through regular tactics. In 2010 Kiriakou admitted in his autobiography that he wasn’t present when Zubaydah was interrogated and that in his 2007 interview with ABC News, he relied on what he had overhead within the CIA about the operation. That context was not present in ABC’s presentation of the interview.

John Kiriakou was charged on January 23, 2012 and indicted on April 5, 2012. The indictment charges Kiriakou with one count of disclosure of information indentifying a covert agent, three counts of disclosure of national defense information (under the Espionage Act), and one count of lying to the CIA’s Publications Review Board to get his autobiography published.

The first two counts against Kiriakou (identification of a covert agent, and national defense information disclosure) involve an ACLU defense strategy. The ACLU is defending suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo Bay Prison. They assembled a photo lineup of suspected CIA interrogators and random individuals not associated with the prisoners in any way. This technique was meant to imitate a police lineup where witnesses identify suspects in criminal cases. The ACLU was attempting to find potential witnesses to testify about abusive treatment of detainees in order to obtain mitigating evidence against the death penalty which their clients faced.

In the prosecution’s criminal complaint, Kiriakou is alleged to have supplied the name of a covert CIA agent involved in the Zubaydah operation to a journalist who then supplied it to the ACLU. The name is said to have ended up in a classified court filing by the attorneys defending the Guantanamo detainees. The government’s complaint says that the agent was not photographed and that his name was not released to the public.

The third and fourth charges are both for the disclosure of national defense information. They relate to a 2008 front page New York Times article. The article detailed the interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Muhammad (KSM), the self-described mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. The author of the article and the New York Times made the irresponsible decision to publish the name of one of KSM’s interrogators, who was not involved in KSM’s waterboarding. The New York Times was criticized for that decision, including by Kiriakou. His indictment alleges that Kiriakou was a source for that story.

The final charge Kiriakou faces is for lying to the CIA Publications Review Board (PRB) in order to get his autobiography published. His indictment alleges that he told the PRB that a “magic box” discussed in his book was created in his own imagination, when in fact it was an actual part of the operation.

Kiriakou’s trial is ongoing.

Individuals prosecuted under the Espionage Act for leaking information to the press prior to the Obama Administration

Samuel Loring Morison

Samuel Loring Morison was a civilian intelligence analyst for the navy from 1974 through 1984. During his employment with the navy, Morison was also a contributor and editor for Jane’s Fighting Ships, a yearly reference work on the world’s navies, published in Britain. After Morrison decided he wanted to work full time for Jane’s, he sent three classified photos of the construction of the first Soviet nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to the sister publication Jane’s Defense Weekly. Morrison leaked the photographs in order to increase his likelihood of receiving a job a Jane’s, but he also had a political motive. Morrison said that, “If the American people knew what the Soviets were doing, they would increase the defense budget.”

The Regan Administration prosecuted Morison for the leak. In 1985 Morison was convicted of disclosing classified information to the press and sentenced to two years in prison. The Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal. He was pardoned by Bill Clinton on January 20, 2001, his last day in office.

Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo

The Pentagon Papers chronicled the decisions that lead to US involvement in Vietnam. In 1969 Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo copied the Pentagon Papers which according to Ellsberg showed that, “The decisions year after year were to continue the war, although all predictions pointed to a continued stalemate with this kind of approach and thus to prolong the war indefinitely.” *

Ellsberg leaked a copy of the document to the New York Times. After the Times’ first few articles on the Pentagon Papers, the Nixon Administration obtained a temporary prior restraint from a judge that prevented the Times from publishing further stories about the documents. Ellsberg then gave a copy of the Pentagon Papers to the Washington Post, which was also restrained. Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers to 17 other newspapers as well. In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled in New York Times Co. v. United States, that the newspapers could publish and discuss the contents of the Pentagon Papers.

On June 28, 1971 Ellsberg turned himself in to face the charges against him. Ellsberg and Russo were charged with theft of government property, conspiracy, and violation of the Espionage Act. During the trial, it became known that White House operatives had burglarized Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, the judge in the case announced that he had been offered a job as head of the FBI by a White House official (which the judge considered a bribe), and it was revealed that the FBI had wiretapped Ellsberg and then claimed that it had lost the records documenting the wiretap.

All of this lead Judge Byrne to declare a mistrial on May 11, 1973. He told the court, “The totality of the circumstances of this case which I have only briefly sketched offend a sense of justice.”

  * David Rudenstine, The Day the Presses Stopped (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), page 40.

Postscript: The Listening Post did a special discussing Obama’s War on Whistleblowers titled, “Blowing the Whistle on the Obama Administration.” The show criticized the US news media for largely ignoring the story. It contains an extended interview with Jesselyn Radack who works for the Government Accountability Project defending whistleblowers.

Russia Today has done a good job covering the topic as well. CBS News did a great segment on Drake’s case in 2011. You can read the text of the Espionage Act yourself here.

UPDATE (11/18/12): John Kiriakou reached a plea agreement on October 23 with the Obama Justice Department. Kiriakou pled guilty to disclosing the identity of a covert officer and was sentenced to 30 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and a fine of 100 dollars. Charges 2 through 5 against Kiriakou were dropped.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Types of Journalists

The task of navigating the maze between fact and opinion in the news media is often difficult. Over the past two years I have carefully studied the news media and have developed a system classifying journalists into four categories. I hope this system is useful to those of you who wish to better understand the news media.


Editorialists are explicit in the fact that they are giving you their opinion on an issue of public policy. They are often easy to recognize. Editorialists can be found in the opinion section of a newspaper, during primetime on Fox News and MSNBC, and on talk radio. They also appear as contributors on news shows on CNN and the Sunday Morning News shows. Editorialists will use facts to support their position, so even they do not rely completely upon opinion.

Editorialists are prone to factual errors that support their position. Rachel Maddow falsely said that we spend more than the rest of the world combined on the military because she supports cutting the military budget. George Will falsely said that the stimulus did not create jobs because he opposes federal spending to jumpstart the economy. It is possible that both believed the falsehoods they stated. If that is the case, it is because those falsehoods reinforce their positions.

Worldview Reporters

Worldview Reporters present themselves as Neutral Reporters, but their worldview comes through in their reporting. Worldview Reporters are commonly found on television, especially on cable news. This is due, in part, to the nature of the medium of television. Television journalism shows the reporter asking the question, print journalism does not. News channels classify the programs hosted by Worldview Reporters as news shows rather than opinion programs. Worldview Reporters are able to conduct highly insightful interviews with newsmakers they disagree with. Andrea Mitchell, Megyn Kelly, and Shepard Smith are examples of Worldview Reporters.

Andrea Mitchell

Andrea Mitchell did a great interview with former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The interview was tough and included the quip, “Mr. Secretary, you know what stove-piping means.”

Andrea passionately interviewed Nancy Brinker, the founder of the Susan G. Komen foundation which provides financial assistance to women diagnosed with Brest Cancer. The Komen foundation had decided to stop providing assistance to Planned Parenthood, which provides women’s health services including breast exams and other breast health services, because Planned Parenthood also performs abortions. During the interview, Andrea said, “I come to you today, you know, expressing the anger of a lot of people, channeling though them, you see it on twitter, you see it everywhere.”

The interview was discussed on Reliable Sources. Michelle Cottle pointed out that the issue was personal to Andea, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer the previous year. Matt Lewis argued that it was political; conservatives aggressively oppose Planned Parenthood because the organization is an abortion provider. I agree with Matt that it showed Andrea’s view on a politically motivated decision by the Komen foundation. I disagree with him that that is a bad thing. I believe that journalists should be able to show their worldview in their reporting, and I support that ability regardless of what their position is.

Andrea produced a lean forward ad for MSNBC where she states her opposition to Republican proposals (although they are never described as such) that claim to prevent voter fraud. Many liberals believe that these policies are actually attempts at voter suppression. In the ad she says, “I think it’s a real scandal that political parties and interest groups are trying to prevent people from voting.”  

Megyn Kelly

Megyn interviewed state senator Jon Erpenbach about the decision he and his Democratic colleges made to leave the state in order to prevent Scott Walker from having the quorum necessary to vote on his budget. Walker’s Wisconsin budget proposal included language removing collective bargaining rights for public sector unions. Megyn’s interview was tough. She said, “People now know [about the debate over bargaining rights] and now they’re saying you’ve got to go back and do your job and you can vote yes or you can vote no but you have to go do your job. It’s not your job to leave the state and cower in Illinois instead of facing up to the vote.”

Megyn interviewed a Texas professor about his proposal to create a system of affirmative action for ugly people in the workplace. She did a good job asking him about the potential drawbacks of such a plan including, “Are you comfortable creating an entirely new class of victim to clog up our court system?”

Megyn confronted a regular guest on her show who criticized her maternity leave, calling it a “racket.” Her response included the statement, “The United States is the only country in the advanced world that doesn’t require paid maternity leave. If anything America is in the dark ages when it comes to maternity leave.” This appeared to contradict previous things she had said in the past including, “Do you think that there is any getting the tentacles that government has placed into our lives out?” Jon Stewart pointed out this contradiction in an incredibly hilarious segment entitled Lactate Intolerance 

Shepherd Smith

While covering President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage, Shep asked his college Bret Baier, “What I’m most curious about is whether it’s your belief that in this time of rising debts and medical issues and all the rest, if Republicans would go out on a limb and try to make this a campaign issue while sitting very firmly, without much question, on the wrong side of history on it?”

After reading Mitt Romney’s cordial response to Newt Gingrich leaving the presidential race, after a hostile primary Shep said, “Politics is weird… and creepy, and now I know lacks even the loosest attachment to anything like reality.”

Shepard Smith blasted the Senators who voted against funding health care for 9/11 first responders. “And we’re not even going to give them medicine for the illnesses they got down there? It’s disgusting, it’s a national disgrace, it’s a shame and everybody who voted against should have to stand up and account for himself or herself.” In a later segment Shep read off the names of the senators who failed to provide him a statement explaining their vote against the 9/11 first responders bill.

Neutral Reporters

Neutral Reporters believe that it is their job to tell you the news, not what to think of the news. They avoid any statement that would even hint at what their position on an issue would be or where they fall on the political spectrum. Chuck Todd is an example of a Neutral Reporter. C-SPAN is another example of neutral reporting.

Howard Kurts hosts Reliable Sources, a media criticism show. Media criticism is inherently opinionated, media content is either judged to be fair or unfair, trustworthy or not. Thus Howard Kurts is an editorialist, but applies the values of the Neutral Reporter to his analysis. This can be seen when he criticized Wisconsin journalists who had signed a recall against Scott Walker. Kurt said, “I can’t fathom how these journalists failed to recognize that supporting a move to kick a Republican governor out of office would be seen as blatantly political.”

I disagree. I believe that it is beyond unreasonable to assume that journalists don’t have opinions on the political issues they cover. I do not believe that journalists should have to give up their basic constitutional rights in order to do their job. Thus I think that journalists should be allowed to sign a recall petition. They should also be allowed to participate in occupy protests or tea party rallies, communist marches or libertarian potlucks. That is why I disagree with the decision by WNYC, an NPR station, to fire Caitlin Curran, a web producer, because she participated in an Occupy protest.

To be clear, I have great respect for Howard Kurtz and enjoy Reliable Sources. I just have a different philosophy when it comes to my belief in what is appropriate conduct for journalists.

One of the common mistakes Neutral Reporters make is to create a false balance. The view that humans are not responsible for global warming is given equal weight to the view that humans are responsible for global warming. Never mind that over 97 percent of climate scientists believe that humans are responsible. One side says there are death panels in health care reform; the other side says there aren’t. He said/She said. Nevermind the truth. Not all Neutral Reporters fall into this trap, but many do.


The final group of journalists are factcheckers. They rate the relative truth of statements made by politicians. They also track how a politician’s position on a topic changes over time and if they keep their promises. Examples of factcheckers include Politifact, the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, and Anderson Cooper. Many journalists fail to check the claims of politicians because the task is often difficult and sometimes involves complicated issues. Sometimes factcheckers get a ruling wrong, but most of the time they get it right.

Postscript: Jon Stewart also gave a tough informative interview with Donald Rumsfeld. He did a segment titled “Fox News: The New Liberals” making fun of how the views on protests and criticizing the government changed after the presidency transitioned from Republican to Democratic control. He did another segment criticizing Megyn Kelly for denying that Fox News personalities call those they disagree with Nazis. Jon Stewart fits into the Editorialist category.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Independent Media

Today I will profile two news media outlets that are not funded by governments or commercial advertising. Both are funded entirely by viewer donations. Although I do not have exact data on the sizes of their audiences, I have no doubt that both have a relatively small viewership compared to major US news sources. 

 I highly recommend both Democracy Now! and The Real News. They both catch stories that fall through the cracks at the major television news outlets.  

Democracy Now! and The Real News both have an almost uniformly liberal guest lineup. In the rare event that conservatives appear on either outlet it is in the context of a debate or discussion with a liberal guest.

Democracy Now!

Democracy Now! is hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales. It airs on public access, public radio, and public television channels across the nation. The show can also be watched on their website. Democracy Now! has done a tremendous job covering Bahrain. They have also done a great job covering Guantanamo. Democracy Now! has an impressive online archive stretching back to February 1996.

Amy Goodman and two other Democracy Now! journalists were arrested while covering the 2008 protests at the Republican National Convention. As a result, they sued the Minneapolis and Saint Paul police departments. A settlement was reached where the plaintiffs received 100,000 dollars and the Saint Paul police department agreed to set up a program to train officers on the first amendment rights of the public and the press.

The Real News

Paul Jay is the Senior Editor of The Real News. Their content can be viewed on their website and on YouTube.

The Real News did an outstanding job documenting the violations of the civil liberties of protestors by police at the 2010 Toronto G20.

Also in 2010 The Real News did an in depth story on the results of the environmental mismanagement of oil drilling in Ecuador by Texaco. In Ecuador, Texaco spilled oil and improperly disposed of wastewater. This poisoned the people of Ecuador and gave them health problems. Texaco was later bought by Chevron. Some of those harmed by the environmental disaster sued Chevron. This case thoroughly disproves Chevron’s claim that they look after the local communities where they operate. An update on the case can be read at

Jihan Hafiz produces news stories from Egypt for The Real News. Lia Tarachansky produces news stories from Israel for The Real News. 

Bill Black, a professor of Economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City is a regular guest on The Real News. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief-of-staff, is also a regular guest.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Media Commentary Shows

Regular readers of my blog will know that one of my favorite topics to discuss is the news media. There are three media commentary shows that I watch/listen to on a regular basis. My discussion of various topics often links to them for context and background. Each one is an irreplaceable treasure for those who wish to understand the news media.

Reliable Sources

Reliable Sources is a weekly show on CNN hosted by Howard Kurtz that analyzes how the American news media covered the main issues of the week.

On The Media

On The Media is a weekly show produced by NPR and hosted by Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield. On The Media analyzes the trends and influences that shape the American media and how the American media function as an institution. A.K.A. they look at the big picture. Brooke Gladstone wrote a book which I bought and read titled “The Influencing Machine,” which argues that the defects in the media come from the desires of consumers.

In December 2011 On The Media interviewed Paul McMullen, a former editor of the News of the World tabloid that was closed as a result of the phone hacking scandal in Britain. McMullen admitted to luring a former movie star turned drug addict into prostitution, taking topless photos of her and printing them in the paper. The actress, Jennifer Elliott, committed suicide as a result. McMullen said that he did the piece to impress Piers Morgan who was his boss at the time. Yes, that Piers Morgan, the one who now has a prime time show on CNN.

On The Media recently did a segment on the lack of coverage in the American news media of the civilian casualties that result from drone strikes.

On The Media also did a piece on Joe Wershba, one of Murrow’s Boys in the early days of CBS News.

Listening Post

The Listening Post is a weekly program produced by Al Jazeera English and hosted by Richard Gizbert. The Listening Post analyzes the global media. My favorite Listening Post episode looks at how the US news media analyzed the war on terror in the decade following 9/11. The Listening Post also looked at the US news media’s lack of coverage of Bradley Manning, and the story of Yemeni journalist Abdelah Haider Shaye who is in prison in Yemen at the request of President Obama.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

International Broadcasters

The following 7 news outlets are English-language international broadcasters. All but one (CNN International) are funded by foreign governments. I discussed international broadcasting that is funded by the United State government in my post on the BBG. For those who are tired of hearing about the meaningless trial tabloid stories that occasionally overwhelm mainstream US television news (Kardashians, the Sarah Palin bus tour, Charlie Sheen, Lindsey Lohan’s legal troubles, Royal Weddings, etc. ad infinitum.) some of these outlets can offer substantive world news coverage as an alternative.   


BBC News is funded by the British government. BBC stands for British Broadcasting Corporation. The BBC provides news to Britain and has a separate branch, called BBC World News, which broadcasts internationally in a variety of languages. In the US, BBC News can sometimes be found on local public radio or public television stations. BBC News is a standard bearer in producing high quality world news.

France 24

France 24 is funded by the French government. It broadcasts in French, English, and Arabic. It produces high quality news as well.

CNN International

CNN International (CNNI) is an English-language news channel that is the version of CNN viewers outside of the US see. It is owned by the Time Warner corporation and, unlike the rest of the international broadcasters profiled in this post, is not funded by a government. CNNI carries some of the same shows as CNN US, such as Anderson Cooper 360, The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, Piers Morgan Tonight, and State of the Union with Candy Crowley. Many of CNNI’s shows, however, does not appear on CNN US. These include International Desk and Amanpour. CNNI has covered the Arab Spring protests in Bahrain. CNN US has not.

Al Jazeera English

Al Jazeera English (AJE) is funded by the government of Qatar, a small nation in the Middle East.  Its sister channel is Al Jazeera Arabic. AJE is an incredibly high-quality world news channel.

In addition to its daily reporting, AJE has several specialty programs as well. People and Power is an hour-long program that investigates the some of the world’s most interesting and important topics. Listening Post is a show that examines the global media.

Here is a story from NPR’s On the Media that discusses the clash between supporters and opponents of access to Al Jazeera English on a local cable system in Vermont.

Russia Today

Russia Today (RT) is funded by the Russian government. RT America is a sister channel that has many of the same programs but has more shows that focus on the US. RT has sister channels that broadcast in Russian, Spanish, and Arabic.

RT has a bad habit of bringing on conspiracy theorists as credible guests. Birthers, Truthers, and the notorious conspiracy theorist Alex Jones have all found a platform on the channel. RT also skews its coverage of stories that could show Russia in a negative light. This kind of malpractice is hardly unique to RT, however. The US Press skews the coverage of stories that could portray US foreign policy in a negative light as well.

None of this is to say that RT doesn’t produce some valuable reporting; it merely means that RT should be watched with a skeptical eye. RT has some specialty programs that I enjoy. I watch The Alyona Show, The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann, and Julian Assange’s show on RT.


CCTV News is funded by the Chinese government.

Press TV

Press TV is funded by the Iranian government.

In 2009 Press TV aired a confession from Maziar Bahari, a Canadian-Iranian journalist, which was obtained through torture. The confession was staged to look like a normal interview. Bahari had been charged with espionage and was released after spending 4 months in an Iranian prison.