When ABC Discovered The Location Of The CIA’s Secret Prisons, It Caved To Administration Pressure — Sort Of

By Brian 

> Update: 3:56pm: “You’ve got to give ABC News and particularly Brian Ross a whole lot of credit for breaking one world exclusive after another about torture, rendition and secret prisons,” an ABC e-mailer responds. “In fact, the administration requested that ABC News not report this story at all. ABC News did report robustly — breaking news that the prisons in Eastern Europe had been moved to Northern Africa. Interestingly, ABC News took considerable heat from the right for the very same report claiming ABC News had gone too far. In the end, ABC News’ audience has been well served by ABC News’ aggressive reporting.” Alterman does give ABC credit and says Ross’s reporting stood out…

Eric Alterman tells a sad and funny story in The Nation:

In the first week of December, ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross discovered that the CIA appeared to be rolling up its secret prisons in Eastern Europe.

The Bush administration “leaned on the network not to name the two countries — which were by then common knowledge. Given four days to make its case, the Administration took its time, replying well past the deadline for ABC’s planned broadcast of Ross’s report. Just as Rice’s plane was pulling its wheels up, ABC got the call they’d been waiting for asking them not to identify Poland and Romania. The executives agreed to the Administration’s request.

What makes this story farcical is not only that the countries’ names had already been published all over the world but that they had been published by ABC News. Even as the top ABC brass agreed to edit Ross’s report to drop his direct confirmation of the two countries’ identities, an audio version of his radio report was available on the ABC News website. In it he explained in a no-nonsense manner, “The Secretary of State is being asked to confirm or deny reports that the CIA established secret prisons for terrorist suspects in Poland and Romania. Current and former CIA officers tell ABC News the truthful answer is ‘Yes, they did,’ starting in Poland in 2002.” Yet that night on World News Tonight as well as on Nightline, Ross’s major scoop was played down, and the “credit” or responsibility for identifying the two countries went to Human Rights Watch rather than Ross’s energetic reporting.”

Alterman continues: “My sources at ABC tell me that when the ABC execs agreed to the Administration’s ‘request’ not to name the two nations, they were unaware that ABC radio and ABC.com had already broadcast their names. By the time the network realized it was agreeing not to do something it had already done, everybody had become obsessed with the multimedia production of introducing the two new anchors for World News Tonight, Bob Woodruff and Elizabeth Vargas, which occurred that day.”