COMMENTS: Johnny Walker Blue

None of the networks had assigned a reporter to the military tribunal for the self-confessed Australian al-Qaeda aide David Hicks. So it was confusing when CBS' substitute anchor Russ Mitchell introduced a followup to the Hicks case, revisiting the incarceration of John Walker Lindh, the Californian Moslem found fighting in Afghanistan in 2001.

Hicks, who had been locked up by the USNavy at Guantanamo Bay for five years, pled guilty when he was finally brought before the tribunal. He received a sentence of time served plus a further nine months. This struck Walker Lindh's parents as lenient so they granted an exclusive interview to John Blackstone to plead for similar consideration for their son, who is facing 15 more years in maximum security federal prison, "not for terrorism, but for supplying services to the Taliban" as Blackstone pointed out.

CBS' legal analyst Andrew Cohen called Walker Lindh "a victim of timing" and implied that he would not be so severely sentenced in the current climate, which is less "intense" and "harsh." To remind us of the mood back then, Blackstone replayed a clip of President George Bush's pre-trial description of the then-20-year-old: "He is working with the enemy." After airing the parent's pleas, Blackstone commented that their likelihood for success is "a longshot."

UPDATE: at the conservative Brad Wilmouth (text link) argues that Blackstone's report exhibits liberal bias because it does not consider that Hicks' sentence was too light and it does not quote anyone unsympathetic to Walker Lindh (although the President could hardly be called a sympathizer). Whether the explanation is bias or some other flaw, it is certainly true that the networks did undercover the Hicks case and the circumstances of his sentencing.


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