PETER'S NEW YORK, Friday, March 4, 2016--A U.S. congressman has charged National Public Radio with being a shill for the U.S. government, in spite of the insistence by one of NPR's star moderators that the radio network is a news organization that upholds the standards of objective journalism.
On NPR's "Morning Edition" syndicated news program yesterday, the program's moderator, David Greene, asserted that NPR maintained journalistic objectivity. "I do want to assure you, I mean, we're not promoting any cause here," said Greene. "I mean, it's our role to be journalists."
California Congressman Darrell Issa, who was being interviewed by Greene, immediately challenged Greene's assertion.
"David, you are being an advocate," said Issa. "So let's understand this - you keep returning to things that are said by the FBI that have already been shown to be not true. What the director is saying that you're paraphrasing simply isn't true."
The spat was over the recent insistence by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation that Apple Inc., the high-tech manufacturer, write computer code that would enable the FBI to access the cell phone of one of the alleged perpetrators of the December 2 massacre in San Bernardino, California.
A husband and wife, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, are accused by law enforcement with perpetrating the shootings that left 14 dead. The couple were mowed down by law enforcement in their van after the massacre, according to news reports. It appears they were not given the opportunity to surrender, and other circumstances surrounding the incident remain murky, such as whether the couple were armed or not.
Issa was insistent that NPR was deliberately taking on the government's viewpoint in the Apple case, rather than acting as an independent-journalistic arbiter. "Look, the government lies. Understand - this may be NPR - but the government lies to you," said Issa, according to an NPR transcript available on the network's website. "I have spent 10 years representing the people of California," he continued. "And I have seen governments, both Republican and Democratic, lie. If you want to promote the fact that your listeners can have all of their data remotely taken by their government at any time if they happen to get a FISA judge in secrecy to give them an authorization to do it, go ahead."
NPR has a disclaimer on its website saying that transcripts may contain errors, and that it stands only by the absolute accuracy of the audio of any broadcast over what could be a hastily compiled transcript. But PETER'S NEW YORK has found that the transcript appears to be an accurate representation of audio.
The interview stemmed from Issa's questioning of witnesses Wednesday at a congressional hearing on the FBI's insistence that Apple engineer a means of obtaining access to data on the one cell phone in question, apparently manufactured by Apple. But Issa asserts that the FBI's intention is to obtain much broader access.
"He doesn't want this one," Issa told Greene in the interview. "They have 12 more that they have. They have asked for unlock in other jurisdictions, other cases. And one of our witnesses, of course, has 175 that they want to unlock.
"It's not about terrorism at all," said Issa. "The issue is that the FBI asked for more than they needed. And if they were given it, it would set a bad precedent for all of America's liberties."
NPR and much of its distribution network receive federal funding, but also are kept afloat by corporate sponsors and contributions from their listening audiences. Critics contend the network is not much more than a "Radio Free Europe" directed at domestic American audiences.