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September 28, 2006

Is MPR being censored or self-censored?

Midday - Washington Press Club -Program on 9/11/06 I notice that Minnesota lost the audio feed during this program. It was right at the point where the question was asked of one of the quests, "Where there people that the 9/11 Commission wanted to interview but were not able to(or allowed)?"

We lost the feed to the program right when one of the quests emphatically replied "Yes!" Gary E. came on a few minutes later and explained they had lost the feed.

This if very disconcerting.

MPR went off the air a few days later during a Midday program that was discussing bipartisanship of congress. One of the quests said something to the effect that Rudy Boswitch (I believe) was wrong. White noise. This time 91.1 FM went off the air entirely.

Is MPR being censored or self-censored?


Minneapolis, MN

Dear Stephen, Alas, no skullduggery was involved in that one-minute-and-six-second gap you heard during the 09/11/06 "Midday" program.

Gov. Kean's comments weren't redacted, censored or jammed. We simply lost the audio feed from the National Press Club, for reasons that are disappointingly mundane. We have pretty reliable audio linkups for live speeches, but technical glitches do still happen sometimes. Sara Meyer, the producer of "Midday", has assured us that there was nothing sinister behind it.

Lexis-Nexus has the complete text of the program, so here is the complete question and answer. The portion that was missing from our broadcast is set in blockquote:

QUESTION: Were there any documents you would have liked to have seen or any people you would have liked to interview during the investigation that you did not have access to? What are they? And why couldn't you get them? (Laughter.)

MR. KEAN: I believe got finally, after pulling hair or pulling teeth, whatever we had to pull, all the documents we wanted. I don't know -- now, some might emerge out of government that we didn't know about. But after a lot of work and a lot of huge negotiations -- Lee and I were negotiating with the White House almost every day for a while, long hours, trying to get what we needed. But eventually we did get, I think, everything we needed, including access to the holy of holies, the PDB, presidential daily briefings.

As far as who to talk to, the only people we didn't talk to that we really wanted to talk to badly
were the detainees. We asked for them; we got a flat "no." We came back and asked for them harder; we got an even flatter "no." And there was question, I think, that George Tenet was not going to give us any of those people or even tell us where they were. But on the other hand, I don't think the government was terribly happy about our making it a public case -- trying to issue subpoenas or anything like that. So we finally ended up with a compromise that really wasn't satisfactory to either of us, I don't think, but it was a compromise that we lived with, and that was that we could ask questions of any of the detainees in writing and that the people who were talking to them trying to get information out of them would those questions and come back with the answers to us; and we had follow-ups, we could do the same procedure.

It wasn't entirely satisfactory. When you look somebody in the eye and ask them a question, you can learn a lot more than just if you submit something in writing. But we just weren't going to win that one, and we didn't have time to fight it out in the courts. So we did what we could, and we were able to talk to the detainees in a sense in writing. We got the answers back, and the judgment we had to make was, "How accurate are these statements? And how do they match up with other things we're doing," but we did our best. And the information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a number of the other detainees is in fact in the 9/11 Commission Report.

MR. HAMILTON: Just an anecdote, we had a meeting set up with George Tenet and his top officials at the CIA to discuss access to the detainees. We gathered around in the directors luncheon room, and we were standing at the seats before we took our seats for lunch. And George Tenet leaned over and said, "Lee, you're not going to get access to the detainees. Meeting adjourned." So we knew very early on their attitude on this. We kept plugging along, as Tom -- we suggested all kinds of things: questioning these people behind mirrors, going blindfolded to the sites and many other options. They rejected all of them.

In the end, we submitted thousands of questions to them, and we got those answers, but they came through the CIA interrogators. The problem here, of course, is obvious. The CIA was questioning those people in order to prevent future attacks; that's their aim.
We had a different purpose. We wanted to question them about what happened in the past, two very different purposes, and there were reasons for the CIA's position. But a disappointment on our part that we didn't see them eyeball to eyeball.

Michael Popham
Minnesota Public Radio Member Listener Services