June 8th, 2009
11:40 AM ET

Morning Buzz: 2 American Journalists Sentenced

Penny Manis
AC360° Senior Producer

News out of North Korea this morning: Two American journalists have been found guilty of what that government calls “grave crimes”. They had been covering the plight of defectors living along the China-North Korea border when they were detained and accused of illegal border crossing + spying. They now face 12 years in prison and 'reform with labor', the country’s state-run media said. Sounds like a nightmare, right?

The State Department has reacted, stating concern for the 2 American citizen journalists and urging North Korea to grant their immediate release on humanitarian grounds. This news comes as the Obama administration considers placing Pyongyang back on the list of states that sponsor terrorism following their recent nuclear and missile tests.

We’ll have reaction from the families tonight, and talk to former US officials who have experience dealing with North Korea- is there any chance of freedom for these women? What is labor camp like? Is it possible to negotiate with this country?

17 bodies have been recovered from the wreckage of Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean. Will there be any more clues as to what happened to this plane that went missing? We’re keeping a close eye on this story that has everyone perplexed.

The man accused of killing the Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller issued a warning from his jail cell via cell phone to a news organization: he says similar acts of violence are in the works across the country, causing the Justice Department to order stepped-up security at abortion clinics. Does he have possible accomplices?

Sanjay Gupta has put together a strong report on a top contender for the worst natural disaster in US history, and here’s the kicker: 5 months later-hardly anyone has heard about it, and hardly anything is being done about it.

We are Keeping Them Honest and taking you to Tennessee where one billion gallons of coal sludge has blanketed hundreds of acres of land and community residents are worried about getting sick. We may air this story tonight or tomorrow, depending on the overall news mix, you won’t want to miss it!

See u at 10pet!

Filed under: Penny Manis • The Buzz
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Lynna

    My heart and prayers go out to Ling and Lee and their families. Our goverment is trying hard to request the release of these two journalists on 'Humanitarian Ground'. The North Korea sentenced the two women merely for their political gain. Obviously the journalists didn't get the fair trials as to what happened. As Secretary Clinton said, that the trial was secretive. The world also acknowledged that the North Korean goverment was too harsh on the sentence by rallying and holding candlelight vigils for their safety home.

    June 9, 2009 at 12:48 am |
  2. Evelyn Shreve

    This is one of many instances where US citizens arrogantly go to other countries, break the law and cry for sympathy and ask the president to intervene. Everyone is then shocked that other countries actually impose penalties on crime to an American !!!! How dare they!!!
    We wouldn't like it if we set free every foreign criminal and just sent them home, would we? That whole concept is ludicrous except, I guess where the violators of law are Americans and can somehow get national publicity. No wonder the world has a contempt for the US pompousness.

    June 8, 2009 at 4:44 pm |
  3. Spelunker

    Jason, my man, ...nice try!

    I've been posting similar questions and thoughts on Anderson's blog as well as at other network news sites (such as FOX) and many of my comments either get deleted or defeated by the Tiananmen-like umbrellas of moderation.

    While American media continues to say Mitch Koss won't talk, there is at least one radio transcript I've read (Australian Broadcasting Corporation reporter Mark Willacy) stating Mitch's position:

    "Pyongyang says they illegally set foot on North Korean territory but supporters of the journalists say they were on the Chinese side of the border and that's been backed up by the reporter's cameraman who was working with the two women but managed to escape. He's backed their story that North Korean border guards arrested the pair on the Chinese side of the border."

    Will the truth spoken by Mitch Koss set these girls free? I have a feeling that he might accompany Al Gore as part of a private sector Current TV envoy entourage to Pyongyang. However I'm not sure if we will ever see his full deposition.

    One of the posts that has remained on AC 360's blog is my focus on the key word "intention". I do believe Lisa Ling when she says the Current TV crew had no intention of crossing the China border when they left San Francisco in March. They could have completed their assignment in Yanji (interviewing North Korean refugees) without setting foot on the Tumen River. Somehow that intention changed on the morning of March 17. I agree with you in aiming speculation at that ethnic Korean guide who is a citizen of China. What incentive would a citizen of China have in taking 3 US passport holding journalists dangerously close to North Korean sentries? Perhaps a comfortable vacation considering the fact that the reward given the guide for getting them in will still only be a fraction of the price Al Gore will be asked to pay to get them out.

    You and I have similar suspicions about this guide. I would like to know who hired this guide. I don't believe the guide is in Pyongyang as there are multiple media reports stating that the guide evaded capture at the Tumen River border area along with Mitch Koss. My advice to any journalists thinking about a future trip to the China/North Korea border is not to hire a local guide if the actual boundary is part of your itinerary.

    June 8, 2009 at 4:23 pm |
  4. Jacelyn Natonabah

    I do not think it was accidental that two journalists "wondered" into NK they wanted news results, besides that its their job. But NK seriously over reacted and they are well known for doing so. I am conserned for their well being, and I hope they get out soon. NK has no reason to imprision these two women for 12 years its ridiculuos! This kind of upset is just mind blowing and annoying.

    June 8, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  5. Janet

    Where is Nixon when we need him?

    June 8, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  6. jen

    As an american, it breaks my heart to agree with you Lance, but I need to. I believe that we are "hypocritical", not only regarding this case but with so many others! There was a report awhile back about women and their struggles reporting in other countries. It is time for all americans to realize that we are very fortunate to be living in a country where individual rights are valued most of the time. But those rights are not international! If you go to a bordering state and do something that is illegal in that state, can you play ignorance? Why is it then, that you can go to another country and claim ignorance?

    June 8, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  7. Lydia

    How shocking for the 2 journalists. I truly feel overwhelmed for their situation, having worked for and just done my job in a war torn area, myself. I hope, wish, and pray that my country will do the right thing and take care of it's fellow US Citizens! I'm sure in their minds they are counting on and hoping for the same thing. Somebody do something please!

    June 8, 2009 at 1:54 pm |
  8. karen

    Doesn't the liberal media want this?

    we have two journalist in North Korea who are against the government. I mean, people wake up. These journalist are against the most peaceful government in the world. Why would they do this? Why would they speak up against the government of North Korea?

    Remind you liberals. Arent you guys trying to silence conservatives here in the United States?

    I dont like liberals, I hate your views, but I would never allow the government to silence you guys. I might disagree with you but will fight to the death your right to say what you want.

    June 8, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  9. Pablo Isasmendi

    I think that Obama should step in and help Lisa ling get her sisters out. Lisa is such a good person and good human being, a humanitarian as her sisters are; this is a tragedy. We all should do something to help her and petition the Korean government for there safe release. Lisa and her sister have dedicated there lives in making our world better, we need to help her out.

    June 8, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  10. Jason

    Since Anderson is well known for his fair and objective reporting, I would like to see more reporting on how these two women ended up so close to N. Korea and why they did not adhere to 50 + years of known hostility by N. Korean government. Exactly what happened is unclear from N. Korean side. But exactly what happened on our side is very clear. Pastor who organized the trip made it very CLEAR not to cross the border. (IF you aren't sure, then stay further back to be sure).

    Whether they were briefed about past hostile actions by N. Koreans needs to be reported. Were they told?? Did they ignore or didn't take N. Korea seriously ?? According to the reports on our side, they were told by N. Korean guards not to video tape into N. Korea. Why did they continue ?? (Where is full debriefing of Mr. Koss, the camera person ?? We never see him on TV anywhere. He was there. Where is his account of "exactly" what happened ??)

    There is the third person, Chinese-Korean translator. Where is public cry for his release ?? All fair minded Americans care about is their own two women, yet cry human rights. Let's hear for the translator's release and vigils !!!!!

    This story has legs beyond two women captured. Anderson needs to do extensive reporting on this.....To be fair to humanity and uphold American ideal of fair to all people, not just Americans..

    Please contact me if you need more information.

    June 8, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  11. Philoan M. Tran - Houston

    It is truly sad news for these two journalists and their families...I hope that the US will do everything to get these women released because those labor camps will be horrible.

    June 8, 2009 at 1:20 pm |
  12. c,ca

    Although I feel sorry for Lee and Ling's families, the fact remains that these two women got themselves into this predicament. The N.Koreans did not kidnap them off the streets of Manhattan.

    N. Korea is run by a dangerous, authoritarian dictator – everyone knows this – N. Korea wants everyone to know it. Why were Lee and Ling there? We are not living in the days of explorers stumbling around our flat earth by using sundials and constellations. We are living in the age of Sat Nav. They should've known where they were.

    I visited China a few years ago. The people were cordial to us , but we were always aware of the fact that we were visitors in a country that is very different from the U.S. If we were asked not to take pictures of something – we didn't take pictures. We complied with their requests, feeling that it was probably in our best interests to do so. We were visitors in their country- we were not in a position to make demands.

    The sentence is extreme and I feel sorry for them. However this is like people who surf or dive then moan about a shark attacking them. The shark did not come into your kitchen to bite you... you were in HIS kitchen. Lee and Ling put themselves into dangerous territory and they got bitten.

    June 8, 2009 at 1:19 pm |
  13. Guillermo - Los Angeles

    What is going on with the Koreans living in the U.S. Why don't you make contact with their newspapers and radio and TV networks that they so freely enjoy here in our country and put pressure on them to speak out against this madness. Why the silence? After all they are reaping and exploiting the benefits of our democracy and system of government. They use their own banks, their own churches to avoid taxes and still decide to turn their backs to these two Americans. We are stupid because we are facilitators, but do not have the courage to ask the Koreans in the U.S. to step forward and do what is right. Are they with us? Why let the Chinese talk to North Korea? They sided with them in the Korean war. Learn from history.

    June 8, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  14. Lance

    These reporters broke North Korean law and were tried in their courts and found guilty. They new what country they were entering and should follow that countries laws. I think it is hypocritical for Americans to be calling this inhumane when there is a Canadian with the last name Khadr who has been held in your military prison since he was sixteen (over 7 years ago) and has not had a trial or been convicted of any crime and there is no evidence of him actually committing a crime. Stop being hypocritical America and leave your tried and convicted in North Korea and send our untried and innocent young man home.

    June 8, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  15. Martina Ilstad Germany

    I am really shocked.
    Journalist of the wold take care where you go to do just your job,maybe there is no way out.
    North Korea let this women free.

    June 8, 2009 at 12:51 pm |
  16. Kyle

    I was shocked that these reporters were actually imprisoned. It's also surprising that N Korea would sentence these women to 12 years in prison, when CNN has said that the maximum sentence is 10 years!

    Our government should do everything it can to fix the situation as soon as possible. Sec of State Clinton should be outraged that N Korea gave a sentence of 2 more years of hard labor than what is actually allowed under the law.

    June 8, 2009 at 12:08 pm |
  17. JC- Los Angeles

    This is a wonderful opportunity for President Obama to show his diplomatic skills and execute on his desire to rule the world.

    He bagged corporate America after nine months; then bailed on a law profession; skipped out on the Senate; and is now stomaching the presidency since he truly wants to rule the world.

    I voted for him and times like these are why.

    June 8, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  18. Rachel

    First of all, Mr President, Sec of State Clinton, bring these women home!!!!, this is totally ridiculous, and 2nd, Anderson you do a great job of keeping it real, continue the good works, I watch CNN on a daily basis

    June 8, 2009 at 11:54 am |
  19. Tammy, Berwick, LA

    I'm saddened that these reporters are enduring this. I'm even sadder that their families and friends are enduring this. They all know that the job entails risks of freedom, health, and possibly life if these journalists report on issues and/or in areas that can endanger them. Each time a reporter breaks a story where the boogeymen of the world exist, there's a chance those monsters aren't going to play nice. They didn't in this case. North Korea has the pawns if you will. Considering that they are testing nuclear weapons in defiance of the world and could care less what governments, the UN, or anyone else thinks, do you honestly think two reporters that they view as enemies of the state matter? I'd say it's a State Department matter at this point and leave it to the experts to handle this one. There is far more at stake in US-North Korean relations than two reporters who should have known better than to be there reporting on that story in the first place.

    June 8, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  20. GF, Los Angeles

    I'm surprised there isn't more coverage and outrage before the sentencing of Ling and Euna until now. I wonder if the pressure was there in the first place, maybe they would've never been sentenced.

    June 8, 2009 at 11:43 am |
  21. Isabel, Brazil

    Good morning, Penny!

    So many bad news!

    Yesterday teams searches rescued 17 bodies and dozens of pieces of the Airbus. Now it are collecting DNA from relatives for the recognition. This should be suffered so! They have seen more bodies. I think that now must find more.

    In interviews some relatives of Flight 447 think better find some answers on own. Others think it was better to live with hope and leave everything to the ocean.
    One of the hard moment for the family, it is difficult to say what I do in their place.
    When a person is sick and dies, we believe that it rested, it was a relief. But these people were in work or leisure. It is sad!

    Poor Laura Ling and Euna Lee! Legally speaking, what does the American government can do?
    Interesting to know what hard labor in a prison in North Korea. And how are the conditions of a prison there?
    I imagine to be bad, very bad ... perhaps the same level of the prisons here in my country. Oh, Gosh!

    The judgement was conducted in a time of increased tension because of the nuclear program of North Korea. Was not allowed foreign observers were present at the court hearing. Why? Is the international law apply in these cases? Or the government of the country that determines this?

    In time: what were the hostile acts that they did?

    Laura Ling and Lee Euna now are used as a bargaining piece by North Korea. We expect the US government can do something. As we, ordinary people and media, can exert pressure to help them.

    June 8, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  22. Patsy from Lapeer MI

    How sad and terrifying for Euna and Laura . . .how can people treat others so unfairly? Isn't it pretty clear they made a mistake by crossing the border? This is my worst nightmare when traveling overseas. Is there anything the ordinary citizen can do to be helpful?

    June 8, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  23. Claudia, New York

    I am disgusted that those 2 journalists were sentenced to 12 years, and are being used as bargaining chips. I hope the US doesnt give in to anything., and still gets them back. I pray for their safety and families.

    June 8, 2009 at 10:39 am |
  24. Michelle D . Fonthill. Ont

    Good Morning Penny

    I'm so sad to learn this about these poor women it's not fair i hope they can do something toi get them relased .North Korea is so warped i can't understand why they are hurting these women for they did nothing except their jobs .I can't imagine the pain Lisa Ling and her family is feeling now ,it's so heartbreaking for them to be watching this unfold .I pray they will be home soon .

    Thanks for the buzz
    Michelle D.

    June 8, 2009 at 10:34 am |
  25. Stella

    I heard on the news that there are supposed to be 7 to 10 days of time frame prior to jail time. Hopefully, we can get those two women out of North Korea before they send them to "hard labor" prison. This is inhumane. I really feel bad for those women and their families. From the information that we have had, those two women were just doing their job as journalists.

    June 8, 2009 at 10:34 am |
  26. Jeffrey Wright

    In President Obama's speech in Egypt he said that, in effect, the American people do not assume to know what is best for other countries and that Democracy isn't a global initiative we are attempting to spread. While the President is right, is this not one nation were we definitely understand that what is happening to its people shouldn't be? What is happening to these two journalists shouldn't be?

    As someone who's stood on the border between the North & South I can tell you it's a lot like being in a film. You don't realize, nor understand why it is the way it is, but only feel like it's a useless facade. The only difference being that the paranoia in the air is so thick you can cut a piece out.

    "We do not negotiate with terrorists." I believe this was a staple of the campaign trail for both candidates... I guess the question is... are we about to?

    At what point is this country, devoid of everything humanitarian, going to cause great destruction in the world and eventually lead us down a path of 20/20 hindsight were we look at every possible angle and ask ourselves, "why didn't we do something sooner?"

    What's the saying on the playground? The big bully is really just insecure inside, but the kid you really need to watch out for is the quiet one in the corner, the one you rarely hear from and often pretend is too small to do any damage, until it's too late.


    June 8, 2009 at 10:29 am |
  27. earle,florida

    These two girls caught in the wrong place at the wrong time,will cost america dearly. I'm curious if Sanjay is thinking about, "Worldwide Famine" regarding the lack of water,and polution (desease we've created in our planets exterior/interior lifeblood) that sustains our very existence. PS. Has anyone notice that the reference to the planet's land/water mass: ie.) " land (1/3) mass versus water (2/3) mass" has been bandied about and refered to as 20% land (1/5) mass,whereas it's always been refered to as 33.3%(1/3)? Just a curiousity on how the public is so subtly being subplanted with mind-altering thoughtlessness. What gives? Finally,never really was able to attain the entire Air France Flight #447 manifest of passengers?

    June 8, 2009 at 10:22 am |
  28. Cindy

    It's sad to hear that N. Korea has sentenced Lee and Ling to 12 yrs in a labor camp. I'm not shocked at all though. I figured that they would get a harsh sentence. Considering that N Korea has done this before with Evan Hunziker..who was drunk and swam across the river into NK...I am sure they will release Lee and Ling for money and some promises made by the US regarding sanctions and what not just like they did with Evan. Let's just hope this nuke thing doesn't cause a stall in the talks.

    I was wondering if they would ever find anything of flight 447 or it's passengers. At least now some families will have their loved ones remains and can bury them properly.


    June 8, 2009 at 9:32 am |
  29. Patti

    WHAT is wrong with this country of N Korea???? This is clearly a crock of crap!
    Those poor women and their families.
    I have no words for how much I feel for them – I will continue to pray for their release!

    June 8, 2009 at 9:22 am |