Naked City

Nailing Down Neil

If the name Neil Livingstone sounds familiar, it's probably because he has been a ubiquitous media presence since Sept. 11. When the subject is terrorism, Livingstone -- who will deliver a free lecture at the Texas Union on Nov. 6 -- is one of the first people the networks and newspapers call. He's appeared on Nightline, Crossfire, Meet the Press, and Dateline, among many other shows, serves as a consultant to corporations and the government, and in 1982 wrote a book titled The War Against Terrorism. As described in the Texas Union's press release, he is "one of the country's most visible anti-terrorism experts."

Not everyone is so enamored of Livingstone's expertise, however. In the July/August 1995 issue of its magazine Extra!, the left-wing media criticism group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (F.A.I.R.) published a report on the most-quoted terrorism "experts" in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing -- as well as those experts' frequent errors. F.A.I.R. cited Livingstone as one of four whose credentials were most questionable (along with Steve Emerson, Vincent Cannistraro, and Daniel Pipes). F.A.I.R. ridiculed terrorism advice Livingstone gave to a Washington Post reporter ("If you don't want to look like an American, wear tinted glasses") and stressed how quickly he had blamed the Middle East for Oklahoma City (which, of course, was wrong). When OKC turned out to be the work of a right-wing American extremist, Livingstone told Meet the Press, "We didn't think they were that severe a threat until these events. We don't see these people as terrorists, but there are some troublemakers."

Wharton University Professor Edward S. Herman devoted three highly critical pages to Livingstone in his 1989 book The "Terrorism" Industry: The Experts and Institutions That Shape Our View of Terror. In particular, he blasts Livingstone for having a "talent for disinformation" and for conveniently becoming more right-wing as the Reagan doctrine took hold. Herman also slams Livingstone for an unsubstantiated theory that the Iranian civilian airliner IAF-655 (blown out of the air by the U.S. Navy in 1988) was on a suicide mission against the USS Vincennes. Livingstone speculated that bodies fished out of the water were corpses planted in the plane by the Iranians to arouse world opinion against the U.S.

Fiercely anti-communist while soft on American-supported terrorism, Livingstone once said of Latin American death squads, we "should not wring our hands over this problem." And if that weren't enough, Herman notes, Livingstone is a staunch ally of Iran-Contra criminal Oliver North. Iran-Contra plotters attempted to use Livingstone's Institute on Terrorism and Subnational Conflict as a conduit for contra funding, according to the Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair.

Have questions for Mr. Livingstone? His lecture at the Union Ballroom (23rd & Guadalupe) begins at 7:30pm on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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