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Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Bye, Bye Miss American Spy

Posted by James McPherson on April 18, 2009

American journalist Roxana Saberi, a former Miss North Dakota, has been sentenced to eight years in an Iranian prison after she was convicted in a secret court proceeding of being a spy. Saberi was working as a freelancer for National Public Radio at the time, and also has filed reports for Fox News and the BBC, according to one report.

The U.S. State Department, the Committee to Protect Journalists and NPR all have voiced concerns about the case. Saberi’s father said her testimony had been coerced, and that the sentence would be appealed.  Naturally I can’t logically weigh in about Saberi’s guilt or innocence–and neither can anyone else, because of the secrecy and obvious political bias involved.

In other words, a political and legal situation like the one offered in the United States by the Bush administration (including its treatment of foreign journalists such as Sami al-Hajj). And of course Bush did so much to promote good relations with Iran.

31 Responses to “Bye, Bye Miss American Spy”

  1. huh said

    A quick, pat move of goalposts and we can invoke Godwin’s Law: Bushitler, Bushitler, Bushitler, Bushitler, Bushitler, Bushitler, Bushitler, Bushitler, Bushitler, Bushitler, Bushitler, Bushitler.
    Ah, well, looks like its time to mention global warming, Zion oil cabals, climate change, the GOP looking like, uh, Hitler, looking like Bush. Buishitler, Bushitler.

  2. Release Roxana Now (ReleaseRoxanaNow) wrote:

    It is a shame Iran has convicted Roxana Saberi just because she is a dissident. It is high time that all rational people stand up and say no more.
    Release Roxana Now.

    Please Join Release Roxana Now group at facebook

  3. Anon E. Mouse said

    We need to wipe that nation of monkeys off the map.

  4. e sims said

    huh is a faggot

  5. Luis Lopez said

    Good to see such educated, nuanced discourse from everyone who has commented so far. (end sarcasm)

  6. James McPherson said

    Yes, Luis, it seems that with anonymous posters the level of intellect far too often matches the level of courage. It’s sad when the filter traps more coherent and logical messages from Eastern European spammers than are provided by actual people who feel moved to comment. I guess it is good to be reminded they’re out there, though.

  7. rina said

    If she confessed of being a spy…well that is serious..but if they were made her to do so .. poor her… i think she will left alone there ..

  8. YosemiteSam said

    Rina she was tortured and forced to lie. No one gets a fair trial in Iran. The trial was a farce. This is what the so called men of God that run Iran consider fair. Shame on them.

  9. The hard-liners in Iran are desperate and vicious people. They have done this because they fear a dialog with the United States, might further break down the siege mentality that they use to rule their nation. As President Obama is seeking that dialog, they are looking for whatever outrage they can find that will sabotage it.

  10. Peter Manski said

    What can I say. Another sad story. Of course, I’m sure she’s not spending time shackled in a tiny cell, sexually molested, sprayed with insects, waterboarded, etc… From a bit of research on this unfortunate young lady, there is a more than 50% probability that she did some work with the us gov. Pretty dumb after all her studies and knowing how the Iran regime operates she confessed. Of course, after Israel finally nukes Iran and starves the Palestinian people to death, she could be the next western Iranian leader puppet.

    If we truly stand up for truth, fairness, liberty, justice, etc… let’s abolish all governments, central banks, interest rates, the military-industrial complex, the police state and free all the spies, all the journalists, and all the other victims of government coercion and manipulation. Just to point out the us has the highest prison and conviction sanctioned population in the world. Between 3 to 5 times the number in Iran.

    In the end, I’m sure Iran well show it’s humble face. Miss. Saberi will be much more comfortable than those in us prisons, better treated, and will eventually, fairly soon, be released. I just hope once this happens, Miss. Saberi is honest about her treatment and instead of playing espionage games focuses not just on Iran, but dedicates her life and the opportunities that she has been given to exposing the real problems plaguing and oppressing civilization. Godspeed here release!

  11. James McPherson said

    Saberi’s father says she was nearly finished with a book about Iran when she was arrested (perhaps being nearly done was why she stayed after her work permit expired). The book might make interesting reading.

    You may have also seen that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has now said she should be allowed a “full defense” during her appeal.

  12. PolakMaly said

    You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in Counterintelligence and Espionage to figure that out. Of course, I could provide you links to books on probability and statistics if you’re not familiar with that branch of mathematics. What kind of journalist did you say she was? Cause I’m having a real hard time finding any real journalism in her name. Kind of funny for someone to spend a sixth of their life in a foreign country and not publish anything, especially after having graduate degrees from three top notch universities. I’m beginning to beg the question whether those degrees are for real.

    P.S. Her mother claim’s that she’s “a world-renowned journalist.” How come she has no myspace, no facebook, no blogs, no journals, no interviews, nothing published. The only thing there is are about five unprofessionally done several second segments supposedly for FOX about nothing of real importance. No human rights, no woman’s issues, nothing! Not even an activist. By the way the videos I’m mentioning about have already been removed. They were on her official website (http://freeroxanasaberi.webs.com/). Kind of empty if you ask me. The comment, perhaps a bit strong, that I posted here has also been removed.

    If she wants to be a real world-renowned journalist, perhaps now is the time to start. I wish her all the best! Godspeed her release and all the other political prisoners!

    Her Credentials:
    *A 1994 honor graduate of North High School, Roxana was active in music, soccer, Key Club, and danceline.
    *Roxana earned a double major in French and Communication in 1997 from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN.
    *She remained active with music, soccer, and reporting for the campus television and newspaper.
    *In 1997, she was selected Miss North Dakota; and was a Top Ten Finalist at the Miss America competition, winning the Scholar Award.
    *In 1999, she completed a Master’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from Northwestern University in Chicago (Northwestern is a Hot Spot CIA recruitment territory).
    *In 2000. Roxana earned a Master’s Degree in International Relations from Cambridge University in England.

    Her Experience:
    *Roxana has worked in video journalism and reporting for various television stations and agencies in several states and England.
    *Since 2003, she has served as a free lance journalist representing various international organizations, including the BBC (What international organization?).
    *She is presently residing in Tehran, Iran, where she reports on the Middle East; and is completing work on a Master’s Degree in Iranian Studies and International Relations.
    *Roxana Saberi with former Iranian President Mohammad
    Khatami (http://www.payvand.com/news/09/mar/Roxana-Saberi-Khatami.jpg)


  13. PolakMaly said

    The problem is much more complicated than this simplified discussion. The media is blowing it out of proportion and yes people are raped and battered. But the problem is worldwide. Worldwide. Not just Iran, not just US, but worldwide. The whole world is a mess. And for the most part everyone aligns themselves with this or that camp. We have all these political goons who spit out poisonous venom dressed up in humanitarian causes. They strangle their servants and at the same time rob their neighbors of all their possessions until their children wake up homeless in the land of their forefathers. They do their cherry marries on their subordinates and than we have people killing each other over something they themselves have no idea about. No one is immune, that’s why it’s so hard to rationalize with the clowns, puppets, and pawns. Injustice is injustice, no matter what form and or side it takes.

    P.S. Miss Saberi’s NPR Reports:

  14. PolakMaly said


    The young artist Delara Darabi who has spent the last 6 years in Rasht prison in Iran for the alleged murder of a relative, is scheduled to be executed in TODAY days from now.


  15. PolakMaly said

    Well, I just gave you a list. Moreover, there are only about 20 real 3 minute segments of Roxana using big words to talk about Iran of what every child can learn from reading the New York Times. 20 segments at 3 minutes each, that’s 60 minutes of work in 6 years. I’d surely like to work 60 minutes in 6 years and not have to worry what tomorrow brinks. I’m not assuming anything, the evidence is just not there right now to discredit that very notion.

    Tehran has dug itselves a perfect case. Unless she can prove that she is a legitimate reporter and document the sources of her income, they have a case. After all, doesn’t the cia itself go after suspected enemies by observing their movement and following their money trail. Of course the best way to avoid detection is to avoid leaving a paper trail. But that can be a problem if you can’t document your sources of income. In the US you that means you must be involved in some sort of “criminal” activity.

    Of course those are not crimes in themselves, except a form of theft imposed by the government. Governments are getting more aggressive and destructive everyday. The calls do need to be made for a rule of law and proper court procedures, yet these laws and procedures can be so derailed that they end up having a greater social cost than benefit. We are living in a world of kangaroo courts, lol…. In today’s world the government sees itselves above the law and and does with people what it pleases. I hope this incident serves as an awakening point to all citizens of the world and all the double standards on all parts.

    For now President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad emphasized that Miss Saberi must have her legal right to defend herself. They will have their kangaroo show. The Iranian government will play with her a bit, perhaps try to get it’s diplomats out of US custody (another double standard). Iran has a case. In politics anything goes. Whatever the outcome, in the end, I’m certain Miss Saberi will walk free. This is very political. Iran will try to improve it’s imagine by showing the world what good sport they are and point out the corruption of the us and it’s torture policies. After all, didn’t that happen with the British sailors. In fact they each got a brand new suit and book offers when they returned back home. You will mark my word….

  16. James McPherson said

    A reminder of something else the United States and Iran have in common: They’re among the relatively few nations where it’s still considered acceptable to apply the death penalty to minors.

  17. zelda said

    Water boarding,dogs attacking nude prisoner genitals,,piles of naked prisoners photographed with a female guard’s foot on them,sexual dalliances by male and female guards,murder,e torture,etc.etc.

    Who ARE the monsters out there? WE ARE>re:humans.

    You know James there is something about how you think that gives me pause.I think you have dual thinking from a teachers point of view. Always raising the question. Playing the devils advocate……….I just don’t like the way you think.It could be a number of things that bother me that I am sensing about you. I am going to buy your book soon………..
    Yes yes……….I don’t need to read your blog if I don’t like it……………..and maybe I won’t.

    You refer to The U S laws that apply the death penalty to minors. I suggest you see what those minors crimes are ok? You are so damned ready to defend your percieved under dog.
    Right…………all the other countries just murder at will ……no laws……….or made up laws……….etc. etc.Or they eat them. Or rape and whatever other horrid tortures are current. Women in Saudi Arabis are buried up to their chins in the deserts……….for walking the wrong way………..etc. etc. all at a males whim.

    I guess I sense the undertones of your opinions.You have to expect people to challenge you on this blogging business. Kind of a given eh?AND if you don’t like what I am saying you can push a key and wipe my comments off into the chattering universe.hahahahahahaha. ………….interesting.

    Miss Saberi put herself in a bad situation……..and didn’t handle herself right at all. She should have left when she was supposed to.

    your pal Zelda

  18. James McPherson said

    “You have to expect people to challenge you on this blogging business. … AND if you don’t like what I am saying you can push a key and wipe my comments off.”

    I both expect and welcome the challenges, and never delete anything that isn’t clearly spam or profanity. You’ve never sent either, so you’ve never had any threat of censorship here.

    On the issue of executing minors, I don’t think it matters what the crimes were in terms of justifying executions. Of course, I’m opposed to the death penalty in general (as I’ve discussed in more detail elsewhere), but have also written a couple of previous posts about our inability to define when someone is mature enough to drink, drive, have sex, die in war, be executed, etc.

    And believe me, I know other countries are much worse than we are. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to be better, and encourage other countries to be more like us rather than us becoming more like them. Thanks, as always.

  19. zelda said

    I totally agree with your last statement.
    And thanks for spelling challenges correctly………….sometimes I get too phonetic.


  20. PolakMaly said

    Agree. Tell that to military, the law enforcement, the layers, the judges, the politicians, and the bankers of the world. I think they will laugh at you. In today’s kangaroo courts you are guilty until proven otherwise. You can start helping Miss Saberi by gathering links to her published articles and/or works. Also a subsantial record of her cashflow receiving and spending receipts must be established. All contacts she may have had, if any, with outside parties of interest to Tehran must be ironed out. Sincerely I hope she is a real journalist, not just an asset. We need real journalists to keep a check on the balance. But that we will never know. In the end Tehran wins and she walks out somewhat shaken and stirred, but free, famous, and well to do. The 8 year sentence is a problem, solution, reaction tactic. And I hope I am right. My profiling probability still holds…..

    P.S. Thank you for your little how free-lance reporter contracting goes speal. And I hope Miss Saberi learns something from this experience and puts her knowledge and skills into real reporting that actually makes a difference. There are many less educated free-lancers publishing articles everyday without a profit of much higher quality than I’ve seen thus far from our person of interest. So no, a real reporter doesn’t stop working if he or she has no contract(s). In supply side economics, supply creates it’s own demand. Of course I am not a supply sider, but that’s another intensive topic. By the way, where are you writing from? Perhaps I should do a little investigative reporting on you, lol….

  21. PolakMaly said

    I just checked amazon.com. Her father has several works published. Mother nothing. She has 2 articles:

    Title: Inside Iran: what is life like 25 years after the Islamic Revolution?(World)
    Author: Roxana Saberi
    Publication: Junior Scholastic (Magazine/Journal)
    Date: April 5, 2004
    Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
    Volume: 106 Issue: 16 Page: 14(6)
    Price: $5.95
    No description

    Title: Iran: the other side of the world? The people of this Middle Eastern country often feel very distant from America.(World)(Cover story)
    Author: Roxana Saberi
    Publication: Junior Scholastic (Magazine/Journal)
    Date: October 1, 2007
    Publisher: Thomson Gale
    Volume: 110 Issue: 3 Page: 10(5)
    Price: 9.95
    Again no description

    By the way, Junior Scholastic is not a research journal. It is a way the us gov brainwashes our kids into having a bias, closed minded, and egocentric look at the world….

  22. PolakMaly said


    Translation of poetry, 3 or 4 editions
    2 page biography
    Insights and Intuitions; Reflections on the Nature of Existence (Paperback) 308 pgs
    The Labyrinth (Paperback) pg?
    The Vicious Cricle (Paperback) 184 pgs
    Splendor of the light (Paperback) 166 pgs
    Impressions and expressions (Unknown Binding) 248 pgs

    I can say he longs for his homeland and is also a scholar, although I would need to look into his publishers and the contents of his writings to understand his perceptions.

  23. PolakMaly said

    Insights and Intuitions
    Reflections on the Nature of Existence
    by Reza Saberi

    Insights and Intuitions is of special interest to students of philosophy, but everyone who cogitates upon the nature of existence can benefit from it. The book does not offer a system of philosophy or a systematic philosophy, but rather incites the reader’s mind to explore the reality of existence from different angles.

    May be interesting, but can’t get more info on his writings or a bio sketch so far.

  24. PolakMaly said

    I think the time has come to put away all the big toys and big guns, move away from Big Government and Centralized Power, end all forms of torture and state coercion, and work towards building a decentralized, respectful, and tolerant world. Miss Saberi is not the first and the last victim of state sponsored terrorism. There are many young men and women in her shoes or worse around the world and nobody give a damn about them (I apologize for the language). My point was not to discredit Miss Saberi or accuse her of anything. I spend a considerable time trying to establish Miss Saberi’s credentials and really I’ve never heard of her. I don’t believe anything I hear in the media and always try to do my research before establishing any opinions. I would appreciate if you enlighten us all and post links here to help establishing Miss Saberi’s credentials, journalism, work, etc…. I dread that this young lady has to go through what she does and hope she puts this nightmare behind her soon.

  25. PolakMaly said

    I am establishing Miss Saberi’s credebility

    Google pages with links to her articles (2003-2007)

    * http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=roxana+saberi&hl=en&ned=us&sa=N&sugg=d&as_user_ldate=2003&as_user_hdate=2003&lnav=d3&ldrange=1997,1997&hdrange=2004,2007
    * http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=roxana+saberi&hl=en&ned=us&sa=N&sugg=d&as_user_ldate=2004&as_user_hdate=2005&lnav=d2&ldrange=1997,2003&hdrange=2006,2007
    * http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=roxana+saberi&hl=en&ned=us&sa=N&sugg=d&as_user_ldate=2006&as_user_hdate=2006&lnav=d1&ldrange=1997,2005&hdrange=2007,2007
    * http://news.google.com/archivesearch?q=roxana+saberi&hl=en&ned=us&sa=N&sugg=d&as_user_ldate=2007&as_user_hdate=2007&lnav=d0&ldrange=1997,2006

    Example of Several Articles:

    Other Sources:

    Pretty much about Iranian Nukes, Missiles, Military, and Politics

  26. PolakMaly said

    Peer review of Miss Saberi’s:

    Saturday, November 10, 2007
    Junior Scholastic: PC indoctrination for the middle school set
    By Mona Charen

    …my sixth-grader drew my attention to his homework assignment. He was to read an article about Iran in Junior Scholastic magazine and answer questions about it. …

    The Oct. 1, 2007, issue featured a cover story titled “Iran: The Other Side of the World?” The piece begins by introducing Mohammad Reza Moqaddam, a 15-year-old resident of Qom, who “speaks quietly and respectfully” and prays five times a day. “A lot of young people these days have distanced themselves from religion,” he relates. “I would like them to be much closer to it.” Mohammad pays close attention to the news though, and offers the view that “Even if Iran wants nuclear weapons, it’s none of the other countries’ business. Some of them have nuclear weapons themselves.”

    OK, so when do we get to the part where it is explained that even if young Mohammad wants a neutral take on the news, he cannot get it in Iran where the press is rigidly controlled by the regime? Nowhere. Where does it explain that Iran is the world’s fourth-largest oil supplier and therefore scarcely in need of “peaceful nuclear power”? You won’t find that either.

    The article (written by Roxana Saberi, a reporter for National Public Radio) explains that Iran has been “at odds” with America since the revolution of 1979, which forced out the “U.S.-backed Shah” and brought to power a government “based on strict Islamic principles.” But she doesn’t mention that Ayatollah Khomeini and his mobs denounced the United States as the “great Satan” and chanted “Death to America.” The hostage crisis, in which armed militants, possibly including the current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, held 52 American diplomats for 444 days, goes unmentioned until a glancing reference at the end of the article under Iranian history.

    Omitting the nature of the revolution and vehement America hatred of its leaders, the article then instructs students that “the war in Iraq has further increased those tensions” because the U.S. commanders “claim” that Iran is supporting militias but the Iranian defense minister has labeled these accusations a “sheer lie.”

    There’s much more along these lines. “Some members of the Bush Administration want to take military action against Iran.” But nary a word on Ahmadinejad’s threat to annihilate Israel or to see a world “without the United States.” Nor is there any mention of the thousands of casualties of the revolution, the public stonings or the virtue police. We meet more Iranian youngsters who defend their regime: “The U.S. thinks we are dangerous. Why shouldn’t we think the U.S. is dangerous?” asks a pretty, scarf-clad 13-year-old. Tania “is devoted to her country. Her wish for her people is that they become wise and well-educated.” She “hopes to help” her nation someday “by becoming a lawyer.”

    We get the point. Only xenophobes would find this country hostile or frightening. The more we get together the happier we’ll be.

    I’m not urging that Junior Scholastic gird our kids for war with Iran. But this happy patter is insipid and unworthy of them.


  27. PolakMaly said

    More Articles:

  28. PolakMaly said

    OK, that’s it for me. I think I’m finished with all investigations of this young lady. I conclude that she in fact is a credible journalist, although her subject matter and how she approaches it raises some eyebrows. Her reporting is very analytical and provocative, but seems to offer little in terms of nonviolent approaches and alternative conflict resolutions. There is some mention of equal rights for women and things such as the need for education in Iran. But her overwhelming focus is on Iran’s government and Iran’s strategic options. With her ambitions, I wouldn’t be surprised if she attempted to reform Iran and run for political office. The other question is how far she would go in yielding to Washington’s and/or British demands. We all know that Iran has a long history in dealing with Washington and Britain in it’s pre-Islamic revolution years. She has been playing with fire. Hopefully that fire can still be extinguished, for her sake, the Iranian people’s, and the rest of us around the world. Peace!

  29. PolakMaly said

    In the end my predictions materialized. Iran showed its human face and Miss Saberi was released. Iran showed the world what good sport it is while the US is still holding foreign journalists, et al, in indefinite detention. Iran has won, lol….

  30. Kari said

    What none of the above searches revealed about Roxana Saberi is that she has a brother working in military intelligence. Perhaps THAT is why she was suspect?

  31. James McPherson said

    You’ll note that I never questioned whether she should be a suspect–only the Bushian means by which she was questioned, convicted and tried. Thanks for the response.

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