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E-Mailbag: Missing Minutes

"What happened to the Rendition story on '60 Minutes'?" asks Joseph B.. "I'd really like to know what circumstances resulted in pulling the story."

This week, according to this promo page, "60" was supposed to have three stories – one on illegal immigration from Mexico, one on shark tourism, and one on rendition, in which "'60 Minutes' investigates this alleged CIA practice of handing over terror suspects to countries whose interrogators are known to use torture." The first two stories ran. The last didn't.

So what happened? Well, "60" got sandwiched in between two giants: Sunday afternoon football, which ran late, and the 'Survivor' season finale and reunion show, which was aired live. (Yesterday was, according to promos, "Survivor Sunday" on CBS.) When football ran past 7:30, the decision was made to run an abridged version of "60." The rendition story will run next Sunday, according to "60 Minutes" Executive Producer Jeff Fager.

Graham Messick, who produced the rendition story, says the reason that story was cut, instead of the others, was that it was something of a repeat, while the others were brand new. An earlier version of the rendition story has run twice: Once in March, and again in July. The piece that was to air yesterday had been rewritten, reedited, given new sound, and included new reporting – Messick says it was "radically restructured," and that about a third of it was "completely new" – but it did not contain new interviews. (It centers on Scott Pelley's interview with Khaled al-Masri, a German who is suing the U.S. government for alleged rendition to Afghanistan.)

The piece has been resurrected, Messick says, because of al-Masri's lawsuit, as well as Condoleezza Rice's recent trip to Europe, in which she talked about rendition. He is happy the story is going to run to a nationwide audience next week, since one possibility would have been simply to run it on the west coast and not air it at all in the east. As for the scheduling squeeze, Messick points to the uncertainty that comes with being part of a network schedule that includes live events like football. "It's a necessary evil," he says.

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