So much for the loopy Olbermann-esque spin that it’s just conservatives hoping to “stoke the base” who are distressed by journalists’ leaking of government secrets.
Veteran NBC News reporter Richard Valeriani says the New York Times’s decision to publish a front-page story exposing a classified government program designed to track terrorist financing is “irresponsible,” saying it smacks of “giving Anne Frank’s address to the Nazis.” (Hat-tip to Poynter's Jim Romenesko.)
Since the New York Times is now the organization that decides what national security information deserves to be kept secret, Bob Cox wonders if they can be trusted with such a huge responsibility.
It comes down to a matter of trust, something in short supply for most Americans when it comes to The New York Times. Since Sept. 11, The Times has published fabricated quotations (Maureen Dowd), fabricated datelines (Rick Bragg) and stories manufactured out of whole cloth (Jayson Blair). The Times, by many estimates, made the administration’s case for war by publishing now-discredited claims about Iraq’s WMD program (Judith Miller). Dan Rather may have made “fake but accurate” famous, but it was The New York Times that honed the practice to an art form. Maybe they could sell T-shirts?
Tech Central Station has a report from the "Satire News Service" about a 1943 New York Times story revealing that the U.S. had successfully cracked Germany's Enigma code. The Times also reported that Japan's code, in an operation called MAGIC, had also been broken.
The publisher of the New York Times, "Paunch" Sulzburger, said releasing the information was important to "know how this war is being fought. It is part of the continuing national debate over the aggressive measures employed by this administration and the British government."
Naturally, left-wing activists praised the paper's actions, including Norman Chomsky, a "professor of phrenology and astrology at MIT."
Give reporter Scott Shane credit for citing criticism of the Times by Andrew McCarthy of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (and a contributor to National Review Online).
But Shane cites a Bush statement from September 24, 2001 to suggest the president is protesting too much about what he considers the Times’ “disgraceful” behavior. Shane’s thrust seems to be that, since Bush said in very general terms that his administration was tracking terrorist funding, he can’t really complain when the Times prints classified details of specific programs on the front page.
MRC's Geoff Dickens reports that MSNBC's "Hardball" on Tuesday also pushed the line that Bush was pandering to conservatives with media criticism. After claiming, like a liberal talking-point machine, that unnamed "national security experts" disagree with the president that the New York Times has harmed national security, since the Bush people announced vaguely in public that they would monitor terrorist finances, reporter David Shuster picked up on the Ed Henry echo:
Shuster: "Political analysts believe the Bush administration’s latest war with the media is motivated in part by the coming midterm elections."
Political analyst Charlie Cook: "They’ve got to motivate their base and conservatives, Republicans tend to distrust the media, so any time you can play off and use the media as a foil, it’s probably a good thing."
Republican House leaders want to introduce a resolution condemning the New York Times for its reporting on the international bank-monitoring program. On the Senate side, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Pat Roberts, asked National Intelligence Director John Negroponte to assess the damage done by the leak.
The Boston Globe, owned by the New York Times, ran two letters from soldiers in Iraq addressed to the New York Times. The article also says that the American public trusts the military over the media: 47 percent say they have "hardly any" confidence in the media, while 14 percent say they have a "great deal" of confidence in the media.
T.F. BOGGS is a 24-year-old sergeant in the Army Reserves serving his second tour of duty in Iraq, where he helps to provide security for a military base in Mosul. He is also an occasional blogger, venting his views at www.boredsoldier.blogspot.com. On Sunday, those views took the form of a letter to Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times. Two days earlier, the Times (along with The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times) had exposed the existence of a top-secret government effort to monitor the international movement of funds between Al Qaeda and its financial collaborators.
Perhaps sensing that editor Bill Keller’s arrogant open letter didn't do the job, today’s masthead editorial in the New York Times makes another defense of the paper’s latest terrorist-program wrecking scoop, mostly by accusing conservatives of attacking the paper’s patriotism.
The defensive “Patriotism and the Press” begins:
“Over the last year, The New York Times has twice published reports about secret antiterrorism programs being run by the Bush administration. Both times, critics have claimed that the paper was being unpatriotic or even aiding the terrorists.”
Sure, Tim Russert is a pillar of the great center-left media establishment. You can take the man out of Mario Cuomo's office, but you can't entirely take Mario's office out of the man. Even so, as MSM types go, Russert is among the more fair-and-balanced.
But in his Today show appearance this morning, Tim simply didn't make sense. Asked by Campbell Brown about the White House's anger at the New York Times for its latest divulging on an anti-terror program, Russert responded:
"There is no doubt this was an orchestrated campaign to try to frame this issue of national security versus the media, particularly the New York Times. It resonates with the organized Republican conservative base: taking on the media,liberal media. Remember Spiro Agnew, back in the Nixon administration: the 'nattering nabobs of negativism.'
Howard Kurtz takes his online lamentations of criticism of the breathtaking arrogance of the New York Times into the paper today. The headline is "Piling On the New York Times With a Scoop." From there, you can see Problem Numero Uno. Kurtz, like other media people with blinders on, pretends that the Times is merely an honest broker of information that is "piled on," but can never "pile on" the White House or other conservative targets. If Kurtz wrote about the Times "piling on" Bush again, wouldn't it look tilted? It certainly looks like the media circling the wagons for media buddies on this story.
"Even by modern standards of media-bashing, the volume of vitriol being heaped upon on the editors on Manhattan's West 43rd Street is remarkable," Kurtz writes. But the wildest quote Kurtz runs is Tammy Bruce comparing the Times to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Bush and Cheney were stern, but hardly unsparing.
You're having a first conversation with someone. Alright, maybe you don't agree with him, but he seems rational. Then, out of the blue, he blurts something so strange, so disconnected from reality, that you say to yourself 'whoah! - who is this guy?' And you go back and rethink everything else he had said in light of his suddenly-exposed madness.
That's what is was like watching Chris Matthews' interview of Ken Auletta on this evening's Hardball. Alright, Auletta's the media columnist of the New Yorker. So you have no illusions. This is a liberal. Even so, he seems so urbane, so calm, even reasonable. You could almost imagine having a drink and a conversation at sunset on the deck of one of those fancy Hampton houses you picture him visiting on weekends.
The New York Times’ irresponsible banking spy scoop is looking more and more like it will backfire on the paper, causing both a public relation nightmare and raising plausible legal concerns for both the leakers and the journalists they leaked to, as conservatives debate consequences for the paper's behavior.
Four days after it appeared on Friday's front page, the banking spy scoop is still roiling on Fox News and in the blogosphere. Taking the Web's temperature finds the right side enraged, engaged, and red hot, while it’s rather quiet on the left-wing front, indicating that just maybe the Times may have gone too far to rely on its usual allies to rise up in defense.
MRC President Brent Bozell appeared on FNC's "Fox & Friends" on Tuesday morning to address the "breathtaking arrogance" of the New York Times deciding what national-security secrets should be divulged. Brent loved John Snow's letter noting that arrogance, and suggested that the Times didn't show a "left-wing agenda" on this story, but a "far-left-wing agenda." See our posted video and handy Times Watch links here. Here's a transcript:
Co-host E.D. Hill: “Our next guest says the New York Times is guilty of treason. Treason, for publishing that piece on that secret government program that tracks terrorist finances.”
Come on, Carl. The Tigers are in first place. GM announced some good news this morning. The sun is gonna shine again. Why so cranky?
The senior Democratic senator from Michigan had some very testy exchanges with Fox & Friends' Brian Kilmeade this morning. The topic was possible troop reductions in Iraq. Levin has been leading the Dem charge in alleging that the Bush administration is orchestrating the drawdowns with an eye on the November elections.
At one point, the give-and-take went like this
Brian: "Judging by conditions on the ground, do you think the President enjoys having troops over in Iraq? Do you think he would keep them there one day past where they should be there or have to be in harm's way?
The Seer of MSNBC hath spoken: no matter how good the news might be now for President Bush, he will be in worse shape come the November elections.
That was Chris Matthews' reading of the entrails on this morning's Today show. Guest-hosting David Gregory interviewed him, and, sounding the same theme we saw over at this morning's Early Show, cast the controversy over the latest leak of an anti-terror program not as a threat to national security, but as "this attack on the New York Times."
Gregory teed up this softball for Matthews: "The question is, whether should we be taking their [the administration's] word for it, that these are legal programs? Do you think the administration, any administration, has earned the right . . . to protect that kind of secret?"
Given NewsBusters' goal of exposing outrageous liberal media bias, perhaps I should switch focus from the Katie-less Today to Harry Smith & Co. at the Early Show. I rarely check in on the show, which has languished seemingly forever in last place. But, happening upon it this morning, Smith's bald-faced bias left me breathless.
Smith's guest was Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report. Talk was first of the proposed flag-burning amendment. A snide Smith observed:
"I'm just curious about this. Because somewhere I read in the last couple of days in the entire history of the republic there have only been 200 documented serious incidents of this in the entire history of the United States." Lotta history there, Harry.
HUGH HEWITT: Is it possible, in your view, Doyle McManus, that the story will in fact help terrorists elude capture?
DOYLE McMANUS: It is conceivable, yeah, although it might be worth noting that in our reporting, officials told us that this would, this disclosure would probably not affect al Qaeda, which figured out long ago that the normal banking system was not how it ought to move its money, and so turned to other unofficial and informal channels ...
It became a laugh line long ago: "If we can't [insert your favorite dubious activity here], the terrorists will have won."
But that didn't prevent Keith Olbermann from trotting out the cliché tonight. A line so tired it would have to be months fresher not to be merely hackneyed. And all this in defense of the New York Times' latest leak of an anti-terrorist program - this time that of the the program designed to track terrorists' financial transactions.
Even Olbermann seemed abashed at stooping so low, but that didn't stop him. Claiming that the anti-terror program is "legally questionable," Olbermann actually said that "as the old saying goes" if the Times can't report this "haven't the terrorists won?"
National Review Online published an editorial today on the unfolding outrage over the New York Times deigning itself the country's Moderators-in-Chief -- we shall declare what the nation shall debate! -- and called for the government to take away their press credentials, their little badges of honor and access:
The president should match this morning’s tough talk with concrete action. Publications such as the Times, which act irresponsibly when given access to secrets on which national security depends, should have their access to government reduced. Their press credentials should be withdrawn. Reporting is surely a right, but press credentials are a privilege. This kind of conduct ought not be rewarded with privileged access.
Moreover, the Justice Department must be more aggressive than it has been in investigating national-security leaks. While prosecution of the press for publishing information helpful to the enemy in wartime would be controversial, pursuit of the government officials who leak it is not. At the very least, members of the media who report such information must be made to understand that the government will no longer regard them as immune from questioning when it investigates the leakers. They should be compelled to reveal their sources, on pain of contempt.
Gabriel Schoenfeld, senior editor for Commentary magazine, writes in the Weekly Standard about the justification for prosecuting journalists who endanger the country by revealing sensitive information. He cites a very concrete example of this endangerment: Pearl Harbor.
Can journalists really be prosecuted for publishing national security secrets? In the wake of a series of New York Times stories revealing highly sensitive counterterrorism programs, that question is increasingly the talk of newsrooms across the country, and especially one newsroom located on West 43rd Street in Manhattan.
Last December, in the face of a presidential warning that they would compromise ongoing investigations of al Qaeda, the Times revealed the existence of an ultrasecret terrorist surveillance program of the National Security Agency and provided details of how it operated. Now, once again in the face of a presidential warning, the Times has published a front-page article disclosing a highly classified U.S. intelligence program that successfully penetrated the international bank transactions of al Qaeda terrorists.
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee urged the Bush administration on Sunday to seek criminal charges against newspapers that reported on a secret financial-monitoring program used to trace terrorists.
President (make that Times editor) Bill Keller must be feeling the heat about his paper’s irresponsible banking spy scoop from Friday. Sunday afternoon he took the trouble to publish an open letter to readers (online only) justifying his executive decision to expose the details of yet another classified terrorist surveillance program, this one involving the surveillance of bank records of a Belgian international banking cooperative called the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or SWIFT.
In today’s terror-stricken world, which is more vital to the public’s interest: being safe, or being informed?
This very question has come before the management of the New York Times twice in the past six months. On both occasions, even though it went completely contrary to the national security requests of the White House, their conclusion was that ignorance is indeed not bliss.
Sadly, it appears that the Times doesn’t agree with the old maxim “Tis better to be safe than sorry,” for on June 23, in what is starting to become a semi-annual event, the Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning team of Eric Lichtblau and James Risen disclosed to America and her enemies the existence of another highly classified national security program designed to identify terrorist activity before it occurs.
In this case, since shortly after 9/11, the Central Intelligence Agency has been working with a Belgian international banking cooperative called the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications. SWIFT provides
As Brit Hume put it, "Senator Specter, who gets worked up over anything, doesn't seem bothered by the NY Times disclosure of [the anti-terror banking program]. He's going to 'look into it'."
Indeed. Specter, who began his political career as a prosecutor, played defense lawyer for the Gray Lady on this morning's Fox News Sunday. Host Chris Wallace asked the senior senator from PA "do you think the Times was wrong to publish this story as well as the NSA warrantless wiretap story, and does it rise to the level that they should be prosecuted?"
"Well, we have seen the newspapers in this country act as effective watchdogs. You had Jefferson lay out the parameter saying if he had to choose a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, he'd choose newspapers without government . . . I don't think that the newspapers can have a totally free hand. But I think in the first instance, it is their judgment.