New York Times Public Editor Byron Calame agrees that the refusal to answer a single question about the spy story is "woefully inadequate."
I e-mailed a list of 28 questions to Bill Keller, the executive editor, on Dec. 19, three days after the article appeared. He promptly declined to respond to them. I then sent the same questions to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, who also declined to respond. They held out no hope for a fuller explanation in the future.
With the top Times people involved in the final decisions refusing to talk and urging everyone else to remain silent, it seemed clear to me that chasing various editors and reporters probably would yield mostly anonymous comments that the ultimate decision-makers would not confirm or deny.
Keller's response to me: "There is really no way to have a full discussion of the back story without talking about when and how we knew what we knew, and we can't do that."
The New York Times syndicated cancer has an editorial about the NSA spy story that hit some newspapers today. This time they have outsourced the dishonesty to James Bamford, author of The Puzzle Palace, a 23 year old book on the NSA.
For the agency to snoop domestically on American citizens suspected of having terrorist ties, it first must to go to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA, make a showing of probable cause that the target is linked to a terrorist group, and obtain a warrant.
As we all now know, that is flat out untrue. But who even said the calls intercepted were American citizens? This NSA program looks at calls to terror states or terrorist suspects. How does Mr. Bamford and the NYT know the person placing that call is a US citizen rather than a visitor from abroad?
Picking up where we left off, here are the judges' picks for worst Quote of the Year during the Slick Willie era.
Onward, Christian Mouth-Breathers, 1993: "Corporations pay public relations firms millions of dollars to contrive the kind of grass-roots response that Falwell or Pat Robertson can galvanize in a televised sermon. Their followers are largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command." -- Washington Post reporter Michael Weisskopf, February 1 news story.
Hurray, Grown Men Can Weep, 1994: "Around the global village, women cheered and grown men wept. At his press conference, [Gold medal-winning speed skater Dan] Jansen paused to take a call from the President, the man who's made America safe again for tears." -- Newsweek Senior Writer David A. Kaplan, February 28 news story.
Once again in 2005, the New York Times provided a bounty of material to choose from, whether it was a pattern of biased coverage -- Hurricane Katrina, Cindy Sheehan -- or a single bizarrely biased story, like one from Sarah Boxer on a pro-U.S. blog in Iraq.
Here are some samples fromTimesWatch's top 3 examples of the worst from the liberally slanted year of coverage.
#3 Relaying Reckless Leftist Charges Against Pro-U.S. Bloggers in Iraq
Reporter Sarah Boxer achieved instant notoriety in blogging circles for an irresponsibly speculative piece January 18 on a pro-U.S. blog run by Iraqi brothers. Boxer began in a breathless style that probably helped her story garner the top slot of the Arts front page: "When I telephoned a man named Ali Fadhil in Baghdad last week, I wondered who might answer. A C.I.A. operative? An American posing as an Iraqi? Someone paid by the Defense Department to support the war? Or simply an Iraqi with some mixed feelings about the American presence in Iraq? Until he picked up the phone, he was just a ghost on the Internet. The mystery began last month when I went online to see what Iraqis think about the war and the Jan. 30 national election. I stumbled into an ideological snake pit." But her story was rooted entirely in the speculative postings from a far-left group blog called Martini Republic.
As 2005 winds down, it's a good time to recall some of the worst journalistic moments of the year. The Media Research Center polled 52 distinguished media experts -- talk show hosts, columnists, journalism professors and other keen observers -- who generously supplied their picks for The Best Notable Quotables of 2005.
A few of the highlights:
Newsweek's Managing Editor Jon Meacham won the "Madness of King George Award for Bush Bashing" for recoiling when the current President toured the former captive nations of Eastern Europe and apologized for the deal FDR made with Stalin back at Yalta in 1945: "It’s like he stuck a broomstick in his wheelchair wheels," Meacham complained on MSNBC.
New York Times congressional reporter Carl Hulse's Friday "news analysis" is devoted to Congress departing for its Christmas break amid the usual hectic end-of-session machinations ("A Messy Congressional Finale"). And it's all Republicans' fault.
"In the end, Republicans largely have themselves to blame for the muddled and haphazard finale of the Congressional session....At nearly every crucial turn in recent weeks, it was a group of Republicans, painfully aware of President Bush's decline in popularity, who broke from the White House and the party leadership in the House and Senate and forced concessions in major legislation or stalled it until the bitter end."
New York Times writer John Leland reviews the growing phenomenon of Christian film criticism -- and how it now both evaluates the artistic and moral content. While it's nice to see the Times notice and even publicize conservative cultural efforts, Leland still employs the notion that the permissive liberal critics represent the "mainstream" of the media. They love the gay-cowboy flick "Brokeback Mountain," while the conservatives are cooler to it:
"Brokeback Mountain" has received overwhelming acclaim from mainstream critics, but elicited a different reaction from conservative Christian media: respectful and often laudatory, but finding biblical fault with the film's content."
The Wall Street Journal’s Stephanie Kang and the New York Times’s Michael Barbaro today used similar language to describe the retail shopping season as so-so. But buried deeper in Kang’s story were facts which undercut her argument and Barbaro admittedly relied on “anecdotal reports,” mainly from recently transit-strike-plagued Manhattan, to sell his story.
Barbaro opened his December 27 article noting that “Many retailers hoping for a big finish to the holiday season instead had lighter-than-expected crowds over the long Christmas weekend, according to anecdotal reports, leaving stores to rely heavily on the next few days to pump up December sales.”
WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 - The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.
Yes, we know we already reported this exact story, but you didn't return the outrage against Bush we were looking for. Actually, his poll numbers are up (thank you Big Media brother Jersey Journal for finding a way to paint a negative - localize, newspapers, localize.) Let's all just take another shot at this. We'll add a few technical words like "switches", some anonymous sources that may or may not be the same anonymous sources from last time, and it will seem like a whole new article. All the usual suspects can then write hundreds of articles about this article, we'll talk about it on the Sunday talk shows, and with all of your determined help, we can bring down this evil conservative and the majority of Americans who recently elected him. again.
Michael Tomasky, executive editor of the American Prospect, has written a column for the liberal magazine's web site urging the dismissal of his counterpart at the New York Times, Bill Keller, for Keller's alleged mishandling of both the Judith Miller matter and the NSA wiretap story. The piece is worth mentioning mostly for this paragraph, which builds to an overheated climax:
There are reasons for liberals (at opinion magazines, at blogs, etc.) to tread a little carefully these days with regard to criticism of the Times. Those of us who work at smaller shops don’t appreciate how difficult it can be to run large institutions (here at TAP, we sometime have trouble running this institution, of 20-whatever people). The pressure of simply being The New York Times is enormous. And, of course, every piece of flesh ripped from the paper’s body by the liberal opinion-blog world serves, ultimately, as another plate of hot victuals for the vultures of the right, circling above, counting the hours until the newspaper of record is a flayed, and inconsequential, carcass.
It seems like a common pattern lately. A mainstream media outlet publishes a bombshell story, and within days, the whole thing unravels quicker than a cheap sweater swarmed by kittens. Such is beginning to look like the case for The New York Times’ eavesdropping controversy, which is showing a lot of wear and tear for its age.
Wednesday wasn’t a very good day for the ongoing health of this story, or for members of the media hoping that the recent revelations concerning National Security Agency espionage tactics could lead to impeachment proceedings against President Bush.
The day started with a former member of the Clinton White House voicing strong words of support for the Bush administration’s behavior. In a Chicago Tribune op-ed entitled “President Had Legal Authority to OK Taps,” former associate attorney general John Schmidt refuted media protestations concerning the illegality of the National Security Agency eavesdropping on American citizens who are in contact with known members of al Qaeda without a court order allowing it to do so:
The current issue of the New York Observer includes Gabriel Sherman's report on the back-and-forth at the New York Times regarding the paper's NSA-wiretap story.
Highlights from Sherman's piece:
...Multiple Times sources said that the story had come up more than a year ago—specifically, before the 2004 election. After The Times decided not to publish it at that time, Mr. Risen went away on book leave, and his piece was shelved and regarded as dead, according to a Times source.
Ever since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in late August sending oil prices to $70 per barrel and gasoline above $3 a gallon, the media have been in a panic over a return of ’70s-style inflation. Such concerns reached a fevered-pitch in October when a gauge of consumer prices rose by the largest amount in 25 years. Yet, when the Labor Department released numbers last week showing that inflation had declined by the greatest percentage in 56 years, rather than using this data to ease the public’s concerns about rising prices, the press either downplayed the report or totally ignored it.
The New York Times reporter whose National Security Agency eavesdropping article last Friday started a national debate about this issue didn’t appear as concerned with such espionage tactics when Bill Clinton was in the White House.
As reported by NewsBusters on Monday, an intricate international communications espionage network, codenamed Echelon, has been in existence for many years. Yet, a LexisNexis search of the word “Echelon” and the name “James Risen” produced only one result. The article, entitled “The Nation: Don’t Read This; If You Do, They May Have to Kill You” appeared in the Times on December 5, 1999. By contrast to last Friday’s article condemning NSA eavesdropping, this 1999 one by Risen almost praised it:
The Times has two lame follow-up stories to its supposedly explosive scoop that the Bush administration is eavesdropping, without prior court approval, on people in the U.S. communicating with people abroad with al-Qaeda ties.
First, reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau have a damp squib ("Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls -- Some Exchanges Are Said to Be Purely Domestic") in pursuit of their overhyped story from Friday on domestic terrorist surveillance by the Bush administration.
"A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say. The officials say the National Security Agency's interception of a small number of communications between people within the United States was apparently accidental, and was caused by technical glitches at the National Security Agency in determining whether a communication was in fact 'international.'"
There’s an old saying: What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. When it comes to mainstream media reporting, nothing could be further from the truth.
No finer example of a media double standard has been recently evident than in the furor that has evolved over revelations of National Security Agency eavesdropping. To be more precise, the press response to The New York Times report on this subject last Friday is in stark contrast to how they reacted in the ’90s when the Clinton administration was found to be engaging in extraordinarily similar activities.
A perfect example surfaced in a Washington Postarticle written yesterday by Charles Lane. In it, Lane referred to changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act under former President Clinton after the Aldrich Ames affair. For those unfamiliar, Ames was a CIA agent that was convicted in 1994 of working for the former Soviet Union:
From promoting the "socially conservative instincts" of Sen. Hillary Clinton to lamenting the lack of gas rationing in support of the Iraq War, there was no shortage of bizarre bias in the New York Times in 2005. To celebrate the year in slant, Times Watch presents a selection of the absolutely most biased quotes from Times reporters and writers.
On Tuesday morning, the network morning shows all began with full stories on the New York City transit strike (no doubt involving dozens of struggling network employees). As I remarked today to Mark Finkelstein on his strike blog post, the New York-based media has an annoying tendency to elevate itself into the center of the news universe on local issues. (Put the same event in San Francisco or Seattle, and the national media would barely whisper.) And now, an example: merely a few weeks ago, at Halloween time, Philadelphia also had a transit strike. As Rich Noyes pointed out to me, it drew an 800-word story in the November 1 New York Times headlined "400,000 Hit by Philadelphia Transit Strike." Major morning show hubbub? Of course not.
The folks over at The New York Times must be laughing their heads off. With the President’s poll numbers on the rise, a fabulous election result in Iraq, and the potential extension of a key antiterrorism bill that the administration holds dear, the Times stole Christmas from the White House last week with the release of one carefully-timed article.
After some pretty horrible months in September and October, President Bush has been fighting his way back up from a virtual poll abyss. The economy—regardless of left-wing protestations to the contrary—has been humming. Energy prices—regardless of, well, you get the point—have been plummeting. And, the Sunnis, who largely boycotted the past two elections in Iraq, were giving signs that they would participate in Thursday’s elections in very large, enthusiastic numbers.
All the President needed to make this holiday season a truly joyous one was a relatively safe, incident-free day at the Iraqi polls Thursday, and the Patriot Act to be extended before Congress adjourned for the year on Friday.
The Grinch…err., I mean, the Times had something else in mind.
Ex-CBS producer Mary Mapes still has her liberal blinders on, judging by the letter that appeared in the New York Times Book Review yesterday. Responding to an unfavorable review of her book by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, Mapes nevertheless credits Alter for being right about the anti-CBS jihad from "the right."
"A thousand times, yes! The bogus questions about typeface used to 'discredit' CBS's Bush/Guard story were a fraud, as Jonathan Alter wrote in reviewing my book, 'Truth and Duty' (Nov. 20). He's also right that the so-called independent panel was a legalistic/ corporate inquisition against the news division I love. I guarantee you that, given the chance, Dick Thornburgh, his firm's lawyers and Lou Boccardi would find even Alter's work sadly lacking. Despite the millions that CBS paid, the panel got a lot wrong and still won't answer for it, just as the president has never explained his aborted military service. CBS panicked over the blog attack and strained to appease the right, whose tactics against us were the same as with Wilson, Plame, Clarke and other administration 'critics.'
Travel caused me to miss Friday's big lead scoop in the New York Times on domestic spying by the National Security Agency ("Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts"), but the rest of the blogosphere took the story on from multiple angles, questioning the pieces timing, agenda, even its newsworthiness.
The Times article no doubt had the effect the paper intended, throwing the White House on the defensive and causing the renewal of the Patriot Act to be thwarted, a long-time goal of the Times editorial page.
But is this sort of terrorist surveillance truly a new and troubling thing? The government's Echelon spy program was reported on during the Clinton administration, in a 2000 report on CBS's "60 Minutes." In words that ring familiar, host Steve Kroft intoned:
Unlike the other major broadcast network Sunday talk shows (as reported by NewsBusters), NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” led with Thursday’s historic elections in Iraq, while mentioning the surveillance scandal raised in a New York Times article Friday as almost an afterthought. Then, after the break, Matthews began on another topic that is likely much more of a concern to Americans than the legality of wiretaps on terrorists, illegal immigration.
After introducing his guests – Joe Klein of TIME, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News, David Brooks of The New York Times, and syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker – Matthews went right into Thursday’s Iraqi elections. With the notable exception of Klein, the panel seemed in agreement that this was an historic event on Thursday, and that democracy in Iraq now seems possible. Mitchell stated, “I think there is a better chance than we have ever before seen of Iraq actually creating a government of these people working together, and of this country not blowing apart.” Matthews agreed, “I think it's the most amazing week in this whole war this week.”
As reported by the MRC’s Brent Baker, the media are in full dudgeon over new revelations of a secret eavesdropping, antiterrorism strategy by the White House. However, there are some key elements of this story that the president just discussed in his weekly radio address as reported by the Associated Press that The New York Times and others either neglected to share with the public, or downplayed in their reports:
“Bush said the program was narrowly designed and used ‘consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution.’ He said it is used only to intercept the international communications of people inside the United States who have been determined to have ‘a clear link’ to al-Qaida or related terrorist organizations.”
In a post-9/11 world, this does seem to be a reasonable strategy to avert further terrorist attacks. Wouldn’t most Americans wish that the 9/11 hijackers all had their “international communications” intercepted regardless of the existence of a court order to do so?
Paul Farhi wrote an article for today’s Washington Post that confirmed yesterday’s Drudge Report exclusive sited by NewsBusters that the New York Times failed to disclose a major story it broke surrounding U.S. spying in America was part of a soon to be released book by one of its columnists, James Risen. In addition, Farhi indicated that the timing of the release of this report might indeed have been designed to correspond with a Congressional vote to renew the Patriot Act. The antiterrorism bill was blocked last evening in the Senate with members claiming revelations in the Times article may have been the death knell.
According to the Post:
“The [Times] offered no explanation to its readers about what had changed in the past year to warrant publication. It also did not disclose that the information is included in a forthcoming book, ‘State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,’ written by James Risen, the lead reporter on yesterday's story. The book will be published in mid-January, according to its publisher, Simon & Schuster.”
And what about the timing surrounding the renewal of the Patriot Act?
This morning’s New York Times article, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” has certainly created a huge buzz in the media that has taken some focus away from the good news concerning yesterday’s highly successful elections in Iraq: “Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.”
The Drudge Report, in an exclusive, just announced that this story by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau is just “one of many ‘explosive newsbreaking’ stories that can be found -- in [Risen’s] upcoming book -- which he turned in 3 months ago!” Yet, “The [Times] failed to reveal the urgent story was tied to a book release and sale.”
It was the MSM's worst nightmare-in-the-making: the prospect of a day, maybe more, of nothing but jubilant Iraqis waving those damn purple fingers, some of them no doubt soppily shouting "thank you, Mr. Bush!" Ugh. Can't let that happen.
Don't worry, MSM: the New York Times, with a nice assist from the Washington Post, have got your back.
The Times has admitted that, in response to a administration request, it had been holding the story on alleged US spying on Al-Qaida-linked phone numbers in the US for a year. From the Times article:
"After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting." [emphasis added]
So when do the Times and the WaPo choose to break it? Why, today of course, just in time to rain on the Iraqi election good-news parade.
Continuing a mini-trend at the New York Times of downplaying Holocaust denial among Middle East leaders, Thursday morning brings this headline to a Page 5 story regarding the latest anti-Semitic rantings of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "Iran's President Clarifies His Stand on Holocaust: It's a European Myth" The Iranian leader called the Holocaust a "myth" used by Europeans to create a Jewish state.
In contrast, the Washington Post gives the outburst much stronger play, with a story from one of its own foreign service reporters, not just using AP copy as the Times does. The Post also places the story on the front page, accompanied by a solid headline: "Iran's President Calls Holocaust 'Myth' in Latest Assault on Jews."
This morning, it was the New York Times publishing a positive story about tomorrow’s historic elections in Iraq. ABC News has been doing a lot of optimistic segments on this subject since Sunday. Tonight, it was the “NBC Nightly News’” turn (video link to follow). Brian Williams introduced the segment by first suggesting that the “American media often cannot report the good news in Iraq because travel is still so dangerous.” He continued: “But tonight, we do have some extraordinary pictures of life there, and there are signs you'll see of progress.”
Richard Engel then showed young boys playing soccer on a street, a fashion show that occurred a month ago, along with a film festival. Then, on to the bastion of capitalism, the Baghdad stock exchange, where “without computers, traders take orders by phone and execute them by hand, an average of $3 million in shares trades here a day, 10 times the amount under Saddam.”
Two "breakthoughs" in stem-cell research announced at roughly the same time have, based on Google News searches, received very disparate treatment in news coverage.
to view the Google News screen shot. Note: the "hours ago" indicator
is only for the lead item listed. Both stories originated in news coverage in
the early AM on December 13.
first, originally covered by the Louisville Courier Journal, is about adult
stem cells and how researchers are claiming that they can be made to do all the
tricks that, until this "breakthrough," embryonic stem cells have been
thought to be able to perform:
University of Louisville researchers have coaxed stem cells from adult mice to change into brain, nerve, heart and pancreatic cells. That could lead to treatments for human diseases and end the debate over embryonic stem cells.
"We have found a counterpart for embryonic stem cells in adult bone marrow. This could negate the ethical concerns," said Dr. Mariusz Ratajczak, leader of the research team and director of the stem-cell biology program at U of L's James Graham Brown Cancer Center.
This adult stem cell "breakthough" had only 31 "related items" in a Google News search as of about 10 AM today, with no apparent coverage by the Associated Press or the New York Times. United Press International is the only major wire service or major newspaper that has mentioned the story.
second, primarily covered by The Washington Post's Rick Weiss ("Human
Brain Cells Are Grown In Mice") appeared on Page A03 of the paper on Tuesday,
December 13, and is about embryonic stem cells: