Russert Lobs Slow-Pitch Softballs at NYT’s “NSA Eavesdropping” Reporter

January 8th, 2006 8:04 PM

NBC’s Tim Russert invited the New York Times reporter who broke the NSA eavesdropping story three weeks ago onto “Meet the Press” this morning. Despite the obvious controversial nature of the guest and the subject matter, Russert asked no truly compelling or interrogative questions of James Risen, and, as a result, produced an interview that not only didn’t challenge Risen about the fortuitous timing of the article’s release, but also offered the viewer no new information concerning this matter.

For instance, Russert chose to ask Risen:

MR. RUSSERT: Amid much speculation as to why the The New York Times held this story, you had written it, you had finished it, you knew it was—what reflected what your reporting had shown. It may have played a role in the election of 2004 if it had been published in October. Why was it held?

However, here’s a list of potentially more provocative and important questions that Russert chose not to ask his controversial guest:

  • If the timing of the article’s release was to coordinate with Risen’s book release on the same subject matter
  • If the timing of the article’s release was to coordinate with a Congressional vote for the extension of the Patriot Act that same day
  • Why Risen and the New York Times didn’t seem very concerned with similar activities carried out by the Clinton administration under a program codenamed Echelon even though Risen wrote an article about that covert action in 1999
  • Why Risen and the New York Times weren't as concerned with two warrantless break-ins of Aldrich Ames' home prior to that former CIA agent's arrest for espionage
  • Whether Risen or any members of the New York Times had investigated various precedents concerning such covert activities under previous administrations, as well as court cases involving the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court since it was created in 1978
  • Whether Risen or any members of the New York Times investigated how executive orders made by former presidents Carter and Clinton amending FISA impacted the legality of such warrantless actions

With all of this at Russert’s disposal, it seems almost incomprehensible that he was more interested in why this story wasn’t released prior to the November 2004 presidential election. Err…maybe not!