Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NYT: "Spying Programs Snared U.S. Calls" (James Risen & Eric Lichtblau)

The New York Times offers, this morning, an article by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau entitled
"Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls." The point of the article is that, contrary to claims by the Bully Boy and Brand New Me Gonzales, in "some cases" the NSA did monitor calls involving parties inside the United States -- both parties. In other words, the article doesn't go much deeper than the headline.

Is there a point to the article? I can't see one. Maybe they're setting up a new development for later in the week? (Yeah, right.) Maybe James Risen's a little too close to be covering this story? (Possibly.) But the story details the complexities of the NSA system in a general, nonuseful manner, that contributes nothing to the larger story but the administration's spin and, by silencing voices objecting to the program -- silencing by not including them in the debate, focuses on fine tuning the program.

After a year of sitting on the story (or sitting on the bench since they do love their sports analogies at the Times), this is the best they can do? Well, obviously reflection wasn't taking up much time in the last 13 months.

Were it not for Douglas Jehl's "Spy Briefings Failed to Meet Legal Test, Lawmakers Say" the day would be even more humiliating for the paper. From Jehl's article:

The limited oral briefings provided by the White House to a handful of lawmakers about the domestic eavesdropping program may not have fulfilled a legal requirement under the National Security Act that calls for such reports to be in written form, Congressional officials from both parties said on Tuesday.

Bob Graham disputes that the meetins were informative. From the article (Jehl's):

Among Democrats, both Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, have said in recent days that they raised objections to the program in classified letters after first hearing about it. Mr. Rockefeller did so in July 2003, after he was first briefed about the eavesdropping effort; Ms. Pelosi has not identified the date of her objections, saying her letter remains classified.

Pat Roberts, who often seems to exist in a haze of fog, appears confused when chastizing critics of the illegal program by noting that senators have a wide array of resources. Nancy Pelosi is not a senator. Try to grip the facts a little more tightly, Roberts, try.

While Risen & Lichtblau's article wastes readers' time, the Washington Post has two strong articles. First,Carol D. Leonnig and Dafna Linzer 's "Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest
Jurist Concerned Bush Order Tainted Work of Secret Panel

A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.

[. . .]
Word of Robertson's resignation came as two Senate Republicans joined the call for congressional investigations into the National Security Agency's warrantless interception of telephone calls and e-mails to overseas locations by U.S. citizens suspected of links to terrorist groups. They questioned the legality of the operation and the extent to which the White House kept Congress informed.
Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) echoed concerns raised by Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who has promised hearings in the new year.
Hagel and Snowe joined Democrats Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Carl M. Levin (Mich.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) in calling for a joint investigation by the Senate judiciary and intelligence panels into the classified program.

Also from the Washington Post, we'll note Peter Baker and Jim VandeHei's "Clash Is Latest Chapter in Bush Effort to Widen Executive Power:"

The clash over the secret domestic spying program is one slice of a broader struggle over the power of the presidency that has animated the Bush administration. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney came to office convinced that the authority of the presidency had eroded and have spent the past five years trying to reclaim it.
From shielding energy policy deliberations to setting up military tribunals without court involvement, Bush, with Cheney's encouragement, has taken what scholars call a more expansive view of his role than any commander in chief in decades. With few exceptions, Congress and the courts have largely stayed out of the way, deferential to the argument that a president needs free rein, especially in wartime.

I'll resist the temptation to the obvious response (it pops up later in this entry). Instead, let's note that nothing like this has made it into the New York Times. (Reporting in the main section. We're not talking about op-eds, floating or otherwise, or editorials.) No surprise, Cheney cites Watergate as a formative experience for him. (We won't say for his "thinking" for obvious reasons. And to avoid loud gales of laughter we'll pass on the fact that deferrment king Cheney actually cites Watergate and Vietnam as "the nadir of the modern presidency in terms of authority and legitimacy." Well when crooks are in charge . . .)

The articles are the sort that should be running in the New York Times. Questions are asked as to why they aren't? Questions are asked about Risen as well. And Bill Keller might want to note that the mood at the paper is one of journalists not being in the mood for another Plamegate passing them by and friends at the paper say that there is pointing to other stories that have been killed. Most important (and stated by two friends at the paper), Keller doesn't seem to have absorbed anything from the scandal of Judith Miller. (Okay, we'll say the obvious responds now: "Gee, do you think?") If he's running a news organization, he needs to start running a news organization. (That's not my sentiment. Consider this one of the days when I have very little hope for the New York Times. Maybe tomorrow I can rally some hope.)

One of the scheduled topics for today's Democracy Now! is governmental spying. (We'll note the topics in the next entry.)

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