Thursday, January 26, 2006

NYT Loses Will to Cover the NSA story

Team a faltering Eric Lichtblau with Elisabeth Bumiller and what do you get? Short answer:
"Bush Visits Security Agency and Defends Surveillance" in this morning's New York Times. Long answer: really bad reporting. Bush is on his spin tour, his "Why We Spy" (Amy Goodman's coined that term as Democracy Now! listeners, watchers and viewers know). And Bumiller's apparently more than along for the ride, she's recruiting for the Elite Fluff Patrol.

From the article:

Mr. Bush first met privately with employees at the agency, then told a small group of reporters who accompanied him that the program, which intercepts international phone calls and e-mail messages of people in the United States suspected of links to Al Qaeda, had been a crucial tool in fighting terrorism.

You have to be a really hideous reporter to write the above. A really lazy one who asks the White House, "What's the angle?" and then prints it as fact.

The NSA "which intercepts international phone calls and e-mail messages of people in the United States suspected of links to Al Qaeda". Really Bumiller? Really Lichtblau? So, then this agency was only recently created, right? Al Qaeda hasn't been around for decades and decades so the agency must not have been either, right?

This is beyond bad reporting and the Times should be ashamed. Why are they turning against their original reporting? Why are they so scared now? Why are they intent on trashing their own story?

It's a question worth asking. Maybe some are nervous that the "Why did you wait a year to run it!" question won't go away? The Times better find some guts and find it real quick because their paper is leaking all over the floor. What's going on? Supposedly, those making the call are feeling 'out in the cold.'

Meanwhile, the Associated Press, of all people, does a better job of reporting on Bully Boy's Why We Spy spin. From Katherine Shrader's "Analysis: White House tries to spin spying:"

President Bush and his top national security advisers are trying to change the debate -- and even the vocabulary -- about the National Security Agency's controversial electronic monitoring program.
Don't call it domestic spying, they say. It's a terrorist surveillance program.
Americans have been uneasy about the program since it was first disclosed last month. According to polls, slightly more than half think the government should first get a warrant before eavesdropping on people in the United States whose calls and e-mails the government believes involve al-Qaida.
Bush, along with the nation's top military intelligence officer and the attorney general, has made the case in a three-day pitch.

[. . .]
Yet, on Wednesday Bush stopped by to rally the 30,000 workers -- at headquarters or worldwide by video. Reporters came along, but weren't allowed to listen to his speech.

On a similar topic, Zach notes Robert Parry's "Alito & the Media Mess" (Consortium News):

A friend, who's an astute observer of American journalism, told me recently that there are two real priorities for reporters holding down mainstream media jobs: get the basic facts right (names, ages and such) and never let anyone pin the "liberal" label on you.
That gritty perception was on display in the lead story of the New York Times on Jan. 25 as reporter David D. Kirkpatrick crafted an article about Samuel Alito’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court that bought wholeheartedly into the Republican spin that Democratic opposition to Alito is just politics.
The story is devoid of the constitutional concerns about Alito, such as his role as a chief architect of the radical theory that the President possesses nearly unrestrained power as the "
unitary executive" and -- in time of war -- as Commander in Chief.
Instead of those weighty constitutional issues, New York Times readers got a heavy dose of the Republican view that the Democrats were just trying to score political points with liberal interest groups, even if the Democrats' opportunism threatened congressional comity and non-partisan evaluation of judges.
"Senators turned the occasion (of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote on Alito) into a broader and sometimes heated debate over the rancorous and partisan nature of the confirmation process," Kirkpatrick wrote. Republicans "said the Democratic opposition to Judge Alito could alter the judicial confirmation process for years to come."
Power Grab
Jumping from Page One to the story's continuation on A16, a reader still found nothing about Alito's controversial views on the "unitary executive," which would grant George W. Bush extraordinary discretion over enforcing laws and regulations, or on Bush’s "plenary" -- or unlimited -- powers as Commander in Chief.
This Executive power grab has raised alarm among rank-and-file Democrats as well as among some conservatives who fear that Alito could tip the balance of the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of an all-powerful Executive and thus shatter the Founding Fathers' unique system of checks and balances.
Indeed, if Alito's theories are followed to their logical conclusion, the American people no longer possess the "unalienable rights" guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but rather their liberties exist only at
the forbearance of Bush or a successor, at least as long as the ill-defined War on Terror continues.

Topics for today's Democracy Now! include Hamas and the elections.

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[Note: Typos fixed by Mike.]