Friday, May 12, 2006

NYT: Says nah-nah, we did in December, though they really didn't (Shane & Lichtblau)

Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike demanded answers from the Bush administration on Thursday about a report that the National Security Agency had collected records of millions of domestic phone calls, even as President Bush assured Americans that their privacy is "fiercely protected."
[. . .]
The president sought to defuse a tempest on Capitol Hill over an article in USA Today reporting that AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth had turned over tens of millions of customer phone records to the N.S.A. since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But Mr. Bush's remarks appeared to do little to mollify members of Congress, as several leading lawmakers said they wanted to hear directly from administration officials and telecommunication executives.
The report rekindled the controversy about domestic spying.

The above is from "Bush Is Pressed Over New Report on Surveillance" by Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane (and the Associated Press?) in this morning's New York Times. A little less time spent trying to reassure readers that something broke in the New York Times in December (and was quickly dropped by the paper) and a little more reporting would help.

From Barton Gellman and Arshad Mohammed's "Data on Phone Calls Monitored: Extent of Administration's Domestic Surveillance Decried in Both Parties" (Washington Post):

The new report, by contrast, described a far broader form of surveillance, focused primarily on domestic phone-call records. Some of its elements have been disclosed before. The Los Angeles Times reported in December that AT&T provided the NSA with a "direct hookup" into a company database, code-named Daytona, that has been recording the telephone numbers and duration of every call placed on the AT&T network since 2001. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has sued AT&T over that and other alleged violations of privacy law, said the call database spans 312 terabytes, a quantity that would fill more than 400,000 computer compact discs.
Government access to call records is related to the previously disclosed eavesdropping program, sources said, because it helps the NSA choose its targets for listening. The mathematical techniques known as "link analysis" and "pattern analysis," they said, give grounds for suspicion that can result in further investigation.

No, that is not a typo. The Los Angelse Times article ran on December 26th. The New York Times can pat themselves on the back (three times) in print today but never note the LA Times article (which is really more along the lines of the USA Today article):

The New York Times first reported in December [. . .]

The Times also reported [. . .]

The Times has reported [. . .]

Here's three more that the paper could have run, but didn't:

The New York Times sat on the story for over a year.

The New York Times quickly killed the story and quit covering it.

The New York Times got scooped, by USA Today yesterday, on a story they can't shut up about having broken in December.

The paper killed the coverage of the NSA spying. But let a paper that's not afraid to go after more NSA stories break news and the (NY) Times wants to trot out the fact that in December (over a year after they could have broken the story), they finally printed a story. They don't want to note the Los Angeles Times or anyone else. They want to stroke themselves in print (three times) because, in December, they did something. Five months ago. They're still so damn timid when it comes to this story that they run with a point of view that is very similar to the Associated Press' breaking news coverage earlier yesterday (including phraseology -- including the "confirm or deny" that the AP was running with yesterday).

There's something really sad about a glory hog that's done nothing to advance a story they were forced to break (due to the publication of Risen's book) showing up in print five months after the fact and being unable to provide a coherent or comprehensive story because they're so busy rushing to pat themselves on the back repeatedly (and reassure readers, falsely, that they've been on the job).

Brad notes John Nichols' "White House, NSA Block Investigation of Spying" (The Online Beat, The Nation) on where the NSA scandal/investigation stood yesterday before the latest news made it into the news cycle:

With news reports exposing the National Security Agency's previously secret spying on the phone conversations of tens of millions of Americans, what is the status of the U.S. Department of Justice probe of the Bush administration's authorization of a warrantless domestic wiretapping program?
The investigation has been closed.
That's right. Even as it is being revealed that the president's controversial eavesdropping program is dramatically more extensive – and Constitutionally dubious -- than had been previously known, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has informed Representative Maurice Hinchey that its attempt to determine which administration officials authorized, approved and audited NSA surveillance activities is over.
In a letter to Hinchey, the New York Democrat who has been the most dogged Congressional advocate for investigation of the spying program, OPR Counsel H. Marshall Jarrett explained that he had closed the Justice Department probe on Tuesday, May 9, because his office's requests for security clearances to conduct the investigation had been denied.

Does the latest news change anything? Maybe. It seems to have shaken members of Congress. But it'll need actual coverage and not the paper of record doing pats on the back and acting as though the new developments are just mere follow ups on what they reported in December.

Lisa notes "Conscientious Objectors from Around the World Gather in Washington DC and New York to Oppose Global War" (Common Dreams):

NEW YORK - May 11 - From May 11th to 16th, US conscientious objectors (CO's) and CO's from around the world will gather in New York City and Washington DC for Operation Refuse War, a week of conferences, demonstrations, and actions in celebration of International Conscientious Objectors Day, May 15th.
Operation Refuse War will be an opportunity for conscientious objectors, anti-war activists, and military families to come together to share strategies and build community. Participants are coming from South Korea, Eritrea, Colombia, Peru, El Salvador, Canada, Britain, Israel, Macedonia, Bosnia, Germany, and across the United States. This week of action will highlight the difficulties that current conscientious objectors face as well as help build relationships and connections between the various communities within the anti-war movement. In addition, Operation Refuse War will bring together international and American conscientious objectors to share their experiences and ideas with the public.
Public Activities will include:
* We Will Not Kill: International Conscientious Objectors Speak Out! Thursday May 11th 2006 7pm-9pm Location: Friends Meeting House, 15 Rutherford Place, New York, NY
* Operation Refuse War: An International Conference of Resisters to Global War Washington DC, May 13-14 2006 This two day conference will be an opportunity to connect domestic and international anti war organizers
For a full schedule of events, visit
Other Related Events in Washington DC: Lobby Day on Capitol Hill for CO Recognition (organized by the Center on Conscience & War), Eyes Wide Open Exhibit on the Mall, GI Rights Hotline Gathering, Silent March Against the War in Iraq and a number of other events.
Sponsoring organizations include the War Resisters League, War Resisters International American Friends Service Committee Youth and Militarism Program, the Center on Conscience & War, the Washington Peace Center, the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition, Iraq Veterans Against the War - NYC Chapter, Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild, Fellowship of Reconciliation: Disarmament Program, Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO), and Student Peace Action Network (SPAN) (List in formation) Since the 1980s, May 15th has been celebrated as International Conscientious Objectors' Day. Each year, War Resisters' International holds activities in a country where conscientious objectors face persecution or harassment. Previous locations have included the Balkans in 2002, Israel in 2003, Chile in 2004, and Greece in 2005. In addition, a similar gathering of conscientious objectors has been held each year in Washington, DC to forward the rights of conscientious objectors in the United States. This year, CO's from the US and other countries will meet together to strengthen their common efforts.

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