Tuesday, February 07, 2006

NYT: The paper that won't acknowledge Coretta Scott King's death on the op-ed pages can't report reality from the NSA hearings -- no surprise

But the senator's warning might well have applied to the Democrats, who themselves could pay a large price -- though a political one -- if they do not strike the right tone in the debate over the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program.
As they head into the 2006 midterm elections, Democrats, eager to pick up Congressional seats, know they must look tough on national security issues. So Monday's hearings, examining the legality of the N.S.A.'s interception of international communications from inside the United States, without getting a warrant, forced Democrats to engage in a delicate balancing act.

The above is from seer Sheryl Gay Stolberg's "Balancing Act by Democrats at Hearing" in this morning's New York Times. "Democrats . . . know they must . . ." Uh, "think" or "believe." Stolberg's apparently been tutored by Cokie Roberts recently and forgotten that reporters, despite their huge egos, rarely know which way the wind is blowing, let alone where we'll be in a few months time. It's a guess, it may even be a correct guess but as for "know" -- in the sense it's used in this article, it's far, far from reporting.

Now were Stolberg a little more intent on reporting instead of predicting, were she more inclined to see and less inclined to play "seer," she might have something to report. Instead she's stuck in land of the conventional wisdoms. So instead of saying "some Democrats think," she's trying to paint her trend story in broad strokes and missing basically any details from yesterday's hearings. (Was she one of the reporters yesterday who desparately asked others in the press, "Whatta da you think?" Ask her. There's comfort in melancholy, as Joni Mitchell once noted, and there was a lot of that parading publicly yesterday.)

She misses the important details and she's not alone. Take Eric Lichtblau and James Risen's "Top Aide Defends Domestic Spying" or Adam Liptak's "In Limelight at Wiretap Hearing: 2 Laws, but Which Should Rule?" or even the laughable "Excerpts From Senate Hearing on Eavesdropping Program" which all serve to remind longterm readers that nobody kills a story quite like the Times.

What was the big moment at the hearings? It came fairly quick. But the Times can't tell you in any of the above articles. The moment was when Arlen Specter announced that Alberto Gonzales wouldn't be sworn in before testifying.

Reporters and "reporters" can't tell you that because they're too busy "seeing" and because they're operating under the Times guidelines which loves to act like reality didn't happen. The penalities for lying to Congress were briefly and superficially addressed by Specter (also not in the above articles). Of course we had lying to Congress by certain business heads not all that long ago (who weren't sworn in) and there was no effort to punish them. It's a different standard when they're not under oath. Specter damn well knows it, the Times should, but no one wants to talk about it. And New York Timid, always the handmaiden and never the power player (all scoops are supposed to come with built-in protection -- when the NSA spying support cratered, the Times lost interest in the story they broke -- they finally broke).

So instead of readers being told very basics things that happened in the hearings yesterday, the Times looks the other way (as it's done so well for so long). Who knows how NPR and their corporate sponsors will cover it, but if you were there or you listened or watched, you know what happened before the hearings could even start.

The Times isn't about to tell you. It's why they've reportedly scrubbed a story (removed it from the website) that was posted yesterday afternoon and available well into the evening. The story's nowhere to be found now but friends at the Times say it did address Specter's refusal to swear Gonzales in.

Now why go to all that trouble? Why remove a story from the website by a Times reporter? It's one thing not to print it, it's quite another to pull it from the website.

But they're more useless than usual on the hearings. Nothing's really worth quoting from the Times in terms of them getting anything right, but let's note Liptak:

Under the ordinary rules that courts use to harmonize potentially conflicting laws, the more specific one typically governs. Here, that would seem to be the 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, which created an elaborate legal scheme to regulate wiretaps, as well as a secret court that promptly hears warrant applications.
If a later law means to override or amend an earlier one, moreover, courts generally require it to say so specifically. The 2001 resolution authorized the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States."
Whether the 2001 resolution created an exception to the 1978 law depends on whether "necessary and appropriate force" includes surveillance of the enemy. Neither detentions nor surveillance was mentioned in the resolution. The Bush administration says both are natural incidents of the use of force in wartime.
In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that the resolution encompassed the detention of an American citizen captured on a foreign battlefield in a conventional war. But critics say spying on communications involving people in the United States is very different from detaining an enemy combatant.

"Critics" might also point out that the Court's finding (which is distorted in the above) was based on a clearly defined "battlefield." "Critics" might also point out that the Bully Boy seeks to make the whole world a "battlefield" (has he been listening to Pat Benetar?) under his administration's "argument."

Here's what reporters (as opposed to "reporters") might do. They might note the many questions asked about the so-called war on terror and the responses. They might note that Senators from both parties raised issues as to the very premise and that they pointed out there was no end to this so-called "war." But the Times isn't interested in telling you that happened either. Completely useless, the New York Times today. But no reason to worry, paper of record, we're only talking about a public event, a hearing into things that go to the root of what our nation is and will be.

But this is the paper that loathes Risen (who needs to watch his back) so it's not surprising that this is the way it plays out. (And if someone wants to question that Risen needs to watch his back, note that the Times has made a point to bury reporters who didn't get their own attornies in the past. Miller pushed administration spin so they would have stood by her regardless but having her own attorney helped. Risen, however, according to friends at the paper, is in a similar situation to a reporter in the early seventies who reported on a group of radicals and then faced the government's wrath. The Times didn't stand by him. He got his own attorney. Risen would be smart not to take promises at face value.)

Here's another story the Times misses:

The CIA's top counterterrorism officer was relieved of his position yesterday after months of turmoil atop the agency's clandestine service, according to three knowledgeable officials.
Robert Grenier, who spent most of his career undercover overseas, took charge of the Counterterrorism Center about a year ago after a series of senior jobs at the center of the Bush administration's national security agenda.

That's from Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer's "Top Counterterrorism Officer Removed Amid Turmoil at CIA" in this morning's Washington Post.

Back to the Times. Coretta Scott King Watch. Still no editorial or op-ed that's about her. (Bob Herbert included a brief quote and managed to toss in that she died in the final two paragraphs of an op-ed not about her last week -- an op-ed that reminded everyone of his roots before he joined the paper of record, of the days when he was one of many all over the Central Park rape story. And no, that's not a good thing.) Seven days after the paper reported she died, she still hasn't ranked an editorial or an op-ed noting her legacy, her importance or her acts. Well, maybe if she was a friend of Gail Collins . . . as the argument goes. In only the third article mentioning her (the article on her daying came first, then the article on what the paper loved to bill as a "squabble" over funeral arrangements -- we're not counting Bumillie's "Bully Boy Will Attend!" White House Letter), we get Brenda Goodman's "Mourners Line Up for Mrs. King" which is notable mainly for the nice close up of Oprah that illustrates the A13 article. (There's also a photo of mourners lined up. The two photos take up more space than the text because obviously the paper of record has nothing to say about Coretta Scott King.)

That's it for the paper this morning. Hopefully this will post. Blogger/Blogspot is still acting up and conventional attempts at posting (as well as e-mailing this entry to the site) aren't working. We're using a "backdoor" option that the UK Computer Gurus suggested. Hopefully, it will work. We're also working on getting Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts up. Whether either will work or not, who knows?

Remember to listen to, watch or read Democracy Now! today. We could use real news and Lord knows we won't get it from the Timid.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.