Friday, December 16, 2005


The NY Times: It's really not about news at all any more

Let's see, on the day after the Iraqi election, the New York Times runs a "Bush OK'd Spying on Americans" headline.

Only a couple of problems. They've had this story, by their own admission, for about a year. Congressional committee members and the "terrorism court" (which has been around since the '70's) were briefed on the surveillance program. The program ended some time ago. And the "officials" who were "concerned about its legality" are all (surprise!) unnamed sources. Other than those "officials" and the ACLU (another real surprise) there's no suggestion that there is anything wrong with this, certainly not anything illegal.

So why break it as a "Big Story" today? Well, let's see... the Times can't report on the Iraqi election in too much detail, it doesn't fit their agenda... and they can try to undercut the importance of that story with this stuff, dutifully picked up by the rest of the MSM.

Anybody have any doubt why this story appeared today? It's not about news. It's about pursuing the Times' own political agenda.

UPDATE: Anonymous comment #1 sure was closer to bullseye than he apparently realized. The Times release of this story has helped block the extension of the Patriot Act in the Senate.

UPDATE 2: At Little Green Footballs, they're pointing out that this year-old story is tied to an upcoming book:

Risen claims the TIMES delayed publication of the article for a year to conduct additional reporting.

But now comes word James Risen’s article is only one of many “explosive newsbreaking” stories that can be found — in his upcoming book!

The paper failed to reveal the urgent story was tied to a book release and sale.

UPDATE 3: POWERLINE theorizes that maybe the Patriot Act, not the Iraqi election, was the primary target of this hit piece, and raises an ugly question: could the NY Times be coordinating with the Democrats? Wasn't there similar suspiciously timed "reporting" and "news" during the 2004 campaign? You remember, the whole "Fortunate Son" episode?

This morning, I wrote about the New York Times' publication of leaked classified information about a National Security Agency program involving monitoring of international communications between persons in America and known terrorists overseas. Many have wondered about the timing of the story; the Times says that it sat on the story for a year. Some have surmised that the Times was trying to take yesterday's election in Iraq off the front page. I think a more plausible theory is that the paper wanted to give cover to the Democrats' filibuster of the Patriot Act. The Associated Press says:

[T]he Patriot Act's critics got a boost from a New York Times report saying Bush authorized the National Security Agency to monitor the international phone calls and international e-mails of hundreds — perhaps thousands — of people inside the United States. Previously, the NSA typically limited its domestic surveillance to foreign embassies and missions and obtained court orders for such investigations.

"I don't want to hear again from the attorney general or anyone on this floor that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it with restraint and care," said Feingold, the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001.

It would be interesting to know to what extent the Times coordinates the timing of its stories with Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.

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