‘When and why I reveal secrets’

I want to see the editor of a major U.S. newspaper who is covering and uncovering classified government antiterrorism programs write a piece under the headline: “When and why I will reveal secrets.” For I have not yet seen a satisfactory answer to that obvious and essential question in any of the many letters and editorials those editors have been writing lately. If journalism is about upholding standards, then let’s know what those standards are.

It’s not a hard piece to write, I think. Begin here:

I will reveal a secret government program when I can show that it violates the law or abuses the power given under that law. I will reveal such a program when I can demonstrate that it is dangerously ineffective or incompetent in its design or execution. And I will not reveal such secrets unless I can show a compelling need to know and newsworthiness, and unless I can show that doing so will not put innocent lives and welfare at risk. If revealing secrets puts the nation, its agents, or soldiers at risk, I will not reveal them.

That’s a start. I do hope these editors edit and amend that because we should know what their standards are so we can better judge both their reporting and their critics.

Instead, in today’s joint oped from NY Times Executive Editor Bill Keller and LA Times Editor Dean Baquet, we see a continuation of the theme of Keller’s last latter (my reaction to that here), which doesn’t so much say why they revealed the secrets but instead argues why their critics are wrong to complain.

They say that it is right and necessary for the press to report on what government is doing — and, of course, I agree — but they do not address the limits of that, other than to say that they know their limits and have not revealed other secrets in the past. So shouldn’t we know those limits as well? For if we don’t, then aren’t we merely trading blind faith in politicians, properly balanced by the press, with blind faith in editors, balanced by nothing more than government attacks — and now, perhaps, bloggers? Here’s how it works now: The editors reveal; the politicians accuse them of everything from jeopardizing programs to risking national security to committing treason; the editors and their defenders shoot back at the politicians. And we in the public are left without a roadmap: This government secret had to be revealed because…. This government secret could not be revealed because…. Shouldn’t the editors give us that map?

In his last letter, Keller tried to argue that it was not the job of The Times to judge the programs’ legality or effectiveness. Yet — I asked before — isn’t the decision about whether to violate the government secrets and reveal the workings of the program based on that very sort of judgment? Otherwise, why was the secret revealed? What made it necessary and newsworthy? Was it because the program was illegal or abusive or incompetent or dangerous? Where is the standard?

The Times editorial this week (not from Keller, of course), continued the specious argument made by Keller and then by Times op-ed writers Richard Clarke and Roger Cressey that the terrorists — and, one assumes, a clueful public — already knew that the government was tracing financial transactions — wisely — to both find terrorists and cut them off from their resources. So if everyone already knew it, they argue, then what’s the harm of the disclosure? I’ll respond: If everybody already knew it, then where’s the news value? If we all knew that the government was tracking transactions — and that it was legal and effective — then what is the point in revealing the specifics of the program? And what is the risk? Once again: What made this necessary and newsworthy? Where is the standard?

In today’s letter, Keller and Baquet make more arguments worth addressing.

They argue that they and their staffs are “not neutral in the struggle against terrorism.” Well, I would hope that needn’t be said. But perhaps it should be. Stipulated.

They talk about the special role of the press:

We apply the principles of journalism individually as editors of independent newspapers. We agree, however, on some basics about the immense responsibility the press has been given by the inventors of the country. . . .

Thirty-five years ago yesterday, in the Supreme Court ruling that stopped the government from suppressing the secret Vietnam War history called the Pentagon Papers, Justice Hugo Black wrote: “The government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people.”

As that sliver of judicial history reminds us, the conflict between the government’s passion for secrecy and the press’s drive to reveal is not of recent origin.

But as they themselves make clear, it is not the press’ role to reveal everything it knows. There are limits. There are standards. So again: What are they?

And let’s be clear that the freedom and responsibility supposedly given to the press was truly given to the people. The press itself has no special franchise on that freedom. Indeed, if the press is a check on government, then the people — not the government — is the rightful check on the press. So the people deserve to know not only how government operates in our name but how the press operates in our name.

They continue:

Our job, especially in times like these, is to bring our readers information that will enable them to judge how well their elected leaders are fighting on their behalf, and at what price.

In recent years our papers have brought you a great deal of information the White House never intended for you to know — classified secrets about the questionable intelligence that led the country to war in Iraq, about the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, about the transfer of suspects to countries that are not squeamish about using torture, about eavesdropping without warrants.

Yes, of course, it is the job of journalists to help us judge our government’s work. But, of course, secrecy puts limits on that. The list that follows is, well, ironic, since some of the questionable intelligence that led the country to war came from The Times. And I’ll get to the “eavesdropping” in a moment. They continue:

As Robert G. Kaiser, associate editor of The Washington Post, asked recently in the pages of that newspaper: “You may have been shocked by these revelations, or not at all disturbed by them, but would you have preferred not to know them at all? If a war is being waged in America’s name, shouldn’t Americans understand how it is being waged?”

Well, I’d also rather that my enemies not know how that war is being waged.

Next, Keller and Baquet ask: “How do we, as editors, reconcile the obligation to inform with the instinct to protect?” Good question. But they answer it not with principles, with standards, but instead with process described generically: how tips come in, how reporters report, how conversations occur with government officials in charge of these programs. But we still are not told why this secret is a story and that one is not. They do not reveal their judgment. They say:

Finally, we weigh the merits of publishing against the risks of publishing. There is no magic formula, no neat metric for either the public’s interest or the dangers of publishing sensitive information.

I’m not asking for a magic formula. I am asking for principles. Here’s their kicker:

We make our best judgment.

In short: Trust us.

When we come down in favor of publishing, of course, everyone hears about it. Few people are aware when we decide to hold an article. But each of us, in the past few years, has had the experience of withholding or delaying articles when the administration convinced us that the risk of publication outweighed the benefits. Probably the most discussed instance was The New York Times’s decision to hold its article on telephone eavesdropping for more than a year, until editors felt that further reporting had whittled away the administration’s case for secrecy.

And the public — checking the press — has asked again and again why that story was too dangerous to reveal for a year and then suddenly OK to reveal. The only answer so far: Trust us.

They then list other stories they have not revealed — not explaining why — and conclude:

We understand that honorable people may disagree with any of these choices — to publish or not to publish. But making those decisions is the responsibility that falls to editors, a corollary to the great gift of our independence. It is not a responsibility we take lightly. And it is not one we can surrender to the government.

Nor, gentlemen, is it one that we the people wholly surrender to you, the press.

That is why we deserve to know more about your standards and your process. That is not only because we have a right to know what you do In Nomine Publicoin nomen publicus [please do correct my automated Latin; thanks for the correction] but also because we, too, have a voice that matters. Many people questioned Judith Miller’s WMD reporting and think how much better it would have been if those questions had been heard and answered. Note that USA Today just backed off elements of its NSA telephone story, after the cat was out of the bag. And about the NSA telephone program, I was not alone suggesting that this “eavesdropping,” as The Times calls it — a purposely loaded word that implies spooks are listening in on our conversations — was more about data mining to find patterns and thus, we hope, anomalies than to hear about who’s having an affair. In both the NSA phone and the Swift banking programs, it seems apparent that you need to analyze a body of data to find the outliers who may be worth investigating. This isn’t as simple as it is being portrayed: as another violation of our individual privacy. I don’t consider the analysis of the aggregated data to which I contribute with my individual actions a violation of my privacy. And if this catches or stops terrorists — as many, including the 9/11 Commission, believe that tracking and analyzing financial transactions can do — then I say it is worth it. But neither is the questioning of these programs as simple as it is being portrayed; it’s not treason.

That is the sort of substantive discussion we should be having. Instead, we are stuck in a simplistic did-not/did-too shouting match in which the papers reveal what they choose to reveal, and then the politicians call names, and then the papers respond to those names — instead of discussing the real questions and issues. It is up to the editors, I think, to set that tone. They have the ability and I suggest they start by writing pieces under the headline above: When and why will you reveal secrets?

: LATER: See Greg Sargent at Eat the Press on the sorry state of the conversation. He says that these editors are doing nothing but defending themselves against “wildly irrational” and “profoundly demented” charges. Yes, which is why I say they should be setting the agenda for this conversation based on their own principles and standards. See above.

: On Meet the Press just now, William Safire answers the rhetorical question, ‘Who elected the press to decide what stays secret?’ with the answer, ‘The founding fathers did.’ This sense of holy constitutional entitlement weakens when we are all, as we should be, the press.

  • fpn

    Keller and Baquet also cite a Supreme Court decision from the Vietnam era to justify newspapers publishing any governemnent secret they damn well please: “The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people.” Those secrets were a coverup of illegal activity on the government’s part, and exposing them was of course the right thing to do, but what of legal, secret intelligence activities like the rescent discolosures? I don’t see how Keller can possbly justify this.

  • Ran Selman

    Strikes me you’re being more than a little disingenuous here, Jeff. We can expect the media to deliver this “map’ as soon as life fits into neat little boxes. Until then, I’m content knowing that there are people out there with reasonably good judgment who will do their best to make the right decision. Strikes me that the media is doing far better at digging up stories about Government abuse, and disclosing responsibly, than the Government is doing in managing competently, and keeping its citizens properly informed. No contest, in fact.

    Strikes me that y’all ought to be spending more of your time focusing on the erosion of your civil liberties and whether you can trust your Government with all of the power you’re giving it, than on attacking the media that is trying to do the difficult job of keeping them honest.

  • Mr. Jarvis – Agreed on nearly all you’ve said.

    I wouldn’t call what The Times did “treason,” but it is really irresponsible, and as you note, there is a more substantive discussion to be had, and the MSM is trying to dodge that and talking down to us as it attempts that dodge.

    I’m furious at The Times, but I don’t need the word “treason.” Words like “careless,” and “full of themselves” and “ignorant of responsibility” will do just fine. The lack of the substantive discussion is what is really worrisome: If we are not as thoughtful as we could be, as a people, is that partly the media’s fault?

    I tend to think so, but I’m more than willing to back down on that as we approach a post-MSM age, and media becomes a responsibility more than a business in some ways (that sounds more pompous than it was meant to be).


    It is interesting that we find it so horrific that a newspaper would reveal a “secret” that the US government has.
    If an organization as sieve-like (when it comes to information) knows something like this, then it obviously is not a secret to anybody in the know.
    So, is the outrage merely because the populace was informed of more “secret” spying that the US is doing? Maybe the real issue should be how inept this government is at keeping secrets from the press. The press is simply a medium. It needs to be free to transmit everything.
    I think the problems are rising with government programs that the participants do not feel good about, and feel the rest of us citizens need to know about. Maybe we should stop violating civil rights of Americans due to vague warnings about “terror.”

  • Jeff says: “But neither is the questioning of these programs as simple as it is being portrayed…” [emphasis mine]

    It’s not the questioning of the programs that’s at issue. It’s the reporting. Questions are fine. Disclosure of a legal and effective program is not.

    Jeff says: “…it’s not treason.”

    You’re right; it’s not. I don’t think it has anything to do with treason. I think it has to do with greed. Stories like this sell papers and drive web traffic. Frankly, what a great scandal this is.

    Follow the money. There’s the motive. “Eavesdropping” is such a great gossipy word. It gets people’s juices going. Accurate? No. Salacious? Absolutely.

    The New York Times is nothing more than tabloid paprazzi journalism dressed in fine words and reputation with stories like these. Scandal sells. Except that there is no scandal with this story – nothing illegal, no cover-up, no abuse of power, no civil liberties violated like the doofus commenters above suggest. This is just created scandal with the political celebrity centerpiece of George Bush’s administration instead of Brangelina.

    The old gray lady my ass… more like the hot pink tart. Gossip and greed. Pure and simple. This is just selling papers in the midst of New York where such horror occurred.

    This ought to chap your ass more, Jeff. You’re being kind, which I thought wise at first, but less so now as I watch the continuing words of these giants of arrogance, these editors. You have stronger words for Michael Dell than Bill Keller. Which is more important?

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  • Will Pollard

    It is a question of trust. The newspapers may say ‘trust us’ and governments may say ‘trust us’. The issue at the moment is that many people do not trust government so the newspapers may or may not reflect this in their reports.

    One example I am following is the memo leaked to the Daily Mirror that reportedly relates to the possibility of bombing Al Jazeera offices. How should that be reported? Or not reported? Maybe if anything was said it was as a joke. Should that be reported?

    A trial will start in the UK around October because of the leak. Two people may go to jail, a civil servant and a researcher for a former MP. This is under the UK Official Secrets Act despite the passing of a Freedom of Information Act in the UK. al Jazeera have requested to see part of the memo relating to them under the Freedom of Information Act. No response so far.

    If there was nothing in the memo, or there is no memo, how can there be a case based on leaking it?

    Maybe this is the sort of story that the press should spend more time on. There is some space where the public expects something by way of explanation as to what government is doing.

  • 1. The program wasn’t secret.
    2. Terrorists don’t use normal banking channels (or telecommunications channels either).
    3. Revealing it wasn’t helping the enemy.
    4. If we really wanted to deal with money laundering we would be cracking down on the Bahamas, Switzerland and all the other places where this goes on.
    5. Blaming the press when the admin is caught with their pants down smacks of finding the kid with his hand in the cookie jar – his protests are self serving.
    6. This latest attack is part of a continuing campaign to discredit the press and intimidate them so that abuse (fiscal and well as political) can continue without oversight.
    7. Whatever “standards” are drawn up will still need to be applied using editorial judgement. So “trust us” will still be the underlying action. Jeff is making a meaningless distinction.

    The segment of the population that is getting more and more radical in its attacks against opponents of the present administration needs to be understood. I understand that many in congress feel that they are at risk of losing their seats and thus come up with ‘hail Mary’ actions like the censure vote against the NY Times this week. I also understand their media followers who see their audience dwindling and are becoming more shrill in an attempt to hold on to them.

    What I don’t understand are those in the general public who are so upset. Have they been so traumatized by five years of crying wolf that they have lost their sense of proportion? Or do they see the failure of the war in Iraq and the inability of the government to protect people from natural disasters (or rebuild afterwards) as an indication that their strong father model isn’t working well, and thus that they will be unprotected?

    Or, is it that the more moderate supporters of the admin’s policies have all become disillusioned and are now keeping quiet, changing sides, or tuning out, and, thus, only the most radical are left?

    Whatever it is, the level of invective has risen to a point where there is little space for moderate voices to be heard. This is usually the point at which society undergoes a sudden change. The present moment is starting to look like the height of the anti-war movement during the Vietnam era. A point when even one’s hair style was a political statement.

    Nixon tried to demonize the press, but this was to cover up his own personal misdeeds. The current campaign is aimed at cowering the press so that the admin will continue to have a free hand to exercise its policies. Attempts to muzzle the press (at least in the US) always backfire, although the government managed to close “The Masses” and several other leftist publications during WWI.

  • Brett Rogers,

    I agree with your point about Michael Dell, but couldn’t disagree more with your theory on the NYT and “greed”. (Remember that Jeff occasionally consults for the NYT.)

    They do what they do in spite of sound business realities. One could argue that say Fox’s business template was based on profit because they actually earn money. But the Times has been losing revenue and readership for quite some time now, as is reflected in its stock price. A one day jump in web traffic is nothing compared to the subscription cancellations and potentially mounting pressure on advertisers.

    There certainly is money to be made from tabloid sensationalism, but just not on the scale of the NYT’s current readership. Perhaps when their subscriptions stop dropping we’ll have a better handle on how big that niche market is.

  • Hey Captious

    I thought too that their readership was declining, but I read this:


    True? I don’t know. It’s all a shell game when it comes to readership numbers, but numbers are going down overall because there’s more competition. So when it’s harder to get noticed in a larger crowd, sensationalism will bring you attention. Is it worth it? Is it smart business? No. But then neither is Times Select and they did that too.

    “Scoops” like this bring Pulitzers and nominations for Pulitzers – deserved or not – which only brings more attention and “prestige.”

    I do know that Jeff works with the Times. I’m still going with greed.

  • Shame on you, Jeff.

    “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.” –Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787. ME 6:57

    Mind you, Jefferson as President would endure vicious attacks from those very same newspapers that he championed, but even this did not shake his absolute belief in a free press.

    And for those of you who think that “9/11 changed everything” and that the Founding Fathers could never have predicted an enemy as vicious and implacable as Al-Qaeda, try reading about the Barbary Pirates sometime.

  • Of course, the program had been announced by the President previously and cited by him as a great tool we are using in tracking down terrorists. If it’s so great, then, the NY Times reporting on it would be advantageous, so it’s obvious that it’s not all the President wanted it to be. No headlines, please.

    But I have to admire John Harwood of WSJ on Meet the Press disavowing the WSJ editorial calling the Times’ release of the program ‘not in good faith’, saying that the news staff of WSJ knows that is not true. Now there is a real exhibit of courage, badly needed in these times [pun intended].

  • Hey Jersey

    Couldn’t pass up your partial quote of Jefferson. Yep – the man loved the free expression of the opinions of people. But note: you’re out of context. Writing our opinions and watching closely our governors doesn’t equate with disclosing state secrets that can kill those who live in a free society by informing our enemy. Did Jefferson embrace informing the Barbary Pirates on how to succeed and elude capture via newspapers? Nope. You draw a false parallel.

  • Ravo

    A most excellent article on what our media is REALLY guilty of by
    Raymond Kraft

    “In the law there is a variant of the tort of invasion of privacy and defamation called FALSE LIGHT…….

  • Until then, I’m content knowing that there are people out there with reasonably good judgment who will do their best to make the right decision.

    And let’s hope that someday they get hired by the NYT.

  • 1. The program wasn’t secret.

    That must be why the headline was “Bank Data Sifted in Secret by U.S. to Block Terror.” They were being sarcastic.

  • thedude

    Why should ANY media have loyality to country? The fact is the “media” is now global in nature. If the NY times doesn’t print a story because of Bush threats why can’t the Guardian run it? There is really no longer any place for secrets in todays environment. If an administration doesn’t want a story out, they need to mind their own shop. As a citizan journalist, anything and I mean anything that I find interesting I will print. And isn’t that how it should be? Its the entire point of citizen journalism, no more editors. Jarvis you continue to lose credibility by trying to protect this administration. You are going against the very foundation of new journalism, the topic you’ve fought so hard for on this blog. Is your personal Fear and buy in of this adminstrations peddleing of fear worth discrediting the movement you’ve worked so hard to create?

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  • thedude

    Wait a second, why is the media the one defending itself here. Its the Bush administration that has continuely broke the laws of this country. If any thing Jarvis and friends should be asking why the media was asleep at the wheel for years and NOT reporting the obvious reach for executive power. At this time in history to most in America, Bush and his regime are more a threat to freedoms and constitution of this country then Bid Laden ever could be. THe media is only now, finally, doing its job as the 4th estate and your blogging about how THEY went to far. Where the hell were YOU when Cheney claimed price caps were not needed because there was no evidence any energy companies were rigging the system? Or when they said no one could expect terrorist would use planes? or when Cheney said Saddam was a year away from a nuclear weapon? or when he said we’d be welcomed with flowers? or when he said the incergency is in its last throes? or when Bush said wiretaps need a court order? You show up to lambast the media for finally showing up? Give me a break.

  • Jeff:

    btw, it’s “In Nomine Publico.”


    Did Jefferson make a special exception to his dedication towards a free and uncensored press for state secrets and national security? Surely the 18th and early 19th centuries had its covert actions and governmental functionaries who preferred to do their work unfettered by public scrutiny. As far as I’ve read in the historical evidence, Jefferson’s only concern with the newspapers was whether what they printed was true or false — legal censure was something that he endorsed for those found guilty of spreading falsehoods, not printing the truth.

    If a covert operation can’t keep a lid on its secrecy, that’s its own damned fault. Expecting no one to report on it — or worse, expecting both new and old media to somehow agree on some arbitrary set of guidelines for not reporting on it (can you actually be serious about this?) — is just so much silliness. Okay, for the sake of argument let’s say that the American press did refrain from breaking the story. How do we stop the Brits from running it? The Europeans? The rest of the world?

  • Eileen

    “It’s a mainstream media orgy of simultaneous denial and self-congratulation. We haven’t seen anything so repulsive since CBS News tried to stonewall their way through Rathergate.”

    Well said, Charles Johnson of littlegreenfootballs.com.

    As for standards, perhaps the New York Slimes and their brethren at the Post, etc., should take note of ‘the law’ with respect to disclosure of classified information, particularly in time of war.

    And perhaps the leakers at State or the CIA should take note of same as well.

    Waiting for the DOJ and Alberto to educate them.

    My guess is within two weeks.

  • Eileen —

    Please do not feel as though I am singling you out, because you are certainly not alone, but, please, can we all agree to restrain ourselves when throwing around that imprecise phrase “particularly in time of war.”

    The United States is, indeed, engaged in two wars at the moment: one in alliance with the Karzai regime in Afghanistan against the resurgent Taliban; the second in support of the al-Maliki regime in Baghdad.

    Neither of these “wars” have anything whatsoever to do with monitoring of electronic funds transfers or the analysis of aggregated telephone data or the wiretapping of international telephone calls.

    The “war” that is invoked around those activities is used metaphorically. We are in a time of “war on terrorism” under this President Bush just as we were in a “war on drugs” under his father, or a “war on cancer” under Nixon or a “war on poverty” under Johnson.

    The Bush Administration itself implicitly concedes that the “war on terrorism” is not an actual war. It refuses to designate those it detains as “Prisoners of War” and it treats Zacarias Moussaoui, the self-confessed plotter of September 11th, as a common criminal not a soldier.

    Reporting on the monitoring of SWIFT may have been overhyped, or ill-considered, or counterproductive to the CIA’s espionage efforts — but it had nothing to do with the actual wars the US military is fighting.

    If the Bush Administration really wanted to be productive in “time of war” it might raise the minimum wage to help LBJ’s “war on poverty,” which is still not won. Now that is a long war for you, to quote Jesus Christ: “The poor will be always with us.”

  • Eileen,

    An important feature of “the law” regarding the promulgation of classified material is that it is not intended to protect lawbreakers in government themselves. If the Bush administration behaved unlawfully in ordering surveillance activities not sanctioned by the powers granted to him (even in time of war), then our highest courts have recognized a valid and competing public interest in the press reporting on those activities.

    If the Constitution is “not a suicide pact” then the U.S. Code is not a firing squad either. Regardless of what the brain trust at Little Green Footballs likes to think, breaking the law to unmask illegal activity is a far cry from providing aid and comfort to the enemy, and fortunately the Supreme Court has affirmed this truth on multiple occasions in the past.

  • RonP

    I’m sorry but this notion that the “press” will decide what is in the public interest is insane. the press (in the guise of Bill Keller) has decided that it is part of the government. excuse me but i don’t remember the that election – was i sleeping that day? this is leading to a serious backlash which (hopefully) will result in a number of journalists being called before a grand jury.

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  • proproio

    and unless I can show that doing so will not put innocent lives and welfare at risk. If revealing secrets puts the nation, its agents, or soldiers at risk, I will not reveal them.

    So if a government agency puts together an illegal, destructive program, but does so in a way where revealing that program would endanger its agents, it should be effectively immune from criticism / exposure?

    You were so absolutely correct until you inserted that ultimatum.

  • Eileen


    The term ‘war’ on terror/ism is about as far from being metaphorical as I can imagine.

    You stated: “Neither of these “wars” have anything whatsoever to do with monitoring of electronic funds transfers or the analysis of aggregated telephone data or the wiretapping of international telephone calls.”

    I see. And you know this, how? Further, the Bush administration Neither explicitly Nor implicitly “concedes that the “war on terrorism” is not an actual war.” Your examples don’t prove your point; nor do I have time to rebut why with respect to each of them. Furthermore, in my view that assertion is purely preposterous.

    You see, this is the problem. The left and it’s mouthpieces like the NYT want everyone to just pretend that we ARen’t at war with Islamofascism on a global scale. I don’t need to list all the attacks here do I? I ‘guess’ the logic goes this way: if there’s no REAL war on terror, there are no Constitutionally Provided War Powers available to the administration. Consequently the TSM/terrorist supporting media can throw more dung on the wall – particularly via the intentional public disclosure and dissemination of DEtails of classified programs – and hope something ~ ANything sticks.

    Sorry guys. Even the Slimes is backpeddaling as fast as they can at this point.

    I’ll stick to my intentionally chosen phrase, “particularly in time of war”.


    I might not disagree with you *except* that no one – not anyone – has proven that any of the leaked programs are ILLEGAL. In fact the converse is true. With respect to the NSA program, even former FISA judges testified before Congress confirming the legality of the program. As for the latest treasonous piece of dung disclosure, even the NYT never made the claim that it is illegal.

    If disclosing details of LEgal, CLassified intelligence operations during time of war designed to identify and locate our enemy ISn’t giving aid and comfort to the ENemy, then Senators wouldn’t be invoking USC Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 115, paragraph 2381, as they identify the New York Slimes’ dung for what it actually is: treason. But it doesn’t even take a Senator to figure that one out..

    I’ve got work to do.

    Have a great 4th, All.

  • thedude

    NSA is blatantly illegal. YOU are just so blinded by fear and a fool for propaganda you deny what EVERYONE except Michelle Malkin has confirmed as an illegal program. Eileen explain why Bush said that domestic wiretapping needs a court order? Why Eileen? If you and your cronies continue to turn a blind eye to the illegal acts of this administration then YOU are a traitor and a terrorist and YOU need to be held accountable for enabling the high crimes against the constitution of the US by this administration.

    The idea that the media needs to self censor its self in a global environment to protect states it happens to do business in is pathetic. If the NYT won’t print illegal acts against the constitution then the public will go to a source that will, be it the guardian, or some blog.

  • Soldier’s Dad

    Simple fundamental question –

    Does the government have the right to keep secrets. If such a right exists then it is up to either courts or congress to determine what can and can not be kept secret.

    The idea that a “self appointed arbiter” should have the ultimate authority is foolhardy at best.

  • Eileen —

    No, you do not have to “list all the attacks here.” The fact that bombs have gone off in Madrid and London since September 11th is not in dispute.

    The question at stake is whether those attacks amount to a real, not metaphorical, “war.”

    The fact that the Bush Administration refuses to regard the perpetrators of those attacks, or those of September 11th itself, as governed by the Geneva Conventions, which lays down the rules of “war”, seems to indicate that it does not see the attackers as warriors and their activity as warfare, whatever their rhetoric.

    You cite the existence of “Islamofascism” as evidence that we are at war. Liberal western society can be in conflict with that ideology without it being self-evident that “war” is the correct literal term for that conflict.

  • Eileen


    In my view war IS – all too ‘self-evidently’ – the “correct literal term for that conflict”. It is the Islamofascists themselves who pronounce loudly and often their intentions regarding jihad on a global scale.

    And they make good on their promises across the world daily.

    You know as well as I do that Madrid and London aren’t the only attacks I speak of. Nor, obviously, was 9/11 their first attack against the U.S. or U.S. interests. Again, I don’t plan to list all of them as I don’t have time – particularly today. I doubt that Jeff would wish to pay for the bandwidth it would take to provide a thorough list either. There are many web sites which track them, country by country, on a daily basis.

    Do you think the jihadists have agreed to abide by the terms of the Geneva convention? If not, why should the U.S. treat them as if they have? It is they who hide behind masks, don’t wear uniforms, send their children to intentionally blow up innocent civilians, commit genocide, and wage barbaric warfare across the globe from Thailand to Indonesia to Bali to Darfur to Palestine to the U.S., Britain, France, Spain, and too many other COuntries to even list.

    Actually Andrew, my greatest angst at this stage is the refusal of intelligent progressives (if I might apply that term to you) to recognize not only the reality but also the gravity of the war we are engaged in.

    I was completely uneducated regarding Islam before 9/11. Unfortunately, for five years now I’ve been learning about our foe…and the more I learn, the more I’ve had to face unpleasant truths regarding what we’re up against.

    When the uneducated (and I do not imply that is you) further try to hamstring or even sabotage (cf. the NYT) the U.S.’ efforts to protect us from the Religion of Death – and I DO mean to use that term in no uncertain terms – my patience wears thin.

    We NEED the left to recognize the enemy is not our own administration. The ACTUAL enemy is Islamofascism and it needs to be stated clearly and often. I do not see us losing any civil liberties as we wage this ACtual war. The only ‘inconvenience’ I’ve experienced is taking off my shoes at the airport. It is a small price to pay.

    I trust our system of government and the checks and balances provided by the Constitution. The NSA program is being challenged in the courts as we speak. It is my expectation that this critically important program will continue…notwithstanding the fact that the terrorists have been educated regarding specific methods we’re using to track them by the Slimes/spit, and therefore its efficacy has been sorely undermined.

    The adage ‘with friends like these, who needs enemies?’ applies. Unfortunately, those ‘friends’ are no longer friends of mine.

    Soldier Dad,

    The law provides for the protection of our national security and military secrets on many levels…from the Constitution to U.S. and military statutes/regs…via the ‘state secrets privilege’ – see U.S. v. Reynolds, 1953, and etc. I invite you to google or dogpile or whatever to your heart’s content.


    Read up, dude, on who the terrorists REally are. Hint: it isn’t me, dude. Your neck is on the line. It would behoove you to get educated. [Another hint: the NSA program relates to INTERNATIONAL, not domestic data mining.]

    Now I’ve got to do some work before I enjoy spectacular fireworks to celebrate our independence from people like jihadis, who are intent on seeing us either dhimmi or dead.

    Have a good one, All.

  • Eileen — I think you have put your finger on the root of the problem, of which the brouhaha about The New York Times’ article is a mere symptom.

    You say: “Actually Andrew, my greatest angst at this stage is the refusal of intelligent progressives (if I might apply that term to you) to recognize not only the reality but also the gravity of the war we are engaged in.”

    I think you are correct about the lack of consensus you decry — and it is not only “intelligent progressives” (as you so kindly put it) that fail to recognize the same reality that you do. The disagreement may stretch to the majority of the population.

    If so, blame must lie with President Bush — for his sloppy rhetoric, his bait-and-switch leadership, his compulsive secrecy, his pseudo-imperial style and his exploitation of his War on Terrorism to score points in partisan domestic politics.

    As long as White House political operatives treat this “global war” so cynically and trivially — as a set of talking points to win yet another midterm election rather than a crisis around which all points of the political spectrum must rally — it should come as no surprise that so many disagree with your assessment of its gravity.

    Happy Fourth of July.

    Regards — Andrew

  • thedude

    No Eileen, just like before 911 you are just not up to speed. For most people fanatic Islam was a threat, obviously it wasn’t for this administration when they took office. Instead they were focused on the American Talibans pet peeves, death with dignity and prostitution busts. Again your failure to not be able to tell the difference between those who attacked us and Iraq is the major problem of our time. Its a grey world Eileen and your fighting a black and white fight that is causing a lot of trouble in the grey world you fail to understand. You and your followers picked a fight with a country that had nothing to do with 911. Your leader used fear and psyc warfare on the US public to get us into a war we should NEVER have been in. Now you turn around and just like the enemy we are fighting want to keep knowlege from the people. Bush and his supports have a symbiotic relationship with Bin Laden and his cronies. Both could not survive without the other. Please do not impose your black and white world on a country built on the greys of reason, nuance and enlightment.

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