Sunday, March 05, 2006

Reporters on Trial

An astounding article on White House efforts to expose leaks by targeting reporters, dragging them before grand juries they can’t afford to appear in front of, and, in general, attacking one of the pillars of our democracy - the fourth estate, appeared in the Sunday “Washington Post.”

And they think they’re the ones to bring representative democracy to the middle east.

Here it is from Dan Eggen:

Among other bits in the article: “In recent weeks, dozens of employees at the CIA, the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence agencies have been interviewed by agents from the FBI’s Washington field office, who are investigating possible leaks that led to reports about secret CIA prisons and the NSA’s warrantless domestic surveillance program, according to law enforcement and intelligence officials familiar with the two cases.”

The administration, it would appear, has plans for charging reporters under espionage laws.

That’s absurd of course. It is the journalist’s duty to keep government honest. Calling that spying because of the tiresome and weak argument that we’re “at war” is the height of irresponsibility.

If the scribe were appearing on a Sunday morning talk show, George Will would accuse him of being “angry.” And he would be damn right.

And he, as a reporter, should be, too, at what this administration tries to get away with. They want to hide just about anything they do under the rubric of being “classified.” And then they want to prosecute when people exposing the excesses of power make that information public.

Here’s “New York Times” editor Bill Keller, quoted in the same article: “There’s a tone of gleeful relish in the way they talk about dragging reporters before grand juries, their appetite for withholding information, and the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public’s business risk being branded as traitors. I don’t know how far action will follow rhetoric, but some days it sounds like the administration is declaring war at home on the values it professes to be promoting abroad,” which is sort of what the scribe said a bit earlier for a lot less pay and prestige.

The article observes that, “President Bush has called the NSA leak ‘a shameful act’ that was helping the enemy’.”

the highway scribe says the NSA program was a ‘shameful act’ and says the (p)resident was ‘the enemy.’

How can the scribe say such a thing?

Well, somebody in the White House outed a CIA agent by the name of Valerie Plame to get back at her husband for saying things they didn’t like. That’s how they run a democracy and it’s a wonder they haven’t had more success in Iraq where, under the prior regime, such practices were common currency.

The reporter the administration used to ruin Plame’s career and endanger her life, of course, won’t be dragged before any body of accountability (at least publicly).

But that’s a popular example and the administration has already thrown Scooter Libby to the wolves.

Whether he howls remains to be seen.

But why do we need to have reporters picking the through the garbage pails of those who govern us? Because those who govern us often inhabit garbage pails.

Look at how the U.S. Army and the administration handled the death of Pat Tillman.

You’ll remember that Tillman bought the administration’s pap on terror, gave up a lucrative contract in the National Football League, and got himself killed thinking he was defending this country.

The administration made a big deal about what a “hero” Tillman was, patriotic schlock being the special domain of Fox News and the Bush crowd they’re in bed with.

But it turns out Tillman was a critic of the administration (an enemy?) and was probably killed by friendly fire (“Waiting for Chomsky,” Oct. 4).

It was a reporter that kept the story, which is quite fishy, alive and now after three investigations, they’ve got to look into his death and how or why it happened(again).

Read this piece by Monica Davey and Eric Schmitt at the "New York Times" and learn how sometimes the government is the enemy and why the founding fathers gave us a free press to stay up its ass and be sure it’s (relatively) clean.

It’s dirty work, especially when they’re trying to scare the crap out of you by threatening grand juries, jail fines, and God knows what else.

But somebody’s got to do it.

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