Media malpractice

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on July 12, 2009

If all you read about a report dumped Friday afternoon on the Bush administration-era warrantless wiretapping program was the New York Times account of it, you'd get a less-than-completely-honest account of the program's history and effectiveness.

I encourage you to read the Times article and then check out this brief post by former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy.

"Had [President Bush's Warrantless Surveillance Program" been in place before the [9/11] attacks, hijackers Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi almost certainly would have been identified and located."   [Andy McCarthy]

Another Friday night, another dump by the Obama administration of a report underscoring the vital importance of President Bush's post-9/11 national security tactics.

The above quote about Midhar and Hazmi and is from Gen. Michael Hayden, the former CIA director who was director of the NSA when that agency ran Bush's "Terrorist Surveillance Program."  It is a bombshell mentioned in passing on page 31 of the 38-page report filed by five executive branch inspectors general (from DOJ, DOD, CIA, NSA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence) pursuant to Congress's 2008 overhaul of FISA (the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act).

I'll have more to say about the report this week, but it also contains some other interesting facts that the folks who drop these reports late on summer Fridays would rather you didn't linger over.  For example:

*  Alberto Gonzales did not attempt to mislead Congress in 2007 when he testified that the controversy that erupted at the Justice Department in 2004 was not over what was popularly known as the "terrorist surveillance program" (i.e., the NSA's warrantless surveillance program to intercept suspected terrorist communications that crossed U.S. borders — the effort the Left smeared as "domestic spying").  In fact, as Gonzales told the Senate judiciary Committee, the controversy was about other intelligence activities.

*  When congressional Democrats rolled their eyes, suggested that Gonzales was lying, and groused that a special prosecutor should be appointed, they well knew he wasn't lying — but they also knew he couldn't discuss the intellligence activities at the center of the controversy because those activities were (and remain) highly classified. That is, they knowingly badgered the Attorney General of the United States at a hearing in a calculated effort to make him look dishonest and to intimate something they knew to be untrue: namely, that the dispute at DOJ arose because senior officials believed warrantless surveillance was illegal.

Just for a refresher, here's the Times explanation of what happened with Gonzales.

Among other findings, the report concluded that Alberto R. Gonzales, as attorney general, provided “confusing, inaccurate” statements about N.S.A. surveillance activities to lawmakers in 2007, but did not “intend to mislead Congress.” Mr. Gonzales had said that a dispute between the White House and Justice Department lawyers in 2004 did not relate to the wiretapping program but rather to “other” intelligence activities.

The report states that at the same time Mr. Bush authorized the warrantless wiretapping operation, he also signed off on other surveillance programs that the government has never publicly acknowledged. While the report does not identify them, current and former officials say that those programs included data mining of e-mail messages of Americans. That was apparently what Mr. Gonzales was referring to in his Congressional testimony.

McCarthy's conclusion is accurate, and troubling:

In sum, congressional Democrats knew about the program and knew that the dissent of the Justice Department's senior leadership in 2004 was not about warrantless surveillance. They knew that if they postured that the dissent was about warrantless surveillance, Gonzales — not an adept communicator — would not be able to rebut them in a public hearing because the details of the dispute were classified.  Congressional Democrats also knew that President Bush agreed to make changes in the program in March 2004 to assuage DOJ's concerns, and they knew that the program activities continued thereafter for a year-and-a-half (i.e., until the Times blew part of the program) without incident and with bipartisan congressional leadership continuing to be briefed.

The politicizing of the nation's security that went on here was shameful.

And it continues, with the Times continuing to defend their exposure of the program by saying the program really wasn't all that successful.

Scott Johnson over at Powerline has two posts up on the report too. I also want to highlight this comment by "jmayfield":

These reporters possibly committed a crime, so they are claiming the IG report exonerates them from guilt because the program they outed may not have actually prevented a major attack. That is a limited perspective. My home alarm system has never prevented a burglary, to date, but that is not to say it is a useless system. My family is extremely grateful and feels secure with the alarm system in place, but a cynic might say it has not been "useful" since no burglar has been caught by it.

Thanks to these reporters an important alarm system for our nation was turned off, and I and many others feel less secure for that reason.

The fact that we have not been hit again has made far too many -- especially on the political left -- complacent. Let's continue to hope that we don't have to pay for it with thousands of American lives.


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July 2009



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