23 October 2006

Some questions for the Public Editor of the NYT, Mr. Calamity

Dear Mr. Calamity,

You have realized that you have done something wrong. In an 'after the fact' conception of the world you have come to this conclusion concerning the original story run on the use of SWIFT by the United States to track individuals and groups suspected of supporting terrorists targeting the United States:

My July 2 column strongly supported The Times's decision to publish its June 23 article on a once-secret banking-data surveillance program. After pondering for several months, I have decided I was off base. There were reasons to publish the controversial article, but they were slightly outweighed by two factors to which I gave too little emphasis. While it's a close call now, as it was then, I don't think the article should have been published.
Now, let me see if I understand this correctly. And do correct me if I am wrong.

You were investigating a Secret program being run by the Executive and had been briefed on it and asked *not* to tell anyone as it would endanger the Nation and individuals working for the government on this program.

You attempt to weasel out about the program being *known* refers to it being mentioned just *once* in an large, obscure UN report in which a proposed type of program, listing many sorts of ways to gather financial data are put forth and SWIFT is mentioned amongst many others. So the proposed concept of a possible program at the UN is, to you, confirmatory evidence that the United States actually went ahead with that program and it was well known and with neon flashing around it?

And, when two out of three Congresscritters tell you that it is vital and *not* to publish and you add that to the Administration also telling you this would not be a *good* idea, you then decide that both the Administration and members from BOTH sides of the aisle in Congress might be trying to obfuscate something here?

What do you base your publication of this apology upon, then? Well, you state this quite clearly:
Those two factors are really what bring me to this corrective commentary: the apparent legality of the program in the United States, and the absence of any evidence that anyone's private data had actually been misused. I had mentioned both as being part of 'the most substantial argument against running the story,' but that reference was relegated to the bottom of my column.
Thus the mere hint of something that might be possibly infringing on someone's data somewhere, at some time, contrary to all laws that indicate the Government deserves harsh prosecuting to do so with Citizen's data and that there are safeguards in place, multiple Inspectors General in the Chain of Command, and the highly ethical day-to-day folks doing this work that actually do NOT take a political stance on their work and consider it honorable for the Union and their duty to report any problems to their Chain of Command from immediate supervisor, to IG, to, if necessary, Congress is held in equal balance with elected officials tasked with the security of the Nation telling you that this is *legal* and being safeguarded properly?

Do have the right of this so far?

Isn't that 'guilty until proven innocent'?

And what was the big deciding factor for you? Well, as you state it the following 'tipped the balance':
What kept me from seeing these matters more clearly earlier in what admittedly was a close call? I fear I allowed the vicious criticism of The Times by the Bush administration to trigger my instinctive affinity for the underdog and enduring faith in a free press: two traits that I warned readers about in my first column.
And exactly what was this 'vicious criticism'?

Here is what the President said in response to a question at a news conference on the day that you did, indeed, publish this story:
Q Sir, several news organizations have reported about a program that allows the administration to look into the bank records of certain suspected terrorists. My questions are twofold: One, why have you not gone to Congress to ask for authorization for this program, five years after it started? And two, with respect, if neither the courts, nor the legislature is allowed to know about these programs, how can you feel confident the checks and balances system works?

THE PRESIDENT: Congress was briefed. And what we did was fully authorized under the law. And the disclosure of this program is disgraceful. We're at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America. What we were doing was the right thing. Congress was aware of it, and we were within the law to do so.

The American people expect this government to protect our constitutional liberties and, at the same time, make sure we understand what the terrorists are trying to do. The 9/11 Commission recommended that the government be robust in tracing money. If you want to figure out what the terrorists are doing, you try to follow their money. And that's exactly what we're doing. And the fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror.
Now, without YOU citing something previous to this, where, exactly is the vituperation and slander and slurs against you or the New York Times?

Where is the fire, Mr. Calamity?

What was the 'rush to publish' on this? Other news organizations did, indeed, have similar information and SAT ON IT. Somehow they decided to give the duly elected representatives and executive, plus those serving honorably to find those that are out to destroy the Nation above that of mere possible suspicions that something might be allowing someone, somewhere, in the Federal Government to illegally access Citizens data contrary to the Laws set by Congress and affirmed to YOU BY MEMBERS OF BOTH PARTIES.

What was the hurry, Mr. Calamity?

Or was it that after revealing the non-keeping of terrorists in some places, the non-story of Abu Ghraib being low level misconduct under and incompetent officer, the actual *outing* of the CIA use of private air transport which endangered actual LIVES of people working to gather INTEL safe and legally, that after all of those you were drooling for a chance to make this Nation less safe and, perhaps, get some Americans killed who work to gather and analyze such? Are you really that much FOR endangering Americans that you would do this?

Maybe you were hoping for another 'Watergate'? Just, pray tell, how many similar level events have there been since the actual 'Watergate' itself that implicated the President? Not low level misconduct by bit players trying to do 'neat things' wrongly, but real *live* misconduct of the President in National Affairs, please.

Because, really, I don't see it.

The New York Times was set up to *counter* biased, yellow journalism.

And now the establishment has turned its own shade of cowardly yellow.

Putting objective facts out was the basis for the NYT, so that the People had them to work with. That was to remove what we would call 'spin' from them. This was done to make the Nation safer and counter those that would 'spin' facts to influence the National dialogue.

Now you put headlines, spin, scoop and political antagonism ahead of the Nation as a whole. Set up to counter 'yellow journalism' you now, apparently, believe that you are able to guide the Nation *better* than its elected officials in matters of National Security. And, in that doing, impose your agenda on the Nation and actually weaken the Nation. What part of this is *not* yellow journalism?

You have realized that you have done something wrong.

Apologizing is *not* enough, when one endangers the Nation for their own, personal hatred.

Making amends requires telling *who* supplied you with the information because they have a deadly agenda against this Nation, too. And your hiding of those individuals continues the wrong that NO apology can make up for.

So, where is the disaster, Mr. Calamity?

Why do you hide sources leaking the Secrets used to protect the Nation?

And where, exactly, do you get off setting yourself above the duly elected representatives of the People?

And whatever happened to 'objective journalism'? And ethics?

Why should anyone ever trust a news organization that puts emotions and agenda ahead of the National interest?

Agenda driven, partisan, spinning, untrustworthy and cowardly yellow.

How far you have wandered from the founders of your paper.

And how you and many like you have made that institution into a mockery of what it stood for is beyond me. But, apparently, nothing is beneath the New York Times. Which explains its 'freefall' in circulation as it has nothing to stand upon anymore.

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