Tuesday, December 20

Why did the NYTimes run the NSA story now?

Broadly, newspapers print two types of stories: current news--things that happened today or yesterday--and everything else. The latter includes 'color' stories, travelogues, articles that purport to analyze major events in more depth and so on.

Three days ago the editors of the NYTimes decided to publish a story they'd reportedly been sitting on for a whole year--that the President had authorized the National Security Agency to wiretap calls from overseas to certain U.S. telephones, and vice-versa, without going through the FISA warrant process. The breathless lede was that "the Bush administration is spying on innocent Americans!

But why did the editor of the Times decide to run the story now. Did some crucial missing piece of information suddenly fall into place that confirmed the story? Did some event happen in the past few days that was clearly conneced to the NSA wiretaps--perhaps the FBI busting an al-Qaeda plot in the U.S.--that would give the story a hook to current events?

If any sort of tie-in existed, the Times didn't bother to mention it. Which puts us back to the original question: Why did they decide to publish now?

There's been a great deal of speculation as to the reason. Indeed, the Times' own "public editor" was moved to ask both the paper's editor and the publisher the same question.

They declined to answer. Not just "didn't reply" but overtly said they would not tell him the reason. (Hey, secrecy is fine for the Times' management, just not for the government or anyone else!)

Since the paper's owner and editor are stonewalling, let me take a shot: I think the Times decided to publish the wiretap story now just to divert America's attention from the hugely successful election in Iraq on December 15th. Because otherwise, Bush's decision to liberate Iraq would be largely vindicated.

The story that a full 70 percent of Iraqi voters defied death threats (by some folks with a heavy record of killing civilians for no reason) to cast their vote is one that most 'swing voters' in the U.S. couldn't help but notice and be impressed by. That the Iraqi voters included tens of thousands of Sunnis--who had largely boycotted the last election--made it even more of a cause for celebration.

And finally, when it's pointed out that the Iraqis' 70% turnout is far higher than the usual American turnout for a presidential election, the story becomes a thorough, unequivocal victory for Bush's decision.

The Times wanted a way to keep the Iraq-election story from getting this favorable publicity. Of course in their own pages the Times could (and did) bury the story, but that wouldn't keep other papers from putting this great news on their front page.

The Times' solution was to release a story that would distract the public's attention from the Iraq elections. They'd had this story in their pocket for a year, and there was no plausible hook that made it timely, but the editors of the Times probably figured only professional journos would notice--and they'd never tell.

The Times was hardly alone among MSM/Leftist media in burying the story of the election in Iraq. For a good roundup of the reaction click here.

Of course there are other possible explanations--some too grim to credit: One of the Times reporters on this story (Risen) has written a book on the NSA wiretap program, scheduled for release in January. Clearly, after the book was released the Times story would have far less impact.

Would the Times reveal a secret program vital to national security just to sell a few thousand more papers? One can only hope not. But I'm not optimistic.


On a related note: the original story was that the NSA intercepted calls from known overseas numbers to the U.S., or vice-versa, or calls to/from overseas in which a word was detected (presumably by computer) from a list of "buzz words". It was this instant-detection feature that made warrants hugely cumbersome.

But now, predictably, headlines about the story have now morphed into "NSA listened to American calls without a warrant." The key qualifier--that one end of the intercepted or screened calls had to be overseas--has been conveniently omitted.

And now, by astonishing coincidence, we're starting to see polls asking Americans if they "agree that it's wrong for the government to eavesdrop on Americans without a warrant." Not surprisingly, a big chunk of the electorate thinks that's wrong. Of course all stories on the NSA program fail to mention that one end of every monitored call was overseas--and that one end of each call was a number with a known connection to Al-Qaida. Given this omission, the twin engines of misleading headlines and straw-man poll questions will fool roughly half the electorate into believing what the Times wants them to believe: that this program was spying on entirely-domestic conversations, without a warrant.

I think this story will keep getting bigger, certainly through the '06 elections if not 2008. For years the MSM has wanted to find "Watergate-2", and the Times thinks they've found it. They won't let go of that notion easily.

Monday, December 19

How I would have changed W's speech

I thought the president's speech was great, but I think he needed to be even more firm. Here's what I would have liked to hear him say:
The loss of American lives in Iraq has caused sorrow for all Americans, and has led some here to wonder whether our continuing to fight terrorist killers in Iraq is creating more problems than it's solving.

That's a reasonable question, and the answer depends on what you believe is true about the terrorists. If you believe the terrorists would become peaceful if America would stop fighting against them, then it would make sense to leave them alone.

Unfortunately, many Americans seem to have forgotten that terrorists were killing Americans for many years before American troops entered Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein and his psychotic sons from power. Part of the reason you've forgotten this is because the mainstream media wants you to forget it. Because if you remembered these attacks, there would be no question why American troops are in Iraq.

Does anyone remember that in 1993, Islamic extremists exploded a car-bomb in the basement of the World Trade Center--presumably trying to bring down that building? Does anyone remember that Islamic extremists rammed an explosive-loaded boat into a docked U.S. Navy ship in 2000, killing 17 American sailors? How about the suicide truck-bombing of an American barracks in Saudi Arabia--the Khobar Towers--that killed over 100 Americans in [ ]?

Terrorists don't just hate Americans--they've openly said they regard democracy as a "satanic system." They regard women as the property of men, and many extremists won't let females appear in public without a male family member escorting them.

The terrorists don't just object to American actions in Iraq and elsewhere--they've openly declared their hostility to our core beliefs and our way of life.

Before I ordered our military forces to go into Iraq I asked my staff to ask the brightest members of congress, from both parties, to offer alternative theories under which we might coexist with Islamic terrorists. No one offered any idea under which this might happen. Based on the open, public statements of the terrorists, I believe there is no way we can appease them enough to get them to stop attacking us.

If that's true, there seem to be just two possible courses: either we surrender and give up our way of life, or else try to bring about a change of conditions in the nations where terrorists are raised and recruited, so that those who would become terrorists and suicide bombers no longer choose this path.

Specifically, I believe that if democracy can be established in just one Muslim nation in the Middle East--such as Iraq-- it will eventually spread to other Middle Eastern nations, and then to other Islamic countries.

On the other hand, if we were to "cut and run", as some politicians in this country have suggested, I believe it would show the terrorists that what they saw in the U.S. mission in Somalia is correct: that the American people are impatient and skittish, and will run if confronted by a determined foe.

I encourage members of the Democratic party in the United States to consider the facts I've just outlined, and--if they believe they know a better plan--to offer in detail the actions they recommend. If they believe a compromise with the terrorists is feasible, let them say so. If they believe pulling all our forces out of Iraq in two or three months will end terrorist attacks on Americans and others, let them openly state this belief, on the record. Let them go before the cameras and state, in detail, not only what they recommend, but also that their recommendations will end attacks by terrorists.

I encourage all of you: If your Senator or congressman calls for a quick withdrawal from Iraq, ask them to state, for the record, whether this will end terrorist attacks on U.S. citizens. If the critics won't go on the record with this assurance, ask why they won't do so. Ask them. And ask yourselves.

Thank you and good night.