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GOP Launches Full Frontal Assault on the Times. Will Fourth Estate FINALLY Fight Back or Roll Over and Play Dead?

Reported by Marie Therese - June 28, 2006 -

It is well known that no White House likes the media. Thankfully, our founding fathers established an adversarial relationship between the government and the press in order to act as a further check on the immense and frightening power of the government. Since last Friday, when The New York Times first broke the story about the massive, long-term spying that the Bush administration has conducted on international financial transactions, there has been a lot of noisy rhetoric by the rabid wing of the Republican Party - led by New York* Congressman Peter King - calling for the prosecution of the editor and the publisher of The New York Times. As documented on this blog, our good friends at FOX News Channel have, with one loud and hyperactive voice, joined in, universally condemning the Times as irresponsible, unpatriotic, treasonous, disreputable, etc.

The vehemence of the push-back from the White House and its minions shows that master manipulator, Karl Rove, is back in the saddle. Now that he doesn't have anything to fear from Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Bush's Brain has devised a strategy grounded in the ancient "divide and conquer" technique, guaranteed (in his mind) to smash the power of the Gray Lady and strike fear into the hearts of the country's investigative reporters and their sources.

The online edition of National Review offered its own view of what should happen to the Times as a punishment for excerising its right of free speech and informing the public about a second seriously flawed and questionable invasion of privacy. The NRO demanded that the White House revoke the press credentials of The New York Times:

"President Bush, who said on Monday morning that the exposure 'does great harm to the United States of America,' must demand that the New York Times pay a price for its costly, arrogant defiance. The administration should withdraw the newspaper?s White House press credentials because this privilege has been so egregiously abused, and an aggressive investigation should be undertaken to identify and prosecute, at a minimum, the government officials who have leaked national-defense information." (Source: NRO)

Yesterday morning on FOX & Friends First they aired a clip of White House Press Secretary and former FOX News employee Tony Snow saying this: "If The New York Times decides that it is going to try to assume responsibility for determining which classified secrets remain classified and which don't, it ought to accept some of the obligations of that responsibility. It ought to be able to take the heat as well."

Later in the show, host Steve Doocy said: "In the meantime, this is interesting. The National Review Online has said that the White House should revoke the press credentials of The New York Times. It certainly is a right of The New York Times to go after the news of the day. However, the credential is not a right, that is something you get as a courtesy from the White House so they're suggesting to withdraw the New York Times' press credentials. Also Jed Babbin says The New York Times publisher and editor should be charged. Rich Lowry in the [NRO] editorial pages today said 'Who made Bill Keller the nation's classification czar?"

E.D. Hill agreed, saying "Right. He thinks somehow that he is the one person who should decide what government programs remain secret and what are put out there. You know, again, no allegation of abuse, nothing that I would say is newsworthy other than it is secret and - The New York Times puts in there - working, because they even show how a terrorist has been convicted based on information that came out of this program. So, why are they doing it? You know, what about the reporters?

DOOCY: It's clear why they're doin' in. They're doin' it to make the administration seem like they've got a whole evil empire they're workin' in the back room."

BRIAN KILMEADE: "And on the other side - this is First Amendment, we're gonna publish it, we can't be, we can't be inhibited or worry about the government, we're there to balance out the government..."

Even later, E. D. Hill made what can only be called a public threat against Bill Keller. (See my earlier post on this topic.)

Because newspapers and blogs are the only media that Bush and company truly fear, this campaign has been focused on the New York Times as the acknowledged leader in the print media field.

Sadly, the once-great TV network news divisions and the infant cable news networks sold their souls to the great god Ratings a long time ago and pose no threat to the secret practices of the Bush administration. In fact, they're spending most of their time these days trying to get special concessions from the FCC.

It was just reported on this morning's FOX & Friends First by Brian Kilmeade that Rep. J. D. Hayworth, Republican of Arizona, will try to by-pass the House leadership today and force a vote on a resolution to condemn the Times. Additionally, Steve Doocy announced that Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas has requested that John Negroponte provide a damage assessment, to discover "how messed up things are now that our secrets are how in the open."

Kiran Chetry then remarked that today's Boston Globe has reported that the financial spy program might not have been all that secret.

But a search of public records - government documents posted on the Internet, congressional testimony, guidelines for bank examiners, and even an executive order President Bush signed in September 2001 - describe how US authorities have openly sought new tools to track terrorist financing since 2001. That includes getting access to information about terrorist-linked wire transfers and other transactions, including those that travel through SWIFT.

"There have been public references to SWIFT before," said Roger Cressey, a senior White House counterterrorism official until 2003. "The White House is overreaching when they say [The New York Times committed] a crime against the war on terror. It has been in the public domain before." (Source: Boston Globe)

During the third hour of F&F, Steve Doocy backtracked earlier comments and mentioned that the White House has no control over press credentials (other than security checks). The organization in charge has indicated that it has no intention of revoking the Times credentials.


I encourage you to write to your Congressperson expressing your outrage at J. D. Hayworth's attempt to make an end-run around freedom of the press. You might also want to drop a line to the New York Times and let them know you support them in their decision. Thirdly, you might just want to dash off a short note to our President, letting him know your true feelings on this matter.

House of Representatives



* Post updated 8:26 AM EDT: Rep. King is from New York, not New Jersey as originally written. Hat tip to Paul for the catch. - MT