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Hannity & Colmes Helps The Bush Administration Shoot The Messenger Over Bank Data Tracking

Reported by Ellen - June 28, 2006 -

As they did in the NSA wiretapping revelations, Hannity & Colmes has spent little to no time debating the legalities of the Bush Administration’s actions in tracking bank transactions. Instead, the prime time debate program on “fair and balanced” FOX News has mimicked the Bush Administration’s strategy of changing the subject by making ad hominem attacks against the New York Times.

A variety of FOX News pundits tried to make the case that terrorists were the ones being educated by the Times’ revelations, not ordinary Americans. Andrew McCarthy, senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, was the sole guest for a discussion on whether the Times should be charged with violating espionage laws. Alan Colmes asked, “What was leaked in this Times story that you can assert actually caused trouble for the United States?”

McCarthy answered, “To begin with, telling them that we have a communications hub… It wasn’t known that we had access to this SWIFT data base to the extent that people who have been moving around money think that because it hasn’t been seized that they’ve been in the clear and they’re safe. Now they know that may not be true and that’s a problem.” It’s hard to believe that any terrorist worth worrying about wouldn’t already have a clue that the US government might be monitoring his or her financial transactions but that seems to be exactly what McCarthy was saying.

During a previous segment on the issue, Colmes played a clip of Bush telling the world in 2004 that the US was using the Patriot Act to monitor financial activities of terrorists. In other words, it was Bush, himself, who had spilled the beans to terrorists long before the Times did, Colmes noted. But I’d bet my bank statement that will not deter FOX News from continuing to hammer the Times in the future.

During an earlier panel discussion that included Arianna Huffington, Brent Bozell claimed the Times “has had a history of undermining the war effort.” When Colmes asked for specifics, what exactly did the Times do that undermined that effort, Bozell replied that it’s not what he thinks that counts but the opinion of those leading the war effort. In other words, if Bush says so, then it must be true.

Bozell further claimed that “a barrage of leaders” asked the Times not to print the story. In fact, that “barrage” consisted of three people: As CNN reported: “(NY Times Executive Editor) Keller said he knew of only three people outside of the administration who were asked by the administration to contact the paper -- Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton from the 9/11 commission, and Democratic Rep. Jack Murtha.” As Media Matters observed, Keller did not say whether Murtha and Hamilton asked him not to run the story.

Colmes said to McCarthy, “You want to put the chill of censorship down the spine of reporters who will then pull back and not do what they should do which is ride herd on our government. Isn’t that what a free press is supposed to do?”

McCarthy replied, “No. I do want to put the chill on the reporters if what it goes to is leaking classified information, leaking national defense information.”

The First Amendment? That’s just too pre 9/11.