Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Inside a Maze of Secrets

Attempting to understand the shuck and jive political game of blaming the media for all ills in America, as well as the dizzying maze of innuendo and accusation flowing from the President and Vice President and their supporters who cry "treason!!" at the drop of a hat is like looking at one of M.C. Escher's surreal staircases.

God only knows why I bother to puzzle the maze out - it seems that Facts are merely blank ciphers formatted to fit the needs of the moment. The hysteria regarding the NYTimes report about U.S. efforts to trace terrorists via banking activity has been prodigious, Facts less so.

Glenn Greenwald points out what many others have as well - there is no clear sign the NYTimes report could be seen as aiding terrorists. Should such proof be presented, I will happily retract any criticisms - in other words, "treason" needs some evidence beyond the reporting of a commonly discussed policy.

... all anyone has to do to realize the sheer falsity of those claims is to compare the "treasonous" articles in question to prior public statements and documents from the Bush administration. Terrorists already knew that we were attempting to eavesdrop on their telephone calls because the Bush administration repeatedly talked about our surveillance programs. And, for the same reason, terrorists already knew that we were monitoring banking transactions -- including specifically those effectuated through SWIFT. And yet we are subjected to an increasingly frenzied lynch mob insisting that reporters have committed treason without their ever really being challenged by the media itself over these factually false claims.

None of this has to do with anger over "helping the terrorists." The articles in question so plainly do nothing of the sort. The anger that is unleashed by the media doing its job is the by-product of a belief that the Bush administration should be able to act in complete secrecy, with no checks or oversight of any kind. "

Others in the press and on TV have likewise wondered just what specifics did the NYTimes story provide that were secret? And the Talking Point Repeaters seldom curse The Wall Street Journal for their coverage - so one wonders if its just anger from the White House aimed at the NYTimes.

Vice President Cheney's comments addressing surveillance programs contained a very revealing comment:

What is doubly disturbing for me is, not only have they gone forward with these stories but they've been rewarded for it, for example in the case of the terrorists surveillance program by being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for outstanding journalism. i think that is a disgrace."

Wait a minute. Is this the NSA program that was at first denied to exist, then denied by phone companies and then argued by Administration officials before courts that lawsuits seeking information about it should be dropped due to the need for secrecy?

Too often in the news business, government officials at every level will respond to certain questions that dig deep with this kind of "trust us" or "without secrecy others can harm us" defense.

Given the emormous and historic level of power now gathered in the office of the president, an outspoken and assertive press is the public's last line of authority which can question and examine the policies and programs and what they mean.

That is not treason - it is a function of a free press.

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