Sunday, May 14, 2006

Traitors at the Top

[[P O L I T I C S]] * New York Times columnist Frank Rich took some time off recently to finish writing a book titled The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina, which is due out in September from Penguin. But he’s returned now to his Times post--with a vengeance. In a piece today called, “Will the Real Traitors Please Stand Up?” Rich begins by reminding us of how the Nixon administration attacked both the Times and The Washington Post in 1971, after those broadsheets chose to defy the White House and “publish the Pentagon Papers, the secret government history of the Vietnam War.” History is repeating itself today, Rich contends, as the Bush administration, “desperate to deflect blame” for the Iraq fiasco, goes looking for scapegoats.
[A]nd, guess what, the traitors once again are The Times and The Post. This time the newspapers committed the crime of exposing warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (The Times) and the C.I.A.’s secret “black site” Eastern European prisons (The Post). Aping the Nixon template, the current White House tried to stop both papers from publishing and when that failed impugned their patriotism.

President Bush, himself a
sometime leaker of intelligence, called the leaking of the N.S.A. surveillance program a “shameful act” that is “helping the enemy.” Porter Goss, who was then still C.I.A. director, piled on in February with a Times Op-Ed piece denouncing leakers for potentially risking American lives and compromising national security. When reporters at both papers were awarded Pulitzer Prizes last month, administration surrogates, led by bloviator in chief William Bennett, called for them to be charged under the 1917 Espionage Act.

We can see this charade for what it is: a Hail Mary pass by the leaders who bungled a war and want to change the subject to the journalists who caught them in the act. What really angers the White House and its defenders about both the Post and Times scoops are not the legal questions the stories raise about unregulated gulags and unconstitutional domestic snooping, but the unmasking of yet more administration failures in a war effort riddled with ineptitude. It’s the recklessness at the top of our government, not the press’s exposure of it, that has truly aided the enemy, put American lives at risk and potentially sabotaged national security. That’s where the buck stops, and if there’s to be a witch hunt for traitors, that’s where it should begin.
Excellent stuff. Read the whole editorial here.

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