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6/24/2006
BEYOND THE PALE

I refuse to take a back seat to anyone in my support for constitutional principles. No lefty, no privacy advocate, no civil liberties absolutist, and certainly no smarmy, self righteous, sickeningly smug Executive Editor of a newspaper like the New York Times and its cowardly editor Bill Keller can look me in the eye and accuse me of less. Those who question my support for those principles know nothing of me, my past, my passions nor my sincerity.

I have questioned many of this Administration’s anti-terrorist measures and am troubled by the accumulation of power by the executive branch - a process, I might add, that both the President and Vice President have stated on numerous public occasions their intent to justify and continue. They have made no secret of their goal to, in their words, “bring the constitution back in balance,” a state of affairs they attribute to the stripping of executive power by Congress following Watergate. I look at these statements and some of their actions with the jaundiced eye of a conservative who remembers what untrammelled executive power is capable of when used by men whose primary goal is not preservation of the nation but preservation of their own personal, privileged positions in power.

I have wrestled with with these issues on a case by case basis as any thinking American should. This lets out the overwhelming majority of liberals whose knees automatically jerk and whose heads explode with every revelation of government trying to figure out if there is someone out there trying to blow me to smithereens. They are not serious people and should never, ever be trusted with anything more important to national security than running the local YMCA.

This most recent attempt by the New York Times and others to throw a body block against the Administration to spring al-Qaeda for an open field run at the United States is so far beyond the pale that any attempt to justify their actions only reveals them to be as clueless about national security as they are partisan in their political beliefs.

Indeed, this jaw dropping “explanation” by Times Executive Editor Bill Keller reaches heights of hubris and arrogance not seen since the days of Hearst, McCormick, and other press barons who believed they, not the elected representatives of the people, ran the country:

Bill Keller, the newspaper’s executive editor, said: “We have listened closely to the administration’s arguments for withholding this information, and given them the most serious and respectful consideration. We remain convinced that the administration’s extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest.”

There are many, many things “in the public interest” that I would love to see splattered all over the front pages of the Times. For instance, I would find it irresistible to know what was in the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) from the CIA each day, wouldn’t you? I would love a transcript of the private briefing listened to by the President. What questions did he ask? What were the spook’s sources? And while we’re at it, I would find it fascinating to get the CIA’s take on the situation inside Syria or what’s the real scoop on President Ahmadinejad of Iran. Is he really as loony as he sounds? Or is it all an act?

Talk about “public interest!” The Times would sell a gazillion copies if they printed that stuff. Of course, I’m not saying the Times is quite so irresponsible as all that. But the point needs answering.

Where does one draw the line on “public interest?” Does the Times have the obligation to disclose its internal debates that went into the decision to out this particular program? Do its editors and writers have an obligation to fan out and appear in public forums like the cable nets and talk radio shows to explain their rationale for publicizing a program that even they admit in their 5,000 word article is legal?

Keller is a coward. And his refusal to appear on shows like Hugh Hewitt’s program only leaves the impression that he knows what he did is unjustifiable under any doctrine that includes “the public’s right to know” or that the Times was acting in the even more problematic “public interest.” The reporters on the piece are less responsible but should still demonstrate a little backbone and come out from behind the Time’s firewall and explain themselves.

Patterico wrestles with the legal implications:

As to the separate question of whether these folks can and/or should be criminally prosecuted, I haven’t made up my mind. I lean toward the conclusion that prosecutions are possible and wise. But it’s not as obvious as you might think. In the context of the current situation, the answer may seem obvious. But it is easy to imagine other situations where it is not.

The boys at Powerline are much more certain about what should be done:

It is unfortunately past time for the Bush administration to enforce the laws of the United States against the New York Times. The Times and its likeminded media colleagues will undoubtedly continue to undermine and betray the national security of the United States until they are taught that they are subject to the same laws that govern the conduct of ordinary citizens, or until an enraged citizenry decides, like Bill Keller, to take the law into its own hands and express its disagreement some other way.

From a purely practical point of view, making Keller and the Times reporters do the perp walk would cause a constitutional crisis no matter how “legal” the prosecutions would be or how justifiable they would be under the present circumstances. Nearly every media outlet in the country would condemn it and it would certainly set off a Congressional row. It may actually end up being much more trouble than those gentlemen are worth. In fact, the prosecutions may have the opposite effect that Powerline envisions. Just to prove how brave they are, journalists would take it upon themselves perhaps to publish all sorts of classified information, daring the Department of Justice to prosecute them.

What we can do is being done - flood their inboxes with mail and condemn their actions with all the moral outrage we can muster. It won’t change a thing with regards to this story. But it may make Keller and the Times think a little harder next time about publishing national security secrets.

UPDATE

Patterico has cancelled his subscription to the Los Angeles Times, one of three papers who broke the story yesterday. The other two were the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal.

He pointed out to the subscription specialist who tried to talk him out of cancelling that he wasn’t doing it because he disagreed with the newspaper. And anyone who has read Patterico’s year end summaries of what the LA Times has done knows that he has plenty of ammunition there. Rather, he cancelled because he cannot abide by the paper’s decision to publish details of the top secret program:

I told the man that officials from the Bush Administration had begged the newspaper’s editors not to print this story, but the editors ran the story anyway. I told him that I think publishing the story was completely irresponsible, totally lacking in any justification, and has posed a threat to the safety of our country. And I just can’t continue to subscribe to a newspaper that would do such a thing.

This is another way to make newspapers think twice about publishing such stories. Hopefully, many more will follow his example.

By: Rick Moran at 8:15 am
24 Responses to “BEYOND THE PALE”
  1. 1
    Pro Cynic Trackbacked With:
    9:48 am 

    Ripfest

    So you can enjoy bloggers rightfully ripping the bad guys in the Tony Bruno tradition:

    Investor’s Business Daily (via Instapundit) rips John Kerry for consistently siding with America’s enemies, a criticism that can be levelled against the nationa…

  2. 2
    Pro Cynic Said:
    9:57 am 

    The problem with NOT going against them legally is that there sseems to be no other way to dissuade publication of such materials. The NYT’s revenues are in serious decline and the Sulzberger’s are facing a revolt on their board of directors, in large part because of the direction of the news coverage. If hitting them in the pocketbook and threatening their little empire is having such a negligible effect, there may be no choice but to prosecute.

    I also must respectfuly disagree with the statement that such a prosecution would create a constitutional crisis. It would be a simple espionage case. Plus, if even the NYT itself can’t make a compelling case for publication in it story, I doubt that other MSM outlets would be able to defend it.

  3. 3
    Drewsmom Said:
    11:23 am 

    Lets face it - the new york slimes hate Bush to the extent of putting our nation in danger — period. I heard their subsciptions have been sliding for awhile now - I’d like to see em go bust or at least have a balance thru another newspaper.

  4. 4
    Bart Smith Said:
    11:28 am 

    The NY Times has been bordering on treason for many years. Their Liberal agenda reeks. If only some semblance of objectivity existed. They should be prosecuted.

  5. 5
    Barry Allen Said:
    11:34 am 

    Rick,
    Not that I’m disagreeing that maybe the New York Times was irresponsible in publishing this story.
    I’m just curious what actions (or lack of) would have been taken if a foreign paper, say Le Monde, the London Times, or Der Spiegel published this same story, or the story about the CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. The paper’s editors would not be prosecutable under United States law for exposing a U.S. secret policy. Or would they? Just something I was pondering.

  6. 6
    John Barr Said:
    1:57 pm 

    Prosecuting the NYT may be problematic but prosecuting the GS-15 that leaked is not. That individual signed a legally binding non-disclosure agrement before gaining access to classified information so a crime has certainly been committed. Jail time for the leaker is really the only way discourage future disclosures.

  7. 7
    retire05 Said:
    2:00 pm 

    Having spent a number of years at a major national publication (owned by Dow Jones) I can tell you that any publication can be taken down easily.
    We had a saying which went something like this: the readership is the gravy of the publication but the advertisers are the meat and potatoes.
    I heard a guy on talk radio yesterday say he went to a business that provides the NYTs for it’s customers so he did not have to buy it. He said he told the manager he would no longer support that business as long as they continue to provide the NYTs to it’s customers. He said he made a list of all advertisers in the NYTs, went home and created a blanket letter to the advertisers stating that he would no longer buy their products as long as they advertised in the NYTs. He then created a mailing list by simply adding the name of the company to the address on his form letter and mailed them out.

    This is where a publication lives; in it’s advertising revenue. Without it, there is no publication. The revenue generated by subscriptions or individual sales doesn’t begin to cover even the bare expenses. It is simply the gravy. And while a publication can survive without the gravy, it cannot survive without the meat and potatoes.

    While writing to the editors or cancelling your subscriptions sends a message, it is a message that can be ignored. But if an advertiser realizes that it’s ad money being spent at a publication will lose them money, they will drop that publication. I have seen it happen.

    And don’t kid yourself. The Wall Street Journal is considered a conservative publication because of it’s alignment with big business but it’s reporters are basically liberal. They are graudates of liberal journalism schools and they bring that “liberal” agenda with them.
    Perhaps we should apply the Dan Rather rule: show your true agenda and you will be on your way to an early retirement in the suburbs of Dallas trying to hide your shame for being a partisan hack.

  8. 8
    Hot Air » Blog Archive » NYT bank story redux: Fitzmas for righties? Pinged With:
    2:19 pm 

    [...] To prosecute or not to prosecute? Bryan and I took up the debate in the comments to this post last night. As usual, Moran’s with me: From a purely practical point of view, making Keller and the Times reporters do the perp walk would cause a constitutional crisis no matter how “legal” the prosecutions would be or how justifiable they would be under the present circumstances. Nearly every media outlet in the country would condemn it and it would certainly set off a Congressional row. It may actually end up being much more trouble than those gentlemen are worth. In fact, the prosecutions may have the opposite effect that Powerline envisions. Just to prove how brave they are, journalists would take it upon themselves perhaps to publish all sorts of classified information, daring the Department of Justice to prosecute them. [...]

  9. 9
    Sirius Familiaris Said:
    3:52 pm 

    Rick,

    You correctly pointed out that the Times has seen its way clear to take the law into its own hands. Would you agree that refusing to do anything about it will only make this animal hungrier?

    Eventually, these people are going to publish classified information and Americans will be killed as a result. When that happens, may God have mercy on them, because Americans won’t.

  10. 10
    Stop The ACLU Trackbacked With:
    4:55 pm 

    ACLU Says Government Spying on Bank Records is Further Abuse of Power

    Hat tip: Don Surber
    We could see this one coming from a mile away! From the ACLU Website.
    The ACLU today condemned the U.S. government for gaining access to vast troves of international financial data with no judicial or Congressional oversight nor…

  11. 11
    Wickedpinto Said:
    5:29 pm 

    From a purely practical point of view, making Keller and the Times reporters do the perp walk would cause a constitutional crisis no matter how “legal” the prosecutions would be or how justifiable they would be under the present circumstances

    The Constitutional Crisis, that you site, is actlually a crisis that predates these releases, and is only now being addressed. A Crisis is only a crisis as long as it is still in affect. Go to the Courts, force the judicial branch and the people to take a stand in this argument. The rights of the press only exist as long as they don’t come in conflict with any of the previously defined rights of others.

    The abuses of the NYT and other media outlets can fall under ammendment VII, Amendment IX and Amendment X. The Judicial has yet to actively participate in the definition of executive powers Vs. Press powers in cases like this(which I think is a no brainer, a branch of government wins, since the congress is too cowardly) Even the Pentagon Papers Case only applies to “publishing” not punishment for wrongful acts within the publication of governmental documents.

    Take it to a court, about time, take it to a court, let a jury (the people) decide just how out of line these pompous jerkies are when it comes to assaulting the entire nation, in the hopes of scoring points against a particular party or person.

  12. 12
    Rick Moran Said:
    5:33 pm 

    Pinto:

    I understand and actually agree with what you’re saying. But this would be a lose-lose situation for the government. There is absolutely no upside to prosecuting reporters. It won’t deter others and it will only send the press into paroxysms of hysterics.

    Perhaps one day if their exposing of secrets leads to people’s deaths, they will be punished in civil court by being held liable. Otherwise, I don’t see any trials in the near future.

  13. 13
    Pro Cynic Said:
    5:50 pm 

    Rick,

    I don’t know that prosecution won’t deter others. It would send the MSM into hysterics, true. But I think the government would have the people behind them on this. Like i said before, the declining subscriptions and directors revolts among the MSM management do mean something, even if Pinch Sulzberger doesn’t think so.

  14. 14
    crosspatch Said:
    6:08 pm 

    The problem with NOT going against them legally is that there sseems to be no other way to dissuade publication of such materials.

    Imagine if the public reaction against them was as stong as the reaction they helped precipitate against the government during the Vietnam era. Imagine marches, people ripping out Times boxes, setting bundles of The Times alight, marching to the headquarters, damaging the vehicles of the employees …

    See? We are a long long way from the people taking the kind of action against the Times that they would want to precipitate against our government. But if it ever gets so bad that ordinary moms and dads (as opposed to people who protest as a hobby or for a living) take to the streets and announce they have had enough, Lord help them.

  15. 15
    crosspatch Said:
    7:25 pm 

    Don’t look now but the NYT just did it again. Noticed a posting pointing to this article over at Sweetness & Light.

    A report on the contents of a classified briefing by General Casey on troop drawdown plans in Iraq.

    NOW I am REALLY getting angry.

  16. 16
    clarice feldman Said:
    7:53 pm 

    I think DoJ held off prosecuting on the NSA leak because they feared the backlash. And look what they got? A steady stream of secrets telegraphed to the enemy via the front page of the NYT. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet, and I think the timme is ripe. There was no justification at all for this. There was a bipartisan plea not to do this. And Keller did anyway.
    Advertiser boycotts are fine. Appearances before the FCC to oppose license renewals is okay.
    Urging subscribers to the other papers the NYT’s owns– particularly in Republican areas like Sarasota –is a keen idea. But in the end. the AG simply has to start convening a grand jury and finding out who’s leaking and act to stem that.

  17. 17
    crosspatch Said:
    8:15 pm 

    Clarice,

    While I certainly agree that we need to stem those leaks, there is a larger issue. The issue is one of responsibility we as members of a community have to protect each other to the extent that we can. When, for example, the NYT publishes timetables and troop deployment plans, it places Americans in danger.

    Let me put it a different way. If a relative or friend of mine gave me classified information and I posted it on the Internet, could I get away with it? Somehow I doubt it. The idea seems to be that it doesn’t so much matter who leaks it as it seems to matter who it is leaked to which seems somehow goofy to me.

  18. 18
    Wickedpinto Said:
    12:08 am 

    It won’t deter others and it will only send the press into paroxysms of hysterics. Are you saying that the Press would become “martyrs?”

    Well, we’ve seen the ineffectual nature of those who predict martyrs. (see Davidians)

    And If we don’t want the law to become meaningless, we must PROSECUTE it, that is why I support a prosecution, even a failed one.

    For, if there is no EFFORT on the part of the nation to execute the Law, as it has been authored by the congress, then that law, by judicial stress, might become invalid, for those times when it might SUDDENLY become valid to the people.

  19. 19
    ECS Said:
    9:27 am 

    “Nearly every media outlet in the country would condemn it”.

    Rick, so what?

    Rick, When did you, a highly decorated member of the new pajama media, start to worry what the David Gerghens of the planet think? The deliberate acts of these three newspapers will probably at some point succeed in killing many American citizens. Even if not intended, what they’ve done rises to the level of ‘reckless disregard’ which gets you a manslaughter conviction. (Compare, this with Scoter Libby’s ‘crime’). Prosecutions must begin, and I start with a paper that should have known better - The Wall Street Journal.

  20. 20
    Mark J Said:
    11:05 am 

    Rick is accurate in his assessment that it is too late for this administration to do anything about these leaks and publications. The reason being is that is EXACTLY what the MSM and Clintonista’s in the CIA want Bush to do! That will move forward their ‘action line’ and agenda ‘proving’ that the Bushies are a totalitarian fascist regime (in their own puny minds). See! Even the 1st amendment isn’t safe! I can hear it all now. You must realize by now that facts, law and truth mean nothing to the Left. Their quest for power is absolute. The best way right now to curb this treasonous behavior is to financially damage the messengers (NYT, LAT, NBC, CNN, CBS, ABC, al-AP, al-Reuters, etc.). Businesses, small and large, need to cancel all advertising, cancel all subscriptions and distribution contracts. Quit watching and reading. I guarantee you’ll feel better and have a better day (and lower blood pressure). There are plenty of alternative news sources that actually present ‘real news’ and support America, rather than aid and abet the terrorists.

  21. 21
    Badge 2211 Said:
    1:12 pm 

    The NYT reporters and its editor Bill Kellor and the publisher Pinch need to do the perp walk. Period.

    Treason is treason. Does anyone doubt that FDR would’ve hestitated to arrest, prosecute and hang any private American enterprise, media or otherwise, that revealed either Magic or Enigma during WWII?

    We better forget the Vietnam meme, it is not the rule it is the anomaly. I have no doubt the NYT and the LAT see this as their “Pentagon Papers” moment and the courts will back their right to publish these national secrets.

    It is a bet I wouldn’t take but they did. Lets arrest, print and book these effin treasonous bastards, close down and confiscate the entire contents of all their offices and printing presses and let them spend every last dime trying to prevent Kellor and Pinch from the fate they were all too willing to let Judith Miller suffer, which she did. Make the bitches scream and let us see whether the have the courage of their convictions.

    There is another stream we will have to address, sooner or later. If Americans feel threatened by or are killed and maimed because of these treasonous activities and the most the Feds will do is forever beg on their knees Americans involved in private business to cease and desist from their direly ruinous activity, how far away is direct action?

    I only mention it because we already can see an imperious judiciary and an out-of-control legal system that abuses the safety, rights and even livelyhood of Joe Sixpack is now getting blowback big time. Imperious judges and sleazy/incompetent attorneys have been killed and wounded in ever increasing numbers. In the end, if the judiciary, or a private enterprise such as the NYT are allowed to harm America’s citizens by abusing the social compact between the citizens and their judiciary, they may have a lot more to worry about than a residency in a federal cellblock.

    In this very city where devastation and destruction reached heights never perpetrated by a foreign enemy before on 9-11, the NYT is so effin arrogant to forget and deny that it ever happened and are facilitating a potential future attack. A second time will not be a charm and when the smoke clears, it will be too late to save them from an uncivil surviving citizenry. They would not be safe anywhere in this country.

  22. 22
    pc Said:
    9:00 pm 

    The times is not under a legal obligation to safeguard classified material. The person that leaked it, is. Also, the elected officials that are confirming this story by going on national TV and advocating for the prosecution of the Times, are. None of these people should be confirming or denying any of this information. They obviously do not understand much. There is a lot spin, half spin, truth,and outright lies that gets printed daily in the NYT and every other major newspaper in the country. Why are our elected officials confirming this story? For every news story a paper or TV news gets right, there are ten times they only get it half right or completely wrong. Elected officials need to start shutting their mouths and addressing any Constitutional concerns over current programs in closed session. This is not about the press, or the the NYT. This is about people who leak, and other who confirm it. Stop blaming the media.

  23. 23
    Badge 2211 Said:
    9:57 pm 

    How tiresome. What part of treason don’t you understand? The deed is done and if I didn’t know better, if the AG prosecutes, the NYT is dead. They were warned, from Democrat and Republican alike, all having national security portfolios, not to publish because it does cross the red line. There are no fogs of legal interpretation and the jeapordy of Operation SWIFT for financial gain is treason of the highest order.

    Those creatures in the media who will see us die for their vanity and prejudices should be reminded of what this country used to do traitors.

  24. 24
    pc Said:
    4:38 pm 

    Barge…under your premise, anytime the federal gov claims a national security issue, it trumps the bill of rights. I find that, a rather odd position for a “conservative”.

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