Bill Keller’s absurd and non-responsive posturing won’t silence the paper’s critics, and the Los Angeles Times is adopting a different approach –duck and cover. D.C. Bureau Chief Doyle McManus did agree to an interview on the storu –with my old colleague from KCET and quarter century Times’ employee Patt Morrison. Patterico has transcribed the conversations. My favorite exchange:
McMANUS: Well, I can’t talk specifically about how we got wind of the story . . .
MORRISON: And I wouldn’t dream of asking you.
Morrison is a fierce interviewer, when she wants to be. But like 99% of MSMers, she’s a believer in the false theory of the press gods, so doesn’t push McManus with hard questions.
Still, even though he’s playing the journalism equivalent of the Washington Generals, McManus still makes an extraordinary statement:
MORRISON: Doyle McManus, what kind of standards do you pretty much look at when you’re writing stories about national security? What standards do they have to meet?
McMANUS: Well, in a sense, we reason from the old wartime standard that if there is an ongoing military operation, an ongoing specific intelligence operation or an ongoing criminal investigation, uh, we don’t gratuitously reveal that unless there is a compelling public interest in doing so. You know, we don’t put lives of soldiers in danger. We don’t report that ships are leaving port.
Uh, but this was not a single intelligence operation. It was a change in policy. It was a change in the boundaries of what the government could do. It’s an enormous program that has allowed them to amass a huge database that essentially has the records of every international ‘” not every, but an enormous percentage of the international banking transactions that have occurred since 2002 ‘” and they’re keeping those.
What “old wartime standard,” the internal one at the Times? The Near v. Minnesota hypothetical: “No
one would question but that a government might prevent actual ‘obstruction to its recruiting service or the publication of the sailing dates of transports or the number and location’ of troops,” wrote Chief Justice Hughes in striking down a prior restraint against publication. Hughes also wrote:
The fact that the liberty of the press may be abused by miscreant purveyors of scandal does not make any the less necessary the immunity of the press from previous restraint in dealing with official misconduct. Subsequent punishment for such abuses as may exist is the appropriate remedy consistent with constitutional privilege.
It seems increasingly clar that Keller/McManus et al are close to ignorant of the constitutional rules at work here. They have confused the deep suspicion of prior restraint in our constitutional framework with an exemption from the laws governing the disclosure of secrets. It is not a difficult distinction to grasp, but the press lords refuse to acknowledge it, and instead hope to confuse the public on the subject, even in the course of softball interviews.
Why do they hate us? Why does the Times print stories that put America more at risk of attack? They say that these surveillance programs are subject to abuse, but give no reason to believe that this concern is anything but theoretical. We have a press that is at war with an administration, while our country is at war against merciless enemies. The Times is acting like an adolescent kicking the shins of its parents, hoping to make them hurt while confident of remaining safe under their roof. But how safe will we remain when our protection depends on the Times?
The tenured lefties at the two Times’ don’t hate the country, but they do hate George Bush, and that hatred has blinded them to the damage they are doing and have done to the national security. Their bland assurances of “agony” and “difficult decision making” will not sooth the public’s anger.
The trouble with folks like Keller and McManus making these decisions is that they just don’t know much about things other than newspapers. Here’s Keller’s bio from Wikipedia. Here’s a profile of McManus from the Stanford Alumni magazine. Between the two we get about 70 years of work exclusively inside of newspapers, and the vast majority of that within two ultra-liberal newspapers. They have been on a lot of airplanes and had a lot of conversations, but neither has a graduate degree, neither has worked in government or even in any place of business other than newspapers. They are creatures of the MSM, through and through.
They are, in short, wholly inexperienced in intelligence gathering, have never held so much as a “secret” clearance much less any SCI clearance, can profess no first hand experience with governing or life-and-death decision-making. In short, they are in way, way over their heads –and they are making the national security judgements affecting how we track terrorists?
No wonder they avoid their critics.