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“I’m not sure journalists fully appreciate the threat confronting us…”

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It depends upon what the meaning of “us” is.

I would agree with the opening of New York Times’ editor Bill Keller’s e-mail (obtained by MediaBistro) if he had meant the “us” to be understood as “the United States.” It is clear to me that much of elite media has almost no grasp of the nature of the threat posed by jihadism and of the damage they do to the national security through publication of highly classified stories such as the Times’ stories on the NSA program to intercept Al Qaeda communications with its agents in the United States.

But Keller didn’t mean “us” as in “you, me, all of us.” He meant “us” as in “us very privileged and highly paid members of elite MSM who have within the government partisan opponents of President Bush willing to betray their oaths and their country in order to attempt to do political damage to the president that voters refuse to deliver.

With regard to this very, very narrow “us,” Keller e-mailed:

“I’m not sure journalists fully appreciate the threat confronting us — The Times in the eavesdropping case, the Post for its CIA prison stories, and everyone else who has tried to look behind the war on terror. Maybe we’re suffering a bit of subpoena fatigue. Maybe some people are a little intimidated by the way the White House plays the soft-on-terror card.

“Whatever the reason, I worry that we’re not as worried as we should be. No president likes reporters sniffing after his secrets, but most come to realize that accountability is the price of power in our democracy. Some officials in this administration, and their more vociferous cheerleaders, seem to have a special animus towards reporters doing their jobs. There’s sometimes a vindictive tone in way they talk about dragging reporters before grand juries and in the hints that reporters who look too hard into the public’s business risk being branded traitors. I don’t know how far action will follow rhetoric, but some days it sounds like the administration is declaring war at home on the values they profess to be promoting abroad.”

If you can’t take the subpoenas, get out of the kitchen. No one, incuding me, cares a bit about leaks that are purely political, or which don’t involve the national security. Journalists can and do serve the highest purpose when they expose wrongdoing.

But they are themselves wrongdoers when they publish material such as the NSA intercept story.

And Mr. Keller is rejecting the accountability for his institution that he demands for the Administration.

The straw men are densely packed into those two paragraphs, but don’t expect any attempt to defend them from serious commentators. I welcome Mr. Keller to appear for an hour or three on this program, to engage in an extended, sober conversation about the role of MSM during this time of war.

I doubt he will accept…because there is no defending unlawful security leaks with the potential to compromise anti-terror operations.

Mr. Keller can reach me at

Here’s the National Journal story in which the partial Keller quote appears.

UPDATE: See also Political Fan.


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