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The Asylum

Welcome to the Asylum. This is a site devoted to politics and current events in America, and around the globe. The THREE lunatics posting here are unabashed conservatives that go after the liberal lies and deceit prevalent in the debate of the day. We'd like to add that the views expressed here do not reflect the views of other inmates, nor were any inmates harmed in the creation of this site.

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Again? Two Hacks From The Same Paper, In The Same Week

Leave it to the LA Times to blow both feet off in one week. Hugh points to another LA Times "Fantasy Island" candidate in Bob Rutten. Rutten did a piece today, and rather than addressing the problems at his paper (like Michael Hiltzik), he decided to go after members of the blogosphere instead. (How's the old saying go? People in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks, or something like that?) Needless to say, his piece is below, and so is my shredding of it.

THERE are a lot of ways to react to the annual award of the Pulitzer Prizes, which occurred this week.

You could congratulate the winners — fulsomely or, as is often the case, through the gritted teeth of a strained smile.

You could argue angrily that work more worthy should have won. You could shrug in weary indifference and get on with more important things, like moisturizing the cat. You could quite sensibly ignore the whole thing.

This year, though, there was another reaction — one that speaks in a particular way to this nation's extreme polarization and to the new realities of doing journalism in such an environment.

A number of prominent commentators called for jailing three of the prize winners.

What's interesting about these demands is that they didn't come from people normally dismissed as part of the lacy fringes of the lunatic extreme but from analysts actively involved in the mainstream's public conversation, albeit from the ideological right.

The targets of their outrage are three journalists who rendered extraordinary public service this year. New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau won a share of the national reporting prize for exposing President Bush's approval of warrantless domestic wiretaps by the National Security Agency. Dana Priest of the Washington Post was awarded the prize in beat reporting for stories documenting the CIA's operation of clandestine foreign prisons where terrorists — and those suspected of terrorism — are tortured.

Let me start by congratulating Rutten this far; he has done a great job leading up to his defense of the indefensible. I don't care what sort of "service" he believes these people provided, but it doesn't excuse them from the crime committed, and that Pulitzer isn't going to protect their butts. Risen and Lichtblau took an OPERATING program that was CLASSIFIED, otherwise the White House would have released that information, and splashed it across the front page of the New York Times. And they sure as hell weren't doing it because they were "concerned" journalists; they did it to pimp their book, which included portions of their story for the Times. The information was classified. They didn't have ready access to it. They got it from a loose-lipped source in the NSA, or from a FISA judge, or a Senate Intel committee member (or a member of their staff) that the program existed. That is a leak of classified information, and not only is the person who leaked it in trouble, but so is the reporter.

If they're not cleared to have it, do you think America--as a whole--is? Especially at a time of war when it's a tool in that war? And the same goes for Dana Priest, who now finds herself in possible hot water when it was revealed that CIA officer Mary McCarthy was passing classified information to her, and that includes her CIA prison story. That one now should be reexamined by the Pulitzer committee alone after the EU's announcement on Friday that despite their hearings and the testimony involved, they can find nothing corroborating that report.

Reliable reporting on the intelligence agencies' clandestine activities is among the rarest of journalistic achievements. Providing it while lawmakers and, more important, the electorate still have an opportunity to act on the information is rarer still. That may be why former Republican Cabinet secretary William J. Bennett, now a television and radio commentator, used his talk show Tuesday to argue that Priest, Risen and Lichtblau were only "worthy of jail."

Technically, in the eyes of the law, that's true. They do belong in jail, and for the sentence required under Title 18 of US Code pertaining to esionage; particularly to the passing of classified information off to another person who isn't allowed to have it. Anyone of the three of them could have opted to not release ANY information. They chose to? Then they broke the law, as well. At the very least, they were in possession of "stolen goods." But that's irrelevant to the fact that they chose to publish something that they knew damn well was classified.

According to Bennett, the three "took classified information, secret information, published it in their newspapers, against the wishes of the president, against the request of the president and others that they not release it. They not only released it, they publicized it — they put it on the front page, and it damaged us, it hurt us…. As a result, are they punished, are they in shame, are they embarrassed, are they arrested? No they win Pulitzer Prizes. I don't think what they did was worthy of an award. I think what they did was worthy of jail…. These people who reveal our secrets, who hurt our war effort, who hurt the efforts of our CIA, who hurt efforts of the president's people — they shouldn't be given awards for this; they should be looked into [through] the Espionage Act."

I agree. We are at war, and information comes to people at a high price. Their loyalty in guarding their secrets carefully must be at the forefront. Mary McCarthy knew she was breaking her CIA security contract--the one that states that they won't reveal what their privy to--when she passed the pilfered information off to Dana Priest. In turn, Dan Priest knew when she published her story that the covert nature of the program she was writing about was about to be blown. Talk about a Valerie Plame moment, if I may use some Joe Wilson hysterics here for a moment.

Joe Wilson said when his wife's cover was blown, it put her life, and his, at risk. Now, can anyone tell me how blowing the cover of a FULL CIA OPERATION doesn't endanger countless agent's lives? Anyone?

Bennett's demand that Priest, Risen and Lichtblau be arrested under the Espionage Act — a statute that dates to World War I — echoes a call made months ago in Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard by one of its contributing writers, Scott Johnson, a Minnesota attorney who is one of the principals on the influential Powerline blog.

Just a sec, here. While the epionage Act was repealed in 1921, many of it's provisions are reflected in 18 USC 793 & 794. So, those provisions are still very much in effect.

This week, he used that venue to renew his criticism thusly: "James Risen and Eric Lichtblau won the Pulitzer Prize today for their treasonous contribution to the undermining of the highly classified National Security Agency surveillance program of al Qaeda-related terrorists. As I argued in a column for the Standard, the Risen/Lichtblau reportage clearly violated relevant provisions of the Espionage Act — a particularly serious crime insofar as it lends assistance to the enemy in a time of war."

Johnson's indictment didn't stop there. "What about the Pulitzer Prize committee?" he asked. "When Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize for the [New York] Times in connection with his mendacious coverage of Stalin's Soviet Union, he performed valuable public relations work for a mass murderer. He nevertheless did no direct harm to the United States. Today's Pulitzer Prize award to the Times brings a new shame to the Pulitzer Prize committee…."

I see no problem with the indictment. Legally speaking, it's as sound as can be. See, the press can't sit there and say they didn't know our enemy wasn't going to read their newspapers. The frigging things are translated into how many countless languages around the globe, are (for the most part) available on the 'Net with the same "exclusives" as the cage liner versions, and are used and read. We've seen this in the propoganda of our enemy when they latch onto the talking points of the antiwar people, and the extreme Left fringe in the nation. And why do they see this? Why do they hear this? Because the willing press is doing anything it can to help hurt the president. Which is why we saw "exclusive" interview after "exclusive" interview with these people. Our enemies are watching us. We don't live in a damn bubble; our society is open for all to see with access to a TV or the Internet.

Ah, Walter Duranty — the bloody shirt of press criticism. Had he never lived, some blogger would have had to invent him. He was a crook who won a prize in foreign correspondence for his reports on one of Stalin's five-year plans. Later, he covered up the Soviet-created famine in the Ukraine. The New York Times acknowledged all this decades ago and long has placed an asterisk next to any listing of his award, noting that it was based on "discredited" reporting. The bloggers don't like to tell you that part.

The New York Times putting an asterisk next to his name is pretty meaningless unless you're going to put one next to every prize won by every journalist that's ever done "puff-pieces" for our enemies. In that regard, make sure you don't forget Barbara Demick (also of the LA Times), Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather of CBS News, and Peter Arnett (fomerly of NBC and CNN until he was clearly seen running propoganda for the enemy) right next to Duranty, Lichtblau, Risen, and Priest. Propoganda is one thing. What Lichtblau, Risen and Priest did wasn't propoganda for our enemy. They just out-and-out showed our enemies what we were doing. It wasn't "tea and crumpets" but the way they reported their stories with reckless abandon, it might as well have been.

But what is propaganda beside "treason"?

Sweep out the Bastille! Form up the firing squad!

This is not serious. This is a tantrum.

A tantrum? Propoganda is treason? Since when? If that's the case, we have troops committing that on a daily basis. After all, bloggers like Michael Yon and Bill Roggio--both if which have been to Iraq--report on the accomplishments over there, and MSM people refer to that as "propoganda;" and of the right-wing variety, too. If you think this is a tantrum, then what was it when Dan Rather was caught peddling phony TANG memos? We were way more outraged at that. And at Eason Jordan. And at Dick Durbin. And I almost fogot how ticked we were at John Murtha. A tantrum? If Rutten thinks we're bad now, wait and see how we'll be if any of those three are brought up on charges. I'd love to see him match his legal wits against someone like Scott Johnson, who will eat him alive.

There is a searching discussion to be had — one that never can be completed — on how responsible journalists should handle classified information when reporting on a government that uses the designation as a matter of political expediency and mere convenience, as well as a way to guard the country's legitimate secrets. Any journalist who doesn't acknowledge that there are legitimate national secrets is worse than silly; any commentator who pretends that every — or even most — things stamped "classified" is among them probably is grinding his or her ax.

The designation of the NSA terrorist surveillance program was secret for a very good reason, and it had little to do with "political expediency" or "mere convenience." It had a great deal to do with the fact that we knew--post 11 September--that we still had our enemies amongst us. Remember, we have caught al Qaeda people here in the US. The Buffalo Six were the first major ones to be nabbed. But there are others, and when you go around blabbing that we're watching these people, then tend to change tactics and strategy for not being found. In a roundabout way, that's helping our enemy. Which is exactly why is was classified in the first place.

In this case, what you have is the latest extension of the right wing's mantra-like criticism of the American news media. Like the constant hum of traffic, it now seems an unavoidable part of our contemporary life. It's interesting to recall that it began as a perfectly reasonable — indeed, beneficial — discussion of unexamined bias in newspaper and broadcast journalism and of news outlets' institutional lethargy when it came to correcting errors. As it turns out, though, addressing those things isn't what the critics have in mind. They don't want an unbiased news media, they want a press that reflects their bias.

If the press reflected my ideological bias, then I'd still criticize them. I don't want a parrot for a reporter, but I also don't want a bunch of hacks with axes to grind because the election didn't go the way they wanted it to. And that's how the press acts. Neither way is the right way. The goal of the news media should be to report the news; that being facts, presented to the public in a way that allows them to decide whether it's right or wrong. Instead, the MSM manipulates news reports to include speculation, inject opinions, or are openly hostile to things they already don't agree with. Bernie Goldberg presented a "textbook" case of that internal bias when CBS just savaged Steve Forbes over his flat-tax idea when he was in the primary for president in 2000. I want--America wants--a news media that reports the facts, and nothing but the facts. They are not, contrary to Dan Rather's belief "purveyors of truth."

They'd like a press that is wholly blue or wholly red, one that stops bothering a nation increasingly divided in this very fashion with inconvenient facts and doubts. That was a sentiment that came through with particular clarity this week, when the Los Angeles Times was forced to suspend columnist Michael Hiltzik's blog after it was revealed that he had posted comments on the Internet and this paper's own website under false names. An editor's note regarding the decision was published Friday and the circumstances surrounding Hiltzik's conduct are being examined.

For those readers keeping score, we covered that. And we also covered the fact that he did violate the LA Times Code of Ethics by using pseudonyms. Is his crime worth firing? After considering that question for a couple days, I've changed my mind. It isn't worth it. Just keep the rag-doll around so people have someone to beat on. He's only really good for heavy bag practice because he's just that cheap and low. "Harvey, Jr." will have a hard enough time winning back people as it is. Especially with Patterico still running down leads on another commenter that has an LA Times IP Address (I wonder if it's Rutten?). Hiltzik knows he can't hide from Patterico. They started this tit-for-tat, and Patterico's not ready to let it go yet.

The incident has provoked a kind of cybernetic thunderstorm, and one of the most revealing claps came from talk show host Hugh Hewitt, who used his popular blog to argue against what The Times had done.

In his view, "The paper should admit that their journalists are just polemicists who carry their opinions with them into battles they care deeply about. They are as biased as the day is long and getting longer. They aren't objective, and never have been…. Hiltzik may be the most honest guy at the Times."

Nice, he didn't even quote quote Hugh properly:

The Hiltzik deception pales in comparison's to the paper's statement of the problem posed by Hiltzik's conduct compared to its "Code of Ethics."

The good news for Hiltzik is that no penalties are laid out for breaches of the Code. The bad news for the Times is that its actions will set a precedent for future journalistic misconduct which will be of interest to any employee who believes he or she was treated disproportionately to the punishment, if any, given Hiltzik.

My recommendation: The paper should admit that their journalists are just polemicists who carry their opinions with them into battles they care deeply about. They are as biased as the day is long and getting longer. They aren't objective, and never have been. They should admit that Hiltzik gave as good as he got, and that this whole Code of Ethics blarney forced him into absurd deceptions because his editors wouldn't let him swing for the fences.

Let Hiltzik be Hiltzik, and come clean about the paper and its deep commitment to the left and the left's agenda. It is ex-editor John Carroll who is the embarassment for spreading that piffle about pseudo-journalists versus the Times. Michael Hiltzik may be the most honest guy at the Times.

Give him back his blog and give up the absurd pretensions.

The MSM seems to throw a tizzy everytime someone takes them out of context, so I'd appreciate it if they at least paid us the same kindness (even though we DON'T take them out of context).

Here, as in Bennett's and Johnson's attack on the three prize-winning reports, we confront an attempt to win through bluster and intimidation what cannot be gained through politics or persuasion.

It takes the prize.

No, Rutten takes the prize for being the one who doesn't have a clue. Those three journalists should be facing charges. It's that simple. They were handed classified information, which they decided to publish; exposing a vital secret to the nation that didn't have a "need to know." Look, we've already won the battle against the phony charge that the NSA program is illegal; it's not. And we'll win this one, too. The law isn't on the side of those journalists. They broke it by publishing their stories. And this argument is nowhere near intimidation and bluster. It's about the law, and like most other journalists out there, Rutten shows he has neither the degree to be arguing this fact, nor even the minor lay knowledge needed to understand their crime.

And again, I implore newspapers that if you're going to let your hacks write a piece that has anything regarding the law in it, please let a lawyer look at it. It's the best way to avoid blowing off the other foot, and all in the same week.

Publius II


Blogger Syd And Vaughn said...


The EU has found no CIA prisons. They've found no evidence they ever existed. Bunny's comprising an addendum to her morning post regarding this, and the fact that Dana Priest can't be prosecuted for a story that was obviously fabricated by top CIA people to ferret out a leaker.

The story appears to be phony. And you can't prosecute someone for passing off phony stories. But she can be fired just like Jayson Blair was. More than likely, she'll face no recriminations from the Post.

After all, it wasn't her fault the story was phony. She was provided with information from Mary McCarthy, and ran with it.

Mistress Pundit

6:44 PM  

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