Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Maybe the Bush Administration Does Think the Media are Traitors
In a post about Brian Ross's stories on ABC saying that a source had told him that the government knows who he's calling, Josh Marshall wrote this:
Given the Bush administration's self-servingly indulgent definition of the War on Terror, I don't doubt that they would define finding leakers as a subdivision of fighting terrorism, or for that matter scrutinizing political opponents.
I think that there's no doubt that this is true -- and by extention, I don't doubt that the administration would define the tracking of calls made by reporters benefiting from leakers as a subdivision of fighting terrorism, too. But this gives rise to a question. Would the administration define tracking these calls as fighting terrorism simply as a matter of legal convenience, or out of actual conviction?
When Republicans go out and blast the media for helping terrorists, we naturally assume it's pure cynicism, a political tactic designed to discredit the media in the eyes of the electorate and frighten the big news orgs into submission and silence. And certainly in many cases it is no doubt pure cynicism. But given all we know now about this administration, why shouldn't we take them at their word that they do believe the press is helping the terrorists?
For now there's a ton we don't know about Ross's story -- we can't be sure whether the tracking of calls was authorized by routine subpoenas or by so-called "National Security Letters" from the FBI, which would be far more serious -- and I'm hoping to dig into the legal guts of it later. But for the moment, suffice it to say that it's hard to know which is worse: That the White House routinely smears the press purely as a cynical political tactic, or because it genuinely believes that the media are traitors in league with "the enemy."
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