16 December 2005

Spies Like Us

Some fun facts from today’s NY Times:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President
Bush secretly authorized the National Security
Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others
inside the United States to search for evidence
of terrorist activity without the court-approved
warrants ordinarily required for domestic
spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002,
the intelligence agency has monitored the
international telephone calls and international
e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps
thousands, of people inside the United States
without warrants over the past three years in
an effort to track possible "dirty numbers"
linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The
agency, they said, still seeks warrants to
monitor entirely domestic communications.

Nice, huh? But here’s the kicker...

The White House asked The New York Times
not to publish this article, arguing that it
could jeopardize continuing investigations
and alert would-be terrorists that they might
be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior
administration officials to hear their concerns,
the newspaper delayed publication for a year
to conduct additional reporting. Some
information that administration officials
argued could be useful to terrorists has been

Delayed publication for a year!? WTF!?

Or to put it more elegantly, in the words of Tim Grieve
at Salon:

Our question: When did the White House
make its request, and what does "a year"
mean? The Times is awfully light on details
here, leaving itself open for speculation from
the left as to whether the Times sat on the
story through last year's presidential election.
At the same time, the right is free to speculate
about the Times' decision to run the story
now, just as the Senate was about to take up
and -- as it turns out -- vote down the
reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act.

Read the full post for the Times’ official explanation for
this latest act of spineless behavior. Atrios has a good
follow-up question, here.

Finally, what does the president have to say about this?

PRESIDENT BUSH: We don't talk about
sources and methods. Don't talk about
ongoing intelligence operations. I know
there's speculation. But it's important for
the American people to understand that we
will do--or I will use my powers to protect
us, and I will do so under the law, and
that's important for our citizens to

MR. LEHRER: I don't want to "beat a dead
horse" here, Mr. President--


MR. LEHRER: --but the story is now all over
the world.


MR. LEHRER: I mean, it's on the front page
of the New York Times, the Washington Post,
every newspaper in America today, and it's
going--it's the main story of the day. So--

PRESIDENT BUSH: It's not the main story
of the day.