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Vicious:

The New York Times public editor changes his mind on "The Times's decision to publish its June 23 article on a once-secret banking-data surveillance program":

My July 2 column strongly supported [this decision]. After pondering for several months, I have decided I was off base. There were reasons to publish the controversial article, but they were slightly outweighed by two factors to which I gave too little emphasis. While it's a close call now, as it was then, I don't think the article should have been published.

Regardless of what one thinks of the merits of the matter, the public editor deserves credit for being willing to publicly correct himself -- and to criticize the newspaper's decision -- when he became persuaded that he and the newspaper were mistaken. (For more details of the editor's reasoning, following the link above.)

I would like, though, a bit of help with the last paragraph:

What kept me from seeing these matters more clearly earlier in what admittedly was a close call? I fear I allowed the vicious criticism of The Times by the Bush administration to trigger my instinctive affinity for the underdog and enduring faith in a free press -- two traits that I warned readers about in my first column.

It is a little odd to see the New York Times as the underdog, even with respect to the Administration (especially the mid-2006 Bush Administration, which was hardly at the peak of its power). But independently of that, could readers please point me to the Administration statements that the editor seems to be referring to as "vicious criticism[s]"? I would genuinely like to be informed about this, since it might provide a better referent for what "vicious" means in political discourse (for instance, for deciding whether particular New York Times columns critical of the Administration are themselves "vicious criticism[s]").

PersonFromPorlock:
Oh, well, surely vicious in the sense of "Quelle bĂȘte mauvaise...."
10.22.2006 6:36pm
fishbane (mail):
15 seconds googling turns up:

"And the disclosure of this program is disgraceful. We're at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it, does great harm to the United States of America."

As a result of the report, he said, "our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies and endangers our country."

So, we have an accusation of 'disgraceful' damage to our national security, repeated. I think various spokespeople for the administration have used similar language repeatedly. That's at least a serious accusation; one can argue about whether it is 'vicious'.

Additionally, one can't ignore the mostly independent but concerted effort to call for prosecution from many sources, from blogs to talking head shows to CNN and Fox (and probably others - I don't watch TV much). I think threatening people with jailtime can legitimately be considered 'vicious', whatever one's thoughts about the merits. That isn't from the administration per se, but does anyone doubt that there are channels from the admin to the press, and members of the press that are inclined to use that information?
10.22.2006 6:49pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
So fishbane, does "vicious" include accusations that are factually sound, or at least arguably -- in the view of some reasonable people -- factually sound? I'm not saying it doesn't. It just seems like an awful lot of chutzpah for the Times to engage in conduct that is likely damaging to national security, and likely illegal, and then coyly say, "we printed this stuff because you accused us of acting illegally and threatening national security." Well, yeah - you guys did that.

I was expecting "vicious" to dovetail a bit better with "baseless" or "exaggerated."

Additionally, "independent but concerted efforts" to call for prosecution, from fellow travellers, doesn't really cut it here. The editor said "administration." He didn't say, "the administration's sympathizers," and quite rightly. It would be ridiculous.
10.22.2006 6:57pm
Shad:
It looks like that 15 seconds of using Google turned up people who were saying at that time the same things that Calame admits to now.

If this is the best (worst?) that's out there, then it seems the bar for vicious criticism of The Times by the Bush administration is set at
* 1. Members of the Bush Administration stating the truth of a situation, combined with
* 2. "independent but concerted effort to call for prosecution" from blogs and media talking heads regarding unauthorized leaks of classified information.

Surely no one is seriously arguing that stating facts and calling for criminals to be prosecuted qualifies as "vicious criticism," are they?
10.22.2006 7:05pm
Paul Allen:
What's strange is that the 'vicious' remarks came after the publication, not before. So this editorial is a bit revisionist.
10.22.2006 7:33pm
Greg D (mail):
Well, I'd call "telling the truth about the NY Times" "vicious", but that's because I think the NYT is a disgusting and worthless "news"paper.

It appears that Calame agrees. :-)
10.22.2006 7:34pm
DRJ (mail):
It means the Bush Administration disagreed with and even questioned the judgment of the New York Times editors. It's vicious to hurt other people's feelings in today's diverse world (except, of course, when they are Republicans in leadership positions).
10.22.2006 7:47pm
Bored Lawyer:

What's strange is that the 'vicious' remarks came after the publication, not before. So this editorial is a bit revisionist.



Your not going to let a little thing like temporal order stand in the way of self-justification, are you?
10.22.2006 7:48pm
DonBoy (mail) (www):
What's strange is that the 'vicious' remarks came after the publication, not before. So this editorial is a bit revisionist.

Calame is writing about his opinion, on July 2, as to whether the Times should have run a story on June 23, so he's referring to the reaction to the story between those two dates.
10.22.2006 7:51pm
fishbane (mail):
I was not making any claims about the truth of the statements; I was doing what all good blog commenters do: waste a little time with Google.

I do indeed think depriving someone of liberty by imprisoning them is 'vicious'. It may be that it is also valid sanction for a given behaviour. I made no comment on that point.

One definition of vicious is "severe or intense; fierce". "Severe or intense" seems to apply to sending people to jail, and threatening one with the same. Other definitions imply immorality or out-of-proportion reaction, and one can naturally quibble there.
10.22.2006 7:52pm
Luke:
I think it's pretty clear he is referring to 'vicious' remarks that came after the disclosing column but before his first column justifying the publishing of the column disclosing the program (which was public knowledge to anyone who knew what SWIFT was anyways).
10.22.2006 7:54pm
frankcross (mail):
Tony Snow called the NYT article "offensive" and Cheney had some criticisms, too.

Vicious is a little over the top, but I'd say it's pretty odd to dispute that the NYT is an underdog in a battle against the Administration that had recently jailed one of its reporters.
10.22.2006 7:55pm
Nate B (www):
Here's a link covering some of the back history:
Salon
I don't know if any of this amounts to viciousness. But there certainly seems to be enough animosity to warrant some defensiveness on the part of the public editor, which is surely the more relevant point.
10.22.2006 7:57pm
r78:

What's strange is that the 'vicious' remarks came after the publication, not before. So this editorial is a bit revisionist.

Nonsense.

The "public editor" did not take his position on the issue until after 1) the editorial in question and 2) the administrations response.

The only way for your criticism to make any sense is if you believe that the public editor's thoughts on whether the times article should have been published came out on the same day as the article. Which, of course, didn't happen.
10.22.2006 8:02pm
Kate1999 (mail):
I'd say it's pretty odd to dispute that the NYT is an underdog in a battle against the Administration that had recently jailed one of its reporters.

Wasn't the reporter jailed as part of an investigation into wrongdoing by the Administration? Seems odd to say that an independent counsel trying to investigate the White House is really "the Administration."
10.22.2006 8:09pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Kate. Yeah, well, any ol' bad thing is tied to whomever we don't like.
10.22.2006 8:13pm
John Marshall:
Paul Allen has hit the nail directly on its head.
10.22.2006 8:16pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Isn't it amazing that even on a high-class blog like Volokh, so many right-wingers (Allen, Bored Lawyer, John Marshall) can't be troubled to figure out the time line of pertinent events?! Circle the Wagons! Trash the Media! Find the Traitors. All Hail Bush! Drink the Kool-Aid!

A mind is a terrible thing to waste.
10.22.2006 8:29pm
JonC:

Wasn't the reporter jailed as part of an investigation into wrongdoing by the Administration?


Not to mention, an investigation that the Times itself advocated quite vociferously.
10.22.2006 8:32pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
The issue is that the administration and their allies very heavily critisized the times, and some called for the prosecution, for releasing the FISA ignoring wiretaps.

As posts on this very blog have noted their was no sound reason to believe that revealing that wiretaps were occuring without (secrect) FISA approval gave any benefit to terrorists, the program was pretty clearly illegal or at the very least in a legal grey area, and the times even kept the lid on the program for over a year at the administrations request.

The fact that the Times was denounced as if they were some pro-terrorist organization and the notion that they should be prosecuted floated by some because they released material that was politically damaging to the president is a pretty strong backing of this man's point.

This is just one example but there has been a clear pattern in this administration of using accusations of disloyalty or helping the terrorists to respond to revelations that they dislike. Conversely when the revelations help the administration (Plame anyone) the administration is willing to do the leaking itself despite harm to our inteligence forces.

It's simple really. Once you start using accusations of 'helping the terrorists' and threats of prosecution as a political tool to respond/suppress unflattering revelations people are going to respond negatively when you tell them they need to keep something quite. If you want people to listen when you say something needs to be kept secret for national security don't preferentially use the charge of helping the terrorists against your opponents.

--

Moreover, this guy only admitted that it probably wasn't a good idea to print the material. There is a huge gap between not a good idea and illegal, or at least there should be. If I published a newspaper article calling for a nuclear strike on Iran or other extreme measure that would be a very bad idea yet should not be prosecutable.

Once you admit that it should be legally acceptable for newspapers to publish some classified material the administratin wants kept secret (pentagon papers) you have to accept that some times it will be a close call as to whether it should be published at a few times the newspapers will make the wrong one. Unless you want the media muzzled so they can't publish things like the pentagon papers at all you have to accept that some bad choices by the media shouldn't be illegal.
10.22.2006 8:34pm
JunkYardLawDog (mail):
Fishbane, so you would also argue that investigating and prosecuting Scooter Libby AFTER the prosecutor knew the leak came from Richard Armitrage and prosecuting not for the leak itself but for having a memory that didn't agree in all respects with the 2 year old memories of a couple of reporters is viscious as well?

I would argue that actual prosecution of an innocent person, Scooter Libby, is a quite a bit more viscious than mere verbal complaints about the criminal activity and traitorous actions of the New York Slimes, but hey I'm funny that way.

Says the "Dog"
10.22.2006 8:36pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Putting aside the factual issue, I would strongly contend that private organizations and individuals should feel free to criticize the government in ways that the government should not feel free to criticize them in return.

Here is another comment from Cheney:


Some in the press, in particular The New York Times, have made the job of defending against further terrorist attacks more difficult by insisting on publishing detailed information about vital national security programs."


You might think it's justified or you might not, but calling a comment like that viscious criticism isn't hyperbole. Cheney purposefully goes beyond the standard language that the publication damages national security, to specifically say that the New York Times is making the job of defending against terrorist attacks more difficult.

Of course, it wouldn't be vicious by the Michelle Malkin or Daily Kos standard, but that's not the standard.
10.22.2006 8:44pm
Michael B (mail):
"So, we have an accusation of 'disgraceful' damage to our national security, repeated. I think various spokespeople for the administration have used similar language repeatedly. That's at least a serious accusation; one can argue about whether it is 'vicious'." fishbane

One can argue about virtually anything. One might more simply note that the "disgraceful" term, while still debateable, can be reasonably defended as descriptively sound and not in the least intemperate or cynical; it requires a biblicist or a naive and pollyanna-styled reading of the NYT to imagine otherwise.
10.22.2006 8:56pm
John Marshall:
Lazarus,

I suppose agreeing with a commenter named Paul Allen implies, in some way, that I am a "right-winger"? That's interesting.

The point is that he could've realized his mistakes during the editing process.
10.22.2006 9:21pm
Michael B (mail):
Re: Root Causes

The root causes of this excuse making, self-exculpation and the general phenomenon of accusing the Administration are illuminated, are thrown into sharp relief in Robert Elegant's How to Lose A War: The Press and Viet Nam, also in Peter Rollins's reveal of Sheehan's ideologically blighted "Bright Shining Lie".

(And Marcus1, if your Cheney quote represents something which should not be uttered by a principal in the govt., however high or low their standing or their office in the govt., then we may as well enthrone Punch and Pinch Sulzberger and their progeny in a monarchical form of govt. and additionally allow their court jesters, Dowd and Krugman among them, to be granted aristocratic, land holding and other privileges throughout the realm.)

Too, for some additionally informed perspective, Iowahawk: In New York, Scrappy Local Newspaper Struggles For Survival
10.22.2006 9:33pm
dearieme:
Aw, poor wee thing. Did the naughty, naughty politicians say nasty things about ums? Did they, did they? Aw, diddums. Daddy kiss it better. There, there. All better now?
10.22.2006 9:46pm
Pantapon Rose (mail):
The job of a newspaper ombudsman is not to defend his employer, and not even to stand up for a free press, but rather to be an independent voice on behalf of readers to impartially look into possible instances of journalistic wrongdoing.

Calame has admitted his own biases have prevented him from fulfilling this role. His next column should be his resignation letter.
10.22.2006 9:58pm
Houston Lawyer:
So he based his opinion on his hurt feelings. Nice to know his feelings trump national security. This is about the quality of opinion I have come to expect from the Times.
10.22.2006 10:03pm
frankcross (mail):
Of course, it was the independent counsel that jailed Judith Miller. But the point remains that the Administration also had the power to jail a reporter and certainly was able to spread its message on the story throughout the media, and television, and the Internet and can hardly be considered an underdog against a newspaper.

I'm not terribly impressed with the NYT ombudsman but at least they took a step in the right direction. What other media outlet has such an ombudsman. Washington Post? Washington Times? NBC? Fox?
10.22.2006 10:07pm
DJ (mail):
Funny how readers can debate whether something is "vicious" or not and make no attempt to determine whether any neutral criteria can be used to constitute "viciousness". I'd suggest the following from Merriam-Webster: "Highly reprehensible or offensive in character, nature, or conduct". In my view, Cheney and the Administration's assertion that the Times has made the Terror War "more difficult" isn't "highly" reprehensible or offensive. Or, I'd submit, even "somewhat" or "a little" reprehensible. Why? Because it's an assertion of fact that is, at the very least, reasonable.

Perhaps the Ombudsman's intent here was to use "vicious" in the sense of "fierce". That's defensible. And, I think, accurate.
10.22.2006 10:10pm
Paul Allen:


What's strange is that the 'vicious' remarks came after the publication, not before. So this editorial is a bit revisionist.


Nonsense.

The "public editor" did not take his position on the issue until after 1) the editorial in question and 2) the administrations response.

The only way for your criticism to make any sense is if you believe that the public editor's thoughts on whether the times article should have been published came out on the same day as the article. Which, of course, didn't happen.


The problem with your rejoinder is that you assume I meant publication of the editorial. I meant publication of the story itself.
10.22.2006 10:39pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Michael B,

Cheney can say what he wants, and vicious probably wouldn't be my first word to describe his comment, but if he said said it about me, then I probably would call it vicious. I guess it's sharp and accurate commentary when it hits your neighbor, but it's brutal viciousness when it hits you. I don't think that's too scandalous, that "viciousness" is in the eye of the beholder.

Many of us are probably being more literalist than even Eugene intended, though, as I doubt he really cared so much about the meaning of viciousness, as much as he wanted to make a jab at the NY Times' own harsh commentary re: Bush. Which is why my main objection was to the idea that Bush should go around attacking his critics as sharply as they attack him.
10.22.2006 10:45pm
Mr. Snitch! (mail) (www):
"All Hail Bush! Drink the Kool-Aid!"

Always bracing and amusing to hear the left question others' lockstep opinions and choice of drink. Why does the fact that he had nothing of substance to contribute NOT surprise?
10.22.2006 10:54pm
Jim C. (mail):
To paraphrase Democrat Harry Truman, it's not vicious. It's just the truth. Calame calls it "vicious" in order to dismiss it and justify himself.
10.22.2006 11:00pm
Russ Meyer (mail):
This is so absolutely high school that it's pathetic. I might expect something like this from an off the wall blog, but the NYT has damaged national security b/c it got it's feelings hurt?!?!

And to say this story was only "politically damaging" is incredibly narrow minded in scope. Disclosing this program wasn't just "politically damaging" - it damaged our national security. Maybe next time, the NYT could publish our battle plans on the front page in the interests of "free press."
10.22.2006 11:12pm
CKMacLeod (mail) (www):
"Vicious"? The word connotes bestiality - "a viciuos cur," a wild animal mad with bloodlust or disease - while the etymological root (via "vice") goes to corruption, obsession, and madness - all of which probably gives an accurate reflection of what the editor and his friends and colleagues really do think about the Bush Administration, Republicans, and their supporters. It shouldn't even need to be said that it's at best sloppy writing, on a level far below what one would formerly have expected of a NEW YORK TIMES editor. It rather suggests a Freudian slip, and speaks volumes about the truly vicious form that opposition to Bush and company has taken within a segment of the left and in certain circles of the self-appointed elite.

At risk of taking this single rather odd locution too far, I'll suggest that it's symptomatic of a very worrisome phenomenon in contemporary politics: the incessant projection of exaggerated qualities of evil into the images of mere political opponents - Bush as Hitler, Bush as the Devil, Cheney and Rumsfeld as vicious and murderous proto-fascists. Clinton-hatred in the '90s sometimes had some of the same qualities, but Bush Derangement is much more widespread, fueled by emotional reactions to media images of terrorism and war. At some level, leftists seem really to wish for a truly "vicious" politics, and not just to gain an enemy to rally against reflexively, thus relieving them of any need to propose and defend coherent policy positions (on Iraq and the War on Terror most typically). Many Americans appear to be afflicted with a version of the old European disease, and in their insecurity, heightened by a repressed sense of the world slipping far away and beyond them, yearn for a strong state or a strong man or both to make all of their decisions simpler. They really are terrified - terrified about a thousand things that their education and ideology have in not prepared them to deal with - and it's much easier to project their terror <i>and </i>their inchoate desire onto the face of George Bush than to confront the real bases of their fear.
10.22.2006 11:16pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
I don't think a prosecution can be vicous unless it's proceeding on knowingly false grounds. The Times admitted that it received secret information about the program so this would seem to support a prima facie case.

The difficulty with discussing this topic is that vicious means immoral in some sense and most of the readers of this blog reject the concept of a general morality. Makes figuring out if an act is vicious difficult. Throws it into the political realm.

Adultery, sodomy, gambling, bearing false witness, working on Sunday. Hard to tell if anything is vicious any more.
10.22.2006 11:31pm
r78:


The problem with your rejoinder is that you assume I meant publication of the editorial. I meant publication of the story itself.

The point is still sailing over your head.

The public editor said that his take on whether or not the story itself should have been published was based on the vicious attacks on the Times that followed publication of the story. (And, no doubt, before the story, too.)

Here's what you wrote:

What's strange is that the 'vicious' remarks came after the publication, not before. So this editorial is a bit revisionist.

So, your charge that the editorial is "revisionist" is just nonsense.
10.22.2006 11:43pm
Michael B (mail):
Marcus1,

I respectfully but decidedly, and even absolutely, disagree. Firstly, for quick ref., following is the Cheney quote you cited:

"Some in the press, in particular The New York Times, have made the job of defending against further terrorist attacks more difficult by insisting on publishing detailed information about vital national security programs."

That was a publically spirited comment about "some in the press" and the NYT, an institutional and publishing behemoth which exercises vast powers of dissemination and suasion, not directed at a person in an ad hominem sense for purposes of vilification, libel or any type of personal slight whatsoever. Cheney's was reasonable/rational commentary exercised, I would even argue dutifully exercised, by a public official for purposes of publically interested effect. Hence attempting to personalize the statement in order to argue your pov serves more to obscure than to elucidate.

Now, if I wanted to merely quibble or argue simply for the sake of arguing, I could parse some aspects of dictionary definitions of the term and, in the manner of a sophist or casuist, endlessly quibble over and argue the matter. But in applying this term the ombudsman almost certainly was aware of the connotations involved, in addition to what the term formally and conceivably can be parsed to mean, by a sophist given to endless argumentation.

Cheney's cited quote was responsible commentary, and yes, can even be thought of as dutiful and well articulated and measured commentary within the purview of his office and responsibilities. Imo it would have constituted apathy and even a modest degree of official negligence to fail to comment on this topic in the manner he did. That an ombudsman of such a renown and powerful institution as the NYT resorts to labeling such as "vicious" reflects something upon that ombudsman and the type of relationship he has with his employer, the NYT, far more than it reflects upon the Administration. This is the big leagues, this is the real world, we're grownups; yet the ombudsman couches his mea culpa in childish, equivocal and self-exculpatory terms: Well yes, I made just a little boo-boo, but gosh, don't ya see, it was really the Administration's fault, the NYT and I are innocents by comparison.

Please.
10.22.2006 11:49pm
therut:
The NYT guy just sounds liberal. I mean they have to blame their release of a legal classified program on someone else(bad behavior). That is just normal thinking for them. Bush made them do it. They were such a nice little high brow intellectual honest newspaper doing their Constitutional duty until Bush made them do something BAD. Sounds childish to me but liberals always sound like mad children who got their pacifier taken away. Poor babies.
10.22.2006 11:55pm
AST (mail):
The Administration's remarks were vicious in the same sense that criticizing a liberal's twaddle is "denying his right to free speech."
10.22.2006 11:58pm
Milhouse (www):
Let's rephrase the question: according to Calame and his supporters, what would a non-vicious response by the administration have looked like? What response do you think would be appropriate, when a newspaper knowingly reveals the existence of a perfectly legal secret program, which has already proved its worth in capturing terrorists, and will be harmed by being made public? What terms would you have used to describe such a betrayal, if you were the Vice President and Cheney were the offending editor?
10.23.2006 12:04am
Nate F (mail):
Those of you making Paul Allen's argument: I do not know how you read that into it. Calane really seems to be suggesting that the attacks on the Times were the cause for his rendering in the initial defense of it published July 2. I think you are being disingenuous by choosing to read it any other way, since the subject of the note is a revision of his previous column.
10.23.2006 12:29am
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
I think this whole discussion reflects a severe epidemic of New York Times Derangement Syndrome.
10.23.2006 1:06am
fishbane (mail):
Mr. Dog:Fishbane, so you would also argue that investigating and prosecuting Scooter Libby AFTER the prosecutor knew the leak came from Richard Armitrage and prosecuting not for the leak itself but for having a memory that didn't agree in all respects with the 2 year old memories of a couple of reporters is viscious as well?

I said no such thing, did not discuss either of the gentlemen you mention, and have no idea why you're babbling on about either of them - it makes you look like a Vince Foster newsletter type. Is it to change the subject, or do you think it is somehow applicable? (For the record, I don't have strong opinions on what happened with either of them - I'm simply too misinformed to know.) If you have an argument, why not make it? In any case, my words stand, and yours are clearly silly partisan noise.
10.23.2006 1:08am
DCP:
Assuming there were "vicious" comments directed towards the NYT preceding the publication of the classified information, how could any rational, educated adult offer that as justification for an objective decision that potentially affects our collective national security?

That would be like me stealing someone's car and then later saying, "well, I now realize that grand theft auto is wrong, but I did it because the owner called me a bad name."

And the irony of anyone in the media complaining about someone else's "vicious" remarks is just too much. These people make their living being vicious. If you can't take it, don't dish it out.
10.23.2006 1:13am
French Trader:
Re: vicious

Dump the needless adjectives. Write in nouns and verbs. Problem gone.

He should have been doing that, anyway.
10.23.2006 1:15am
Paul Allen:

So, your charge that the editorial is "revisionist" is just nonsense

Reread his two editorials. You can see quite plainly that he "revises" his justification between then and now. He'd have us belief that it was all because his judgement was overrun by a climate of anger. Does this qualify as revisionist? I argue it does because his new explanation seems rather implausible.

We're not talking about here a climate of viciousness surrounding the NYTs before it published its story. Such a general sentiment would rightly trigger a reflexive reaction of the kind he claims. Yet instead what is at issue is the response to a story--that he should react relfexively to such a situation is to abdict his basic professional obligations.

So indeed, I assume him to be better temperated than that. With that in mind, I'm afraid I'm left to conclude that he is attempting to rewrite history to distract people. He would rather we not think about the Times foolery and instead focus on the 'viciousness of its critics'

Bravo to him, good attempt at reframing the issue. Sadly, I see through that and frankly you should too.
10.23.2006 1:19am
A.S.:
Any criticism by the right of the left is vicious. By definition.
10.23.2006 1:24am
Harry Eagar (mail):
I have yet to meet a newspaperman who pays any attention to 'ombudsmen' or 'public editors.'

They're just a pain and, even worse, an after-the-fact pain.

Calame has awfully thin skin. And his opinion is worth nothing if the editors who control the news budget do not share it. He's a critic, not an enforcer.
10.23.2006 1:49am
fishbane (mail):
Sure, the entire ontological experiment is goofy, but that's what Eugene invited on, right? Why not go along? Linguistic category games are fun!
10.23.2006 2:10am
jim:
While several posters have suggested multiple plausible definitions for "vicious" that would make the statement acurate, I suggest that this is not the standard to which professional writer should be held. What matters is not what a word could mean, but what the reader will assume it to mean. If those two definitions are at odds, a writer would do well to try to clarify his prose. In this case I think it is a not an uncommon reaction to believe that "vicious" refers to something more sinister than Dick Cheney calmly and civilly stating his reasonable, but incorrect, opinion of the effect a publication had on national security.

Paul Allen: given that the ombudsman does not make the decision to publish a story, only assess the decision after the fact, how is it revisionist for him to admit that his judgment was tilted by actions that occurred subsequent to the editor's decision to publish the article, but prior to his independant evaluation of that decision? (I assume that you mean "revisionist" in the common pejorative sense, not in the sense of adding additional factual information to a historical account.)
10.23.2006 3:02am
Lev:
I would like, though, a bit of help with the last paragraph:


What kept me from seeing these matters more clearly earlier in what admittedly was a close call? I fear I allowed the vicious criticism of The Times by the Bush administration to trigger my instinctive affinity for the underdog and enduring faith in a free press -- two traits that I warned readers about in my first column.


"Vicious" has kind of been beaten to death several times already. I think the issue is at least part, if not mostly, his "instinctual affinity" for his brethren and sistern reporters, and he himself, struggling daily against the overwhelming power of government, nay, not just the overwhelming power of government but the overwhelming power of the totalitarian Bush fascist regime that seeks to crush all opposition beneath the hobnailed jackboot of its Nazi control. And not just merely crush all opposition figuratively, but completely, literally, destroy the lives and presses and organization of The Free Press, the wall of protection saving the US public, nay, the World, from dying and disappearing in the Bush Republican gulags.

That help?
10.23.2006 3:24am
Friedrich Foresight (mail):
Maybe someone in the administration put their hands on their hips, or rolled their eyes, while talking to the NYT...
10.23.2006 3:52am
Daryl Herbert (www):
What did the NYT want the Bush administration to say?
While we agree with the Times that the decision to publish was a close call, we respectfully disagree that it was the correct decision. The balance between civil liberties and national security is a delicate one, and we appreciate the Times' initiative and assistance in overriding questionable decisions we've made. We know they mean well, and we hope the next time they compromise one of our programs, it will benefit the country.
The Times knowingly, deliberately traded some amount of national security for (what they saw as) civil rights. They were afraid there would be civil rights violations that outweighed the important national security value of the program. They didn't have evidence, or even reason to believe, that actual civil rights violations had taken place. But they acted anyway.

The NYT knowingly, willingly compromised national security to some degree (small? large? we will never know). And they want a pass on that. They want to be able to compromise our national security and on top of that they want immunity from scolding. Which is more absurd? Which is more outrageous?
10.23.2006 5:17am
T-Web:
Marcus said the following:


I would strongly contend that private organizations and individuals should feel free to criticize the government in ways that the government should not feel free to criticize them in return.


The problem with this is that the New York Times claims for itself rights that do not extend to ordinary private orgainzations. They argue that under the First Amendment they have the right to disclose classified information--a hotly disputed claim to say the least.

Given this position, which they both hold and act upon, the Times should rightly expect to endure harsh criticism, even and perhaps especially from the government, for those disclosures that are particularly damaging. Disclosing the details and hence making worthless a legal program that is not being abused by the government and is a valuable national security tool falls under that category.

In other words, they can't have their cake & eat it too.
10.23.2006 10:27am
The Ace (mail) (www):
I think threatening people with jailtime can legitimately be considered 'vicious', whatever one's thoughts about the merits. That isn't from the administration per se, but does anyone doubt that there are channels from the admin to the press, and members of the press that are inclined to use that information?

Really?
Um, I "doubt" your silly assertion and I know you can provide no evidence to back this ridiculous commentary up.

Further, 'threats' with jailtime, mind you by people who don't have that power, are irrelevant.
However, you prove the basic point of the post. Which is, it's impossible to level set terms of the debate with liberals because you people are so emotionally invested in your hatred of Bush that words mean whatever you want them to mean.

Finally, calling for someone to be punished for breaking the law is hardly "vicious." At least outside of liberal land.
10.23.2006 10:54am
The Ace (mail) (www):
Cheney purposefully goes beyond the standard language that the publication damages national security, to specifically say that the New York Times is making the job of defending against terrorist attacks more difficult.

And?
This bears no significance on the matter.
10.23.2006 11:00am
Houston Lawyer:
The White House could have easily barred any Times reporter from the White House press room. The also could have opened a full-fledged investigation of the Times, starting with subpoenas and depositions of all who were involved in publishing the story to uncover and prosecute the leak, as was done with the Valeria Plame issue. Instead, they just stated that the Times was actively impeding the prosecution of the war. Clearly, freedom of speech has been forever damaged by criticism of the Times.
10.23.2006 11:30am
htom (mail):
"Vicious" has really been politically corrected into vapidity. I have a personal, vicious, opinion of the NYT's publication of both the wiretapping and the money-tracking revelations, but I won't post it.

I will say that whether or not they were intending to aid the terrorists and insurgents, they have succeeding in doing so, and will probably do so in the future.

The "apology" doesn't correct the wrong done, doesn't show repentance, shows no intent not to repeat the wrong-doing in the future, and is rejected.
10.23.2006 12:20pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Mark Field. By extending your judgment, any assertion that a criminal has committed a crime and ought to be investigated is "vicious". IMO, that's a stretch.

There seems to be an undertone here that, if we decide that the comments were "vicious", then Calame is justified in his initial reaction.

Anybody want to state that explicitly?
10.23.2006 1:25pm
whit:
I see a strong similarity here.

Certain (it seems usually LIBERAL) commentators here and elsewhere have equatend and/or compared CRITICISM of the judiciary in general, and of individual judges as damaging to the independance of the judiciary, as threatening the judiciary, etc. Saying the Judge XXX is a terrible judge, should be removed from office (some are elected, some are appointed, etc.), is a friend to child abusers, is a hack, etc. is THREATENING to the judiciary.

This seems eerily similar.

Certain Holy Institutions (tm) are above criticism.

The New York Times, and the judiciary comes to mind. Except in the the Bush/Gore election, then criticism of the judiciary is required.

The NYT is cowardly. They made a bad decision, and now in a half-a**ed apology, HAd to find a way to blame the bush administration for it, in their last paragraph.

I was first convinced of their cowardice in the Mohammed Cartoon scandals. They refused to publish these (OBVIOUSLY) newsworthy editorial cartoons out of alleged "sensitivity" to muslims. Like the NYT has ever been SENSITIVE to religion. C'mon.

They didn't want to get firebombed and were too cowardly to simply admit that. I could have respected that.
10.23.2006 1:26pm
Swede:
The NYT knowingly published a story concerning a secret and legal operation designed to hinder the ability of jihadis to kill us.

After the government asked them not to.

And then blamed that decision on their hurt widdle feewings.

But please, do go on about what constitutes "vicious", as if it were somehow a defense for their action.
10.23.2006 1:44pm
The Ace (mail) (www):
but I think it's fair to call King's comments "vicious".

Too funny.
After admitting you can't define the word.
10.23.2006 1:54pm
Mark Field (mail):

Mark Field. By extending your judgment, any assertion that a criminal has committed a crime and ought to be investigated is "vicious". IMO, that's a stretch.


King didn't say the Times ought to be "investigated", he said, straight out, that it was treason.

There are lots of times when accusing someone of a crime is justified. What's problematic in this situation is the intersection between 1A issues and government power. Accusations of "treason" have been a staple of the political right for a long time. They're about as useful as the charges of "facism" by the left. They express anger (often hatred) rather than any actual legal conclusion. The emotion behind the accusation makes them "vicious" in my view.
10.23.2006 2:09pm
Mark Field (mail):
Oops. "Fascism", of course.
10.23.2006 2:10pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Okay, Mark. Here's a correction.

It's like saying a guy who looks to have committed rape is a rapist and ought to be indicted for same is "vicious".

Now, it may be true that some on the left think treason is a bad thing, but usually only when they're accused of it. Or, perhaps, they think it's a bad thing to be accused of something that isn't really so bad.

Of course, the constitutional definition of treason is pretty strict. That gives lefties some wiggle room by pretending the only possible use of the word is the constitutionally literal meaning, and so they didn't do it or even think it.

However, the NYT here tried succesfully, purposely, to damage either or both the Bush administration and/or the war against the jihadis, by posting a story which had no basis but whose exposure was damaging to us.

I don't see a problem with calling that treasonish.

But, anyway, after we decide that the NYT has a very low tolerance for criticism--none at all is allowed--do we decide that Calame was justified? Or why are we bothering, other than to understand how delusional and isolated those clowns are?
10.23.2006 2:35pm
Mark Field (mail):

I don't see a problem with calling that treasonish.


One of these days somebody is going to act out Ann Coulter's fantasy and start bringing actual treason charges. The overblown rhetoric either debases the crime or forces you to act on it and thereby undermine the very protection the treason clause was intended to provide. I fail to see how that's good for the country either way.
10.23.2006 2:52pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Mark. As I say, insisting that the only possible use of the word is the constitutionally literal one is a dodge.

But how's this: "Patha"? It means, "Purposely attempting to harm America". That's the short form. I'm still working on the long form which will have included the first letters of something like, "without using the actual word treason so the lefties won't be able to insist they didn't do it because there are no witnesses we can call from al Q"
10.23.2006 3:05pm
Jay Myers:
logicnazi:

Once you admit that it should be legally acceptable for newspapers to publish some classified material the administratin wants kept secret (pentagon papers)

Sorry, but New York Times Co. v. U.S. ( 403 US 713) only held (by a 6-3 decision) that the Nixon administration's injunctions against printing the classified documents were unconstitutional prior restraints because the government had not met the heavy burden of proof required for prior restraint. Nixon still could have prosecuted them afterwards for accepting and publishing classified documents.

Freedom of the press means that you are free to publish whatever you wish, not that you are immune to any criminal consequences of printing it. Otherwise pornographers and counterfeiters would be immune to prosecution. As with freedom of speech, the primary purpose was to keep the government from silencing unpopular political opinions. Preserving public sources of information is a smaller part of the much greater whole.
10.23.2006 3:11pm
eddiehaskel (mail):
This has been an interesting psychological experiment. A newspaper person has taken the time to explain himself and for his troubles he is told that his use of the word vicious is offensive.

Take a deep breath everyone: This person was trying to describe his pyschological state, not perform some sort of moral judgment of the administration. (Boy do you guys have a thin skin.) The real issue is simply that he was explaining his own perception of the administration response. Was he blaming the administration? I don't think so since he was apologizing for his own inability to see things "rationally". But if there is anything that is true today it is this: Rationality has been replaced by sophism and I place that blame (at least in the context of a blog purportedly about the law) directly on law schools and professors. "Make the argument" "Be an advocate". But no one wants to take responsibility.

So much emphasis has been misplaced on the process that the heart of the matter gets lost.

And no one has even put forth an arugment about just how publication of the facts in this case actually harmed the cause of righteousness. At least no argument that would survive the laugh test, let alone a motion to dismiss.

Does anyone here really want to make the case that informing the public that the administration has been conducting operations in contravention to law actually aided and abetted the "Enemy"? So prior to the announcement by the New York Times, these wily evil-doers simply did not expect that they would be the subject of any wire taps or other covert surveillance?

Would that make every law school that provides access to US laws an enemy combatant for giving anyone the ability to read the FISA laws (and by extension providing them with some mysterious power to avoid surveillance since they know about secret process for providing the government with lawful means to do particular types of searches?

Does anyone live in the real world any more?
10.23.2006 3:33pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Eddie. You miss the point. The question is how stupid do we have to be to believe Calame really thought it was "vicious", or, how stupid does Calame have to be to think it really is vicious, or how stupid does Calame think we are that he thinks he can get this one over on us.

As to the results of the outing of the program, you're on safe ground. They're classified and so you can sneer all you want, because nobody is in a position to argue. Or would you prefer to allow the terrs to know exactly what we know about what is going on?

Don't answer that.
10.23.2006 3:55pm
Jaime non-Lawyer:
At least he didn't call the criticism "mean-spirited" and "divisive". That really would have made me barf.
10.23.2006 4:42pm
W.D.:
"Idiotic" would have been less polite but more accurate.
10.23.2006 5:25pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
My own view is that Calame shouldn't have bothered with the apology or explanation, he should have just attacked the Bush Administration as evil, and aiding Al Qaeda and the terrorists through by its incompetence. But, Calamehe probably doesn't have Karl Rove as an adviser, so maybe he decided to speak what he believes to be the truth.
10.23.2006 5:33pm
Nate F (mail):
I need to stop reading the comments on this blog. The spinning is starting to make me dizzy.

When the Right is criticized in this way, it accuses its detractors of a "hating America" or "helping terrorists" or "treason." Some of you are actually making the suggestion that "treason" isn't hyperbolic, but "vicious" is. Wow.

I long for the day when I can retire to a cabin in the woods somewhere and never have to listen to or participate in what passes for political discourse in this country ever again.
10.23.2006 5:56pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
I used to work for a newspaper editor named Mike Gartner, who was, also, for a while, president of NBC News.

His often-stated position about what information newspapers ought to refrain from publishing was 'troop movements in wartime.'

He's a pretty influential guy, Pulitzer Prize board and stuff.

Like I said, the only people who are going to pay attention to Calame are posters here. Newspapermen will ignore him, s they always have.

What his column does suggest, though, is that the Times' reporting was sloppy. If what the government was doing was not a violation, then who cares? If it violated the laws of some obscure country in northwest Europe that has no dog in the terrorism fight (or believes it does not), who cares?

Besides, I don't think Americans have any constitutianal legal rights to privacy.
10.23.2006 6:18pm
Arbusto Spectrum:
Are we sure he didn't mean "viscous" criticisms? The Times is full of typos these days.
10.23.2006 6:29pm
Public_Defender (mail):
The treason arguments are interesting. Did publishing the fact that US monitors international financial transactions (you didn't know this?) hurt the "war on terror" more than top government officials supporting actions that any reasonable person would call torture?

Did the NYT hurt the fight on terror more than replacing brutal order in Iraq with even more brutal chaos?

Did the NYT hurt the war on terror more than the Bush administration did by not putting enough troops into Afghanistan to prevent the return of the Taliban?

You conservatives have badly botched the fight against terrorism. You have not suppressed terrorism, you have fostered it. And then you look for scapegoats and cry "treason."

If treason were defined merely by helping terrorists, American conservatives would only need look in the mirror to see traitors.

(No, I don't think American conservatives are really traitors, but the accusation is more accurate against them than the NYT.)
10.23.2006 7:09pm
Nony Mouse:
The Treason definition is in the Constitution. Is this deliberate aid and comfort to the enemy of this government?
I don't think it was deliberately aimed at taking down the government, although I think it resulted in aiding the enemy.
My guess is that it seemed at the time that since the administration wasn't happy with the publication, every GI sympathizer that complained (and some did so in VERY pointed terms) seemed to be on the side of Bush, and was lumped in with the recollections of the official line. Furthermore, while I understand the tendency to stand up for your friends, even when they're wrong, when they're being called to account by the big dogs, it was this man's job to see things from a more objective viewpoint. It takes guts to admit when you're wrong, and many people, if they are truely ashamed of something, will wish to bury their admission, even while it assuages their conscience. Which is probably a very-long winded way of saying the guy probably knows he did wrong, but wishes very much that his gut wasn't telling him so.
As a final thought, I would not enter politics unless I was allowed to file lawsuits against Libel and Slander under the same restrictions typical celebs use. Hitler? You better have some proof of prison camps and a Night of Long Knives. Nazi? Surely you have proof of anti-semitism. Fostering terrorists? That must be why Al Q is complaining about our successes and their failures in Iraq and elsewhere. Thin skinned? Close to average human, actually.
10.23.2006 7:31pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
Cheney purposefully goes beyond the standard language that the publication damages national security, to specifically say that the New York Times is making the job of defending against terrorist attacks more difficult.
Damage to national security makes the job of defending against terrorist attacks more difficult.

That's controversial and vicious? Please. Seriously, get a grip, man.
10.23.2006 8:55pm
Justin (mail):
Regardless of what Calame says, he was right then and was wrong now. What his article, and every right winged echo chamber that persuaded him, fails to address is exactly how this helps the terrorists, assuming that they are not complete nincapoops?

The real scary thing is the idea that the administration actually believes its own spew, and therefore thinks that terrorists would be leaving their bank data readily available and trackable by giant datamines that can easily be tricked by disguising the transactions as legitimate ones.
10.23.2006 11:10pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Give credit to the NYT for one thing--they have the self-confidence to hire an internal critic. That contrasts with the incompetent toadies that Bush prefers to surround himself with.
10.24.2006 8:08am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Justin:

Whether the thing works or not and whether it is legal are two separate issues. Calame did not address the first so he can hardly have been right once and wrong once.

His point is twofold: That the paper got the legality issue wrong and why he initally agreed.

The terrs use banks and other financial institutions. It would be silly to avoid looking at those institutions out of fear that Justin might turn his famous sneer in that direction. Not that he has anything else going for him, but that sneer.... Wow.

Anyway, SWIFT is not the ultimate solution and so it must be the ultimate failure.

Visualize transparency.
10.24.2006 8:32am
Justin (mail):
Whether it is legal isn't the issue. Whether it works isn't even the issue. The question is whether it works only because the existance of the program was (shhhh) secret. Nice strawman, though.
10.24.2006 10:54am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Justin. Your second paragraph of 10:10, 10/23, addresses the question of whether it works. No mention of whether it works only because it is secret.

There's a lot of stuff that only works if the bad guys don't know about it. Wiretaps, for example. Once they're out, they don't work. Doesn't mean they didn't work before some self-righteous fool publicized them.
10.24.2006 12:44pm
Mark Field (mail):

Wiretaps, for example. Once they're out, they don't work. Doesn't mean they didn't work before some self-righteous fool publicized them.


I guess then that the police and FBI long ago abandoned wiretaps as ineffective.
10.24.2006 12:52pm
Bill S:
I found the Public Editor's comment illustrative of the NY Times editorial bias. The paper seems to take the position that anything the admistration does related to the war on terror is illegal. Even if they are not sure it is illegal, the fact Bush supports it means it is wrong.
10.24.2006 3:09pm
Nony Mouse:
Mark Field --
My guess is the FBI and the police both believe that wiretaps are very effective if the mark in question doesn't know he's being tapped or how or where it's being accomplished.
If he suspects he is, my guess is that the efficacy goes down, and if he knows what is watched, the effectiveness goes through the floor.
Which is kinda the point the intel community was making with this program.
10.24.2006 3:23pm
Nony Mouse:
Defender --
Do provide proof that either of the most recent administrations have surrounded themselves with "imcompetent toadies" if you please.
That liberals surround themselves with liberals (and maybe a token moderate) and conservatives surround themselves with conservatives (and maybe a token moderate) should not be surprising to anyone with a high school education, and you need far more than congenial political leanings to classify someone as a toady. Furthermore, both have had a far more effective impact on policy than perhaps the other side of the isle might have wished, which tends to argue against 'incompetent.'
Judging by your comment this may surprise you, but the government also has national ombudsman positions that are fairly new, such as Nicholas N. Owens, who works for the Small Business Administration, but does so on behalf of small business owners. Personally, I think that more positions like that would be a good idea. What kind of toady does that make me?
10.24.2006 3:55pm
Mark Field (mail):

My guess is the FBI and the police both believe that wiretaps are very effective if the mark in question doesn't know he's being tapped or how or where it's being accomplished.


Agreed.


If he suspects he is, my guess is that the efficacy goes down, and if he knows what is watched, the effectiveness goes through the floor.


Agreed.


Which is kinda the point the intel community was making with this program.


This conclusion doesn't follow. Nobody has ever disclosed wiretaps on specific alleged terrorists. The only information reported is the same information that any functioning adult already knows: that police agencies can and do wiretap people they're investigating.

Criminals continue to use electronic communications even though everybody knows those can be tracked. The same is true for terrorists.
10.24.2006 4:59pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
'Criminals continue to use electronic communications even though everybody knows those can be tracked.'

Not everybody knows this. In particular, the CIA does not know this. Remember the clownish kidnapping in Italy?
10.24.2006 6:01pm
Public_Defender (mail):
'Criminals continue to use electronic communications even though everybody knows those can be tracked.'

Prisoners regularly face new charges based on intercepted calls made from jail or prison. Those phones have signs on them that warn that they can be recorded.
10.24.2006 7:18pm
whit:
"This conclusion doesn't follow. Nobody has ever disclosed wiretaps on specific alleged terrorists. The only information reported is the same information that any functioning adult already knows: that police agencies can and do wiretap people they're investigating."

Actually, it does follow. And I say this as somebody who has sat on wiretaps for scores of hours, written various search and intercept warrants and interrogated dozens of suspects after the fact.

Yes, Al Qaeda (and most sentient beings) realize that the CIA etc. use electronic surveillance.

Similarly, many drug dealers realize that cops use stationary surveillance posts.

What the Times did was divulge specific details of this program that were NOT generally known. The Times' response was incredibly disingenuous when they said they were just divulging what everybody knows anyways, yet was vitally important they divulge! lol.

If everybody already knew it, it would not be important to divulge. Get real.

If you tell Johnny Criminal that the cops are setting up surveillance at a particular location, or roaming the neighborhood posing as drunk college students while surveilling, you give them valuable info. What the times did was similar. They divulged specifics that would help the terrorists.

To say otherwise ignores the reality of how criminals (and terrorists) think, and what they pay attention to. Some criminals will always be incredibly reckless and ignore things that could help them evade detection - for example burglars who refuse to wear gloves. EVERYBODY knows that cops (theoretically) fingerprint. But many (dumb/reckless) criminals don't take the time to put on a pair of gloves.

What the times did was divulge specifics that give the terrorists opportunity to further hide their actions.

It was wrong, and even the times (belatedly) admits so.
10.24.2006 7:26pm
Justin (mail):
Richard, you need to take a reading comprehension class, as my post finds absurd the idea that "this" (referring to disclosure) "helps the terrorists" and that the Bush administration's "spew" (referring to the on point criticism of the NY Times) of said position that I disagree with.

Afterwards, you could go read the bible and review the whole "Thou shall not kill" part of the Bible and maybe see if that "unless they're 18-40 year old Middle Eastern men" exception you love so much really is in the original text.
10.24.2006 7:41pm
Friedrich Foresight (mail):
> "whole "Thou shall not kill" part of the Bible and maybe see if that "unless they're 18-40 year old Middle Eastern men" exception you love so much really is in the original text."

Yup, because when 18-40 year old Middle Eastern men get killed in the Bible, God makes it realy, really clear that He Views The Situation With Grave Concern.

Remember when He put Saul on trial for war crimes against the Amalekites?
10.24.2006 7:44pm
Justin (mail):
Whit, a couple of rebuttals,

One - what exact details were not easily predictable that would allow Al Queda or its affiliates to change what we could only expect was their otherwise somewhat rational policy regarding electronic communication? The only analogy you use is a specific block area, and such an analogy seems wildly off the mark and irrelevant.

You seem to be focused on the wiretap/phone database. The only information Al Queda learned is that the government might be able to record their phone conversations without a warrant that they would not be privy to anyway.

And two - the Times did not admit anything. One person speaking for themselves, who is employed by the Times but expressly gives his own opinion, at first supported the Times' action and now no longer does, for reasons that seem completely unrelated to Mark Feld and my position that you are rebutting.
10.24.2006 7:46pm
Mark Field (mail):

If you tell Johnny Criminal that the cops are setting up surveillance at a particular location, or roaming the neighborhood posing as drunk college students while surveilling, you give them valuable info. What the times did was similar. They divulged specifics that would help the terrorists.


I'm holding my breath waiting for the example of this.
10.24.2006 8:56pm
whit:
Justin, why don't u try speaking to somebody who is familiar with biblical translation.

The phrase "thou shalt not kill" is properly translated as "thou shalt not murder" as a simple Google search would reveal, or speaking to any expert in the text/translation of the bible.
10.24.2006 9:11pm
whit:
I said: If you tell Johnny Criminal that the cops are setting up surveillance at a particular location, or roaming the neighborhood posing as drunk college students while surveilling, you give them valuable info. What the times did was similar. They divulged specifics that would help the terrorists.



Justin said:I'm holding my breath waiting for the example of this.

Here you go...
\
nder a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials.

The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. The records mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas and into and out of the United States. Most routine financial transactions confined to this country are not in the database.

Viewed by the Bush administration as a vital tool, the program has played a hidden role in domestic and foreign terrorism investigations since 2001 and helped in the capture of the most wanted Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia, the officials said.

...
[The program] has provided clues to money trails and ties between possible terrorists and groups financing them, the officials said. In some instances, they said, the program has pointed them to new suspects, while in others it has buttressed cases already under investigation.

Among the successes was the capture of a Qaeda operative, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, believed to be the mastermind of the 2002 bombing of a Bali resort, several officials said. The Swift data identified a previously unknown figure in Southeast Asia who had financial dealings with a person suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda; that link helped locate Hambali in Thailand in 2003, they said.

In the United States, the program has provided financial data in investigations into possible domestic terrorist cells as well as inquiries of Islamic charities with suspected of having links to extremists, the officials said.

The data also helped identify a Brooklyn man who was convicted on terrorism-related charges last year, the officials said. The man, Uzair Paracha, who worked at a New York import business, aided a Qaeda operative in Pakistan by agreeing to launder $200,000 through a Karachi bank, prosecutors said.

In terrorism prosecutions, intelligence officials have been careful to "sanitize," or hide the origins of evidence collected through the program to keep it secret, officials said.
...
It is exactly like the example I gave. And yes, I spent over 2 years undercover. Did criminal knows that lea's use Undercover Agents? Of course. Would revealing specifics of HOW we operate be dangerous to me personally, as well as the investigation of crimes? of course. thankfully, the NYT didn't view my investigation as one of their pet causes.

The NYT thinks THEY have the right to determine what is and what isn't to remain secret.

Sorry.

Wrong.

Not when it comes to national security and investigative techniques

Prior to the NYT article Al Qaeda may not have known that we were using records from the BELGIAN COOPERATIVE. We used this program to catch Riduan Isamuddin for pete's sake.

and the NYT blows it

incredible
10.24.2006 9:23pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Justin. Whit is right about "kill" vs. "murder" which I suspect you know but hope others don't.

"Murder" is a social construct.

You are living a pretty fat life in part because, sixty years ago, German and Japanese men of military age were killed most promiscuosly. Fortunately for you, you can pretend to dissociate yourself from that, knowing there is no access to an alternate universe where that didn't happen and to which you can be directed. Too bad.
10.24.2006 10:06pm
Mark Field (mail):
Whit, first of all, the conversation had switched from the SWIFT program to wiretaps. Regardless, your quote utterly fails to prove your point. Nonsuit granted.
10.25.2006 12:11am
whit:
"Murder" is a social construct."

Language is a social construct. And we use different words to represent different things. All murders are killings. Not all killings are murders. I shouldn't have to explain, in a LAW BLOG, what the difference is...

The biblical texts (the originals) clearly reference a word that means unjust or unlawful killing, NOT killing in general.

That is a fact that biblical scholars almost universally agree upon. And you gloss over. Just because the King James (and several other version) happen to use the word KILL (improperly) does not make it so. Let's be originalists and go to the original texts, or the closest we have. The word is MURDER. Specifically, the reference in Hebrew refers to killing of innocents. That is murder.


"You are living a pretty fat life in part because, sixty years ago, German and Japanese men of military age were killed most promiscuosly. Fortunately for you, you can pretend to dissociate yourself from that, knowing there is no access to an alternate universe where that didn't happen and to which you can be directed. Too bad."

I'm mostly living a pretty fat life because I learned how to successfully trade futures. I don't disassociate myself form the killing of japanese and german men at all. Where do you get the idea that I am disassociated from it?
10.25.2006 1:40am
whit:
"Whit, first of all, the conversation had switched from the SWIFT program to wiretaps. Regardless, your quote utterly fails to prove your point. Nonsuit granted."

You are right about the thread drift, but the topic was originally about the NYT, and when it comes to egregious NYT offenses, the SWIFT revelations are the ones that most concern me.

And my quote does prove my point. I think a hyooge part of the problem is that people constantly apply a law enforcement lens to something that is a war thing, not a crime thing. And that is made exceptionally clear in this post.

However, there is ample case law, even in LE cases, for instance (and I have firsthand knowledge in this type of testimony), that even in civilian LE investigations it is proper to not reveal the specifics of how surveillance was/is conducted. In many, a judge will review (independant of the jury and defense) with the LEO where the surveillance point was, so that it can be shown he was in a location that would support one prong of aguilar-spineli (basis of knowledge), but that is kept secret.

And it certainly isn't spouted by the NYT. And we are talking basic organized crime stuff. Not international terrorism, which SHOULD have even greater protection of secrecy - but not according to the NYT. In their eyes, THEY are the decider as to what should be secret or not. The hubris is amazing.
10.25.2006 1:44am
Public_Defender (mail):
The NYT thinks THEY have the right to determine what is and what isn't to remain secret.

The problem is that the NYT can't trust the Bush administration's representations about the value intelligence information, so the paper was left to decide on its own.

This is part of the price the country pays for the Bush administration's truth games.
10.25.2006 5:42am
SKlein:
This comment thread is mostly beside the point. Calame's "vicious" is offered as psychological explanation, not a moral justification, of his initial assessment. And his explanation is psychological common-place. Criticism that is intemperate in tone (regardless of the factual underpinnings) is likely to trigger a defensive response from those who believe in the basic decency of the target of the criticism. Any of the commenters who are advocates should recognize this--it is easier to argue that someone is wrong than that they are evil.
10.25.2006 8:32am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Whit. You're living a fat life because, among other things, you're alive and not under the control of Japanese or German occupiers. Futures trading is icing.

And I was talking to Justin, anyway.
10.25.2006 10:49am
Justin (mail):
Richard, we're completely off topic, but there is a different between someone's death being justified and someone's death being "yay!" You actually take joy in the death of others, which in my view is depraved.

This is my last post on the topic. You have to live with your own morality.
10.25.2006 11:31am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Justin. Some people's deaths are so justified that a reaction between "whew" and "yay" is completely justified.

However, I do relate to Kipling's character in Kim. The retired officer of Indian cavalry, responding to a gentle reproach from a Buddhist monk, who replies, in part, "If evil men were not now and then slain, 'twould be an ill world for weaponless dreamers."

On the other hand, your characterization of my view as being "yay" might be right, or wrong, but it is entirely a projection on your part, there being nothing in what I said to support it.

I figure the folks who think as you do are reacting to the uncomfortable knowledge that, except for the guys with the hard eyes, they'd be...dead at somebody else's hands. Hands are too clean and soul too pure--"see, mine's whiter than snow," to really acknowledge who keeps you safe. So they have to be meanies.

Remember "Atlas Shrugged". What if the soldiers and cops did that? I sometimes think about it, as long as I could watch.
10.25.2006 12:48pm
Nony Mouse:
Mr Fields.
You cannot logically demand proof that what the Times did was similar to telling criminals that surveilence was set up at a place, and then, when confronted with the evidence that the Times named a certain small foreign country that had garnered suspects, claim that the conversation was restricted to wiretaps.
Further more, that was what my final point from the prior post was trying to get across. If I (as a mark) know that an Italian eatery on Main St. is bugged, I'll avoid all of them, or restrict my conversations to the inconsequential. Continuing the analogy further, if I (as a petty theif) have seen a news bit that a cop is posing at a certain intersection as a drunk businessman, and has arrested a large number of attempted robbers, I'll avoid that general area, or restrict my behavior to law-abiding. So now, if I (as a terrorist financeer) have seen a news bit on the US working with banking centers in a certain country, you can bet that I'll change my methods of operation if any large chunck of change was in that country.
Of course, it doesn't necessarily follow that every single one will do this. It just means the savvy ones will. And the savvy ones are the ones who are probably the most dangerous to the US. Which is why I personally wouldn't have published it as-is, unless that country had just said that they weren't going to co-operate with us anymore, and then this might make people switch to banking in countries with which we still had agreements.
10.25.2006 7:04pm