Pathetic excuses from the NYT

The New York Times today defends its outing of the secret program to trace financial transactions of terrorists. The editorial brings up John F. Kennedy's rhetorical wish that the press had disclosed plans to invade Cuba in the Bay of Pigs operation.

I find this line of defense very disengenuous: that operation was clearly fraught with legal and international problems. Invading a nation with armed force is a bit different, to say the least, than carrying through with an entirely legal program to discover financial flows used to support terror operations. Kennedy also made this rhetorical statement about wishing the press had publicized the Bay of Pigs after it had failed. Of course, anyone who fails in such a public way can jest that he wished the operation had been previously derailed.

The Swift story bears no resemblance to security breaches, like disclosure of troop locations, that would clearly compromise the immediate safety of specific individuals....

Did the Times not do this very thing when it disclosed locations —airports, flights — that used CIA personnel to transfer terror suspects? Furthermore, the disclosure of this program will make it more difficult to find terror groups and prvent further attacks. Not only will soldiers die, so will innocent civilians.

The Bush administration has taken the necessity of heightened vigilance against terrorism and turned it into a rationale for an extraordinarily powerful executive branch, exempt from the normal checks and balances of our system of government. It has created powerful new tools of surveillance and refused, almost as a matter of principle, to use normal procedures that would acknowledge that either Congress or the courts have an oversight role.

This rationale has absoutely nothing to do with the surveillance program which all agree is completely legal

Ed Lasky   6 28 06

Dick Weltz adds:

A second pathetic excuse line, although heavily veiled, is found in the final paragraph of the editorial, which hints strongly at regret for the government programs which sought out Soviet spies and Communist collaborators ( la Alger Hiss) who infiltrated government, the arts, and other strata of society with damage to the American democracy as their aim.

A half—century ago, the country endured a long period of amorphous, global vigilance against an enemy who was suspected of boring from within, and history suggests that under those conditions, it is easy to err on the side of security and secrecy. The free press has a central place in the Constitution because it can provide information the public needs to make things right again. Even if it runs the risk of being labeled unpatriotic in the process.

Ed Lasky adds:

A recent book, The Man who Invented Fidel, reveals how ironic and inapposite this line of argument by the New York Times turns out to be. The book, by New York Times journalist Anthony DePalma, tells the tale of Herbert Matthews who as a journalist from the New York Times, played a fundamental role in rescuing a severely weakened and endangered Fidel Castro from probable capture by the forces of Cuban leader Batista.

Castro himself had landed in Cuba after a disastrous voyage from Mexico with his armed compatriots. Many men were lost, and Castro himself was reduced to a skeletal nucleus of supporters while hiding out in the jungles of Cuba. He was to a great extent surrounded and a hunted man.

Mathews secured an interview with him that portrayed him as a wily adversary with much greater forces and support than he actually had. Strength (even fictitious strength) begat increased strength. A continued stream of positive press treatment flowed from the pen of Herbert Matthews, who was ideologically predisposed to support Castro (Mathews had previously supported the Communists during the Spanish Civil War).

This led to forces rallying around Castro and his eventual triumph in Cuba (Castro, himself, repeatedly credited Matthews, and thus the New York Times) with a more than supporting role in his "revolution". He has been honored by exhibits in Cuban museums that highlight his important role. The Castro victory resulted in the imposition of an anti—American dictatorship in Cuba which led to — you guessed it — the Bay of Pigs.

Greg Richards adds:

The Times makes a critical error in comparing the current situation, obscurely, to the red—hunting of the 1950's.  The Cold War was cold.  Deterrence was a strategy employed by both sides that both sides observed.  The Russians did not cross our liines outside of Cuba.  We did not bomb their ships in Haiphong.  Etc.

The NY Times misconstrues the current position of the nation.  The strategic significance of 9/11 was that deterrence failed.  We are not in a cold war with radical Islam, but a hot war.  The fact that there has not been another engagement on our home soil since 9/11 does not change that. 

The country is bending every effort to see that another attack does not happen.  The nature of such an attack — biological, radiological, even nuclear — is so dire that the margin for error is nil.

The New York Times has substantially widened that margin of error for no purpose whatsovever except self—aggrandisement.  It was an ignorant, stupid and extremely damaging thing to do and has put us all at risk to no good purpose.

The New York Times today defends its outing of the secret program to trace financial transactions of terrorists. The editorial brings up John F. Kennedy's rhetorical wish that the press had disclosed plans to invade Cuba in the Bay of Pigs operation.

I find this line of defense very disengenuous: that operation was clearly fraught with legal and international problems. Invading a nation with armed force is a bit different, to say the least, than carrying through with an entirely legal program to discover financial flows used to support terror operations. Kennedy also made this rhetorical statement about wishing the press had publicized the Bay of Pigs after it had failed. Of course, anyone who fails in such a public way can jest that he wished the operation had been previously derailed.

The Swift story bears no resemblance to security breaches, like disclosure of troop locations, that would clearly compromise the immediate safety of specific individuals....

Did the Times not do this very thing when it disclosed locations —airports, flights — that used CIA personnel to transfer terror suspects? Furthermore, the disclosure of this program will make it more difficult to find terror groups and prvent further attacks. Not only will soldiers die, so will innocent civilians.

The Bush administration has taken the necessity of heightened vigilance against terrorism and turned it into a rationale for an extraordinarily powerful executive branch, exempt from the normal checks and balances of our system of government. It has created powerful new tools of surveillance and refused, almost as a matter of principle, to use normal procedures that would acknowledge that either Congress or the courts have an oversight role.

This rationale has absoutely nothing to do with the surveillance program which all agree is completely legal

Ed Lasky   6 28 06

Dick Weltz adds:

A second pathetic excuse line, although heavily veiled, is found in the final paragraph of the editorial, which hints strongly at regret for the government programs which sought out Soviet spies and Communist collaborators ( la Alger Hiss) who infiltrated government, the arts, and other strata of society with damage to the American democracy as their aim.

A half—century ago, the country endured a long period of amorphous, global vigilance against an enemy who was suspected of boring from within, and history suggests that under those conditions, it is easy to err on the side of security and secrecy. The free press has a central place in the Constitution because it can provide information the public needs to make things right again. Even if it runs the risk of being labeled unpatriotic in the process.

Ed Lasky adds:

A recent book, The Man who Invented Fidel, reveals how ironic and inapposite this line of argument by the New York Times turns out to be. The book, by New York Times journalist Anthony DePalma, tells the tale of Herbert Matthews who as a journalist from the New York Times, played a fundamental role in rescuing a severely weakened and endangered Fidel Castro from probable capture by the forces of Cuban leader Batista.

Castro himself had landed in Cuba after a disastrous voyage from Mexico with his armed compatriots. Many men were lost, and Castro himself was reduced to a skeletal nucleus of supporters while hiding out in the jungles of Cuba. He was to a great extent surrounded and a hunted man.

Mathews secured an interview with him that portrayed him as a wily adversary with much greater forces and support than he actually had. Strength (even fictitious strength) begat increased strength. A continued stream of positive press treatment flowed from the pen of Herbert Matthews, who was ideologically predisposed to support Castro (Mathews had previously supported the Communists during the Spanish Civil War).

This led to forces rallying around Castro and his eventual triumph in Cuba (Castro, himself, repeatedly credited Matthews, and thus the New York Times) with a more than supporting role in his "revolution". He has been honored by exhibits in Cuban museums that highlight his important role. The Castro victory resulted in the imposition of an anti—American dictatorship in Cuba which led to — you guessed it — the Bay of Pigs.

Greg Richards adds:

The Times makes a critical error in comparing the current situation, obscurely, to the red—hunting of the 1950's.  The Cold War was cold.  Deterrence was a strategy employed by both sides that both sides observed.  The Russians did not cross our liines outside of Cuba.  We did not bomb their ships in Haiphong.  Etc.

The NY Times misconstrues the current position of the nation.  The strategic significance of 9/11 was that deterrence failed.  We are not in a cold war with radical Islam, but a hot war.  The fact that there has not been another engagement on our home soil since 9/11 does not change that. 

The country is bending every effort to see that another attack does not happen.  The nature of such an attack — biological, radiological, even nuclear — is so dire that the margin for error is nil.

The New York Times has substantially widened that margin of error for no purpose whatsovever except self—aggrandisement.  It was an ignorant, stupid and extremely damaging thing to do and has put us all at risk to no good purpose.