The Fort Smith, Arkansas Times-Record contends in a July 3, 2006 editorial that the Bush Administration and the press both "err in earnest" in their handling of the disclosure of tactics used in the so-called "War on Terror.
While previous presidents have at various times claimed the legal right to authorize searches and electronic surveillance without court warrants so as to gather foreign intelligence, those decisions have undergone scrutiny by either courts or congressional hearings.
It's fair to say that Bush had no intention of allowing public scrutiny of his act [of using the National Security Agency for Domestic spying], since he personally summoned the top executives of The New York Times to a private meeting on December 6 and pressured them not to run the story about the domestic spying. The paper had held the story for a year at the administration's pleading but decided, after second thoughts and more reporting, that its importance required publication. It appeared on the Times' front page on Friday, December 16."Some Bush supporters have attacked the Times for running the piece," Schanberg noted. "On the other hand, some journalists have attacked the Times for holding it for a year. From where I stand (I'm a Times alumnus), the paper should get credit for digging it out and publishing it. But whatever one's journalistic point of view, the Times' decision-making is not the central story here. The president's secret directive is."
"Word that members of the Bush administration met with editors of two major newspapers in an effort to stop the publication of news articles in recent weeks drew little surprise from veteran Washington journalists, who said such White House pressure has appeared during past decades," writes Joe Strupp in a December 27, 2005 article in Editor & Publisher.
Both publications should have disclosed the meetings. However, I'm not surprised that The Times didn't report it, but I am that the Post didn't. Maybe that's because The Post's relationship with the administration isn't so obvious. Could it be that the editors didn't want to be beaten up by bloggers? Just asking.
Washington Post Media Notes columnist Howard Kurtz reveals in his December 26, 2005 column that, "President Bush has been summoning newspaper editors lately in an effort to prevent publication of stories he considers damaging to national security."
"The efforts have failed, but the rare White House sessions with the executive editors of The Washington Post and New York Times are an indication of how seriously the president takes the recent reporting that has raised questions about the administration's anti-terror tactics," Kurtz wrote. He added:
Leonard Downie Jr., The Post's executive editor, would not confirm the meeting with Bush before publishing reporter Dana Priest's Nov. 2 article disclosing the existence of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe used to interrogate terror suspects. Bill Keller, executive editor of the Times, would not confirm that he, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Washington bureau chief Philip Taubman had an Oval Office sit-down with the president on Dec. 5, 11 days before reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau revealed that Bush had authorized eavesdropping on Americans and others within the United States without court orders.
Kurtz said, "But the meetings were confirmed by sources who have been briefed on them but are not authorized to comment because both sides had agreed to keep the sessions off the record. The White House had no comment."
I hope the nation's two most important editors aren't so establishment that they will help President Bush cover up wrongdoing and threats to civil liberties in the name of national security, the canard presidents cart out when they want to cover up embarrassing and sometimes criminal activity. It's bad enough that The Times sat on its domestic spying story for a year at the request of the administration. Hopefully, Keller and other Times editors won't compound the problem by doing it again.