February 13, 2006

Operation "Pinch"

Hatched by Dafydd

The noose slowly tightens... around New York Times publisher Arthur "Pinch" Sulzberger, jr.?

Let's jump into the great news right away:

Federal agents have interviewed officials at several of the country's law enforcement and national security agencies in a rapidly expanding criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding a New York Times article published in December that disclosed the existence of a highly classified domestic eavesdropping program, according to government officials.

The investigation, which appears to cover the case from 2004, when the newspaper began reporting the story, is being closely coordinated with criminal prosecutors at the Justice Department, the officials said. People who have been interviewed and others in the government who have been briefed on the interviews said the investigation seemed to lay the groundwork for a grand jury inquiry that could lead to criminal charges.

That news alone would be great news -- that Bush is not just paying lip service to investigating who is doing all this leaking, but is vigorously pursuing the inquiry. But it has become increasingly obvious that this time, the grand jury proceedings will not be limited to the government leakers... the criminal investigation will include those who knowingly received and passed along classified information: the reporters and editors of the New York Times.

An upcoming article in Commentary magazine suggests that the newspaper may be prosecuted for violations of the Espionage Act and says, "What The New York Times has done is nothing less than to compromise the centerpiece of our defensive efforts in the war on terrorism...."

Recently, federal authorities have used espionage statutes to move beyond prosecutions of government officials who disclose classified information to indict private citizens who receive it. In the case of a former Pentagon analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, who pleaded guilty to disclosing defense secrets, federal authorities have charged Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, formerly representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group.

The two men have been indicted on charges of turning over information obtained from Mr. Franklin to a foreign government, which has been identified as Israel, and to journalists. At Mr. Franklin's sentencing hearing in Alexandria, Va., Judge T. S. Ellis III of Federal District Court said he believed that private citizens and government employees must obey laws against illegally disseminating classified information.

"Persons who have unauthorized possession, who come into unauthorized possession of classified information, must abide by the law," Judge Ellis said. "That applies to academics, lawyers, journalists, professors, whatever."

I have believed for a long time that the real reason we have so many leaks of highly classified materials is that so many journalists are now willing, even eager, to publish it without the faintest regard for the damage it may cause to the United States -- or even worse, happy to cause such damage, if they think the Democrats might gain a political advantage from it.

The fact that the Left is usually dead wrong in its assessment how the story will play with real America is completely irrelevant: James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, the authors of the original December 16th, 2005 Times article disclosing the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program (and most of the subsequent pieces), either couldn't care less about the damage they caused or else they actually desired to cause that damage. And their (always anonymous) sources certainly desired to cause that damage... an aspect that Risen and Lichtblau made it a point not to investigate too deeply: take away the instant gratification of seeing the leak in the newspapers, and you take away 90% of the joy of leaking in the first place.

I believe both reporters should go to prison for what they did... both as a just punishment for their crime, which has severely damaged American national security, and also as a deterrant to others. If the only consequence of smearing vital national-security secrets across the front page of America's premier newspaper is a Pulitzer and a lucrative book contract, what do you think the next reporter will do when he's approached by someone with equally precious intelligence information?

The Times pretends it withheld the story for a year because they were soberly and patriotically weighing the damage it might cause to national security against "the public's right to know" about ongoing classified intelligence-gathering operations (which is itself an absurdity; does the public also have a "right to know" our troop movements?)

"Before running the story we gave long and sober consideration to the administration's contention that disclosing the program would damage the country's counterterrorism efforts," Mr. [Bill] Keller [executive editor of the Times] said. "We were not convinced then, and have not been convinced since, that our reporting compromised national security.

"What our reporting has done is set off an intense national debate about the proper balance between security and liberty — a debate that many government officials of both parties, and in all three branches of government, seem to regard as in the national interest."

(Is that the new legal standard now, by the way? That it's only a crime if the defendant himself is "convinced" that he compromised national security? Is this the "I don't believe it" defense?)

But it has since come out that the real reason the Times delayed publication was not a patriotic desire to avoid damaging national security but a contractual and commercial desire not to anticipate the publication of James Risen's book on the subject, State of War: The Secret History of the C.I.A. and the Bush Administration (only $17.16 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25!) What the editors and writers really gave "long and sober consideration to" was probably whether the Times' own reporter might sue them if they revealed the anonymously sourced secrets he had gathered for his tendentious book.

I eagerly anticipate a grand jury proceeding with spooks, politicos, and journalists all hauled up and forced to name names -- or else be sentenced to "Miller time" until they do -- and all run by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales... which the Times evidently considers yet another scandal:

The administration's chief legal defender of the program is Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, who is also the senior official responsible for the leak investigation.

Yeah, funny that: the nation's chief prosecutor is actually in charge of the nation's most urgent prosecution. The Democrats have evidently forgotten that prosecuting malefactors is rightly the job of the attorney general (rather than, say, ordering inconvenient religious cults slain or sending small children off to the loving arms of Uncle Fidel); after all, for eight years, from 1993 through 2000, the biggest federal criminal cases were prosecuted by "independent counsels," because they all involved top members of the president's administration.

I can see how one might get out of the habit of thinking of the attorney general as the prosecutor, rather than a potential defendant.


Evidently, the answer is Yes, reporters really do think that Americans have a "right to know" our exact troop movements in combat: witness the absolute outrage when General Norman Schwartzkopf intentionally misled reporters at a briefing during the Gulf War about where our major offensive would aim. He told them this was desperately secret information that they were forbidden from revealing, knowing that they could barely contain themselves until the end of the briefing itself before calling it in to their networks and newspapers -- which they did! Saddam Hussein foolishly believed the soon-to-be Antique Media, and he was totally wrong-footed by the real invasion of Kuwait... which of course was on the opposite side of the country.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 13, 2006, at the time of 4:15 AM

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Tracked on February 13, 2006 6:13 AM


The following hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi

Evidently, the answer is Yes, reporters really do think that Americans have a "right to know" our exact troop movements in combat: witness the absolute outrage when General Norman Schwartzkopf intentionally misled reporters
yes, and they have never forgiven the military. grrreat post, dafydd. arigato.

btw, on meet the press, FORMER senator tom daschle said he thinks the NSA should be investigated.
what a tool.

The above hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 13, 2006 7:47 AM

The following hissed in response by: RBMN

I'm reminded of those Hanoi Hilton POWs, who foolishly (in hindsight) slipped little scraps of paper with scribbled notes to Jane Fonda, when she made her tour North Vietnam in the Early 1970s. Of course Jane Fonda, like the good little communist she was, immediately handed the notes over to the North Vietnamese guards. Then Fonda went happily on her way, denouncing America, and the POWs got starved and beaten even harder than before.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 13, 2006 10:07 AM

The following hissed in response by: levi from queens

In my 12 years in NYC, my opinion of the NYT has steadily whirled down the drain. 32 of 34 days with front page stories on Abu Ghraib led me to finally stop buying the Sunday Times (which has great puzzles). My question is: Can the corporation, the New York Times itself be indicted? I believe it should be, that the prosecutions should not stop at individuals but go to the institutional wellspring.

The above hissed in response by: levi from queens [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 13, 2006 4:51 PM

The following hissed in response by: Diffus

RBMN, I'm no fan of Fonda, but I am a fan of the truth. I believe that elements of the story may not be as you described them:


The above hissed in response by: Diffus [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 13, 2006 6:51 PM

The following hissed in response by: RBMN

Re: Diffus at February 13, 2006 06:51 PM

Okay. I stand corrected. It is kind of an "Arnold Palmer was in town once and played golf here" story that you might hear at a small rural golf course. You hear it and say, "okay, that sounds plausible to me."


Jane Fonda's radio address which she had broadcast in North Vietnam. This transcription, dated August 22, 1972 was made from her Hotel Especen broadcast in Hanoi at 7:11 p.m.

(The following was submitted in the U.S. Congress House Committee on Internal Security, Travel to Hostile Areas. [HR16742, 19-25 September 1972, page 761])


This is Jane Fonda. During my two week visit in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, I've had the opportunity to visit a great many places and speak to a large number of people from all walks of life- workers, peasants, students, artists and dancers, historians, journalists, film actresses, soldiers, militia girls, members of the women's union, writers.

I visited the (Dam Xuac) agricultural coop, where the silk worms are also raised and thread is made. I visited a textile factory, a kindergarten in Hanoi. The beautiful Temple of Literature was where I saw traditional dances and heard songs of resistance. I also saw unforgettable ballet about the guerrillas training bees in the south to attack enemy soldiers. The bees were danced by women, and they did their job well.

In the shadow of the Temple of Literature I saw Vietnamese actors and actresses perform the second act of Arthur Miller's play All My Sons, and this was very moving to me- the fact that artists here are translating and performing American plays while US imperialists are bombing their country.

I cherish the memory of the blushing militia girls on the roof of their factory, encouraging one of their sisters as she sang a song praising the blue sky of Vietnam- these women, who are so gentle and poetic, whose voices are so beautiful, but who, when American planes are bombing their city, become such good fighters.

I cherish the way a farmer evacuated from Hanoi, without hesitation, offered me, an American, their best individual bomb shelter while US bombs fell near by. The daughter and I, in fact, shared the shelter wrapped in each others arms, cheek against cheek. It was on the road back from Nam Dinh, where I had witnessed the systematic destruction of civilian targets- schools, hospitals, pagodas, the factories, houses, and the dike system.

As I left the United States two weeks ago, Nixon was again telling the American people that he was winding down the war, but in the rubble- strewn streets of Nam Dinh, his words echoed with sinister (words indistinct) of a true killer. And like the young Vietnamese woman I held in my arms clinging to me tightly- and I pressed my cheek against hers- I thought, this is a war against Vietnam perhaps, but the tragedy is America's.

One thing that I have learned beyond a shadow of a doubt since I've been in this country is that Nixon will never be able to break the spirit of these people; he'll never be able to turn Vietnam, north and south, into a neo- colony of the United States by bombing, by invading, by attacking in any way. One has only to go into the countryside and listen to the peasants describe the lives they led before the revolution to understand why every bomb that is dropped only strengthens their determination to resist. I've spoken to many peasants who talked about the days when their parents had to sell themselves to landlords as virtually slaves, when there were very few schools and much illiteracy, inadequate medical care, when they were not masters of their own lives.

But now, despite the bombs, despite the crimes being created- being committed against them by Richard Nixon, these people own their own land, build their own schools- the children learning, literacy- illiteracy is being wiped out, there is no more prostitution as there was during the time when this was a French colony. In other words, the people have taken power into their own hands, and they are controlling their own lives.

And after 4,000 years of struggling against nature and foreign invaders- and the last 25 years, prior to the revolution, of struggling against French colonialism- I don't think that the people of Vietnam are about to compromise in any way, shape or form about the freedom and independence of their country, and I think Richard Nixon would do well to read Vietnamese history, particularly their poetry, and particularly the poetry written by Ho Chi Minh.

[recording ends]

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 14, 2006 8:11 AM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

I've been meaning to thank you for this post. Since I don't buy the Times anymore I missed the article. I'm not going to hold my breath for prosecution, since after all even FDR couldn't bring himself to prosecute McCormick and the Trib in the midst of WW2 so this case probably won't go anywhere either, but the evident discomforture on Times Square is hugely gratifying! I hope (at the least!) prosecutors can throw a big nasty scare into all the leakers-- even if the leaker is an august personage like, say, a Senator...

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 14, 2006 8:53 AM

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