Finally! After years of outrage from media critics over a press consumed by obsequious nationalism and corporate pandering; over bribed columnists and fake reporters; over “news” segments prepackaged by the State Department; over the death of investigative journalism and the ease in which the media was duped by administration claims of WMD; over misleading, propagandistic, shallow, gutless reporting from the newspapers “of record”; Congress has finally joined us in condemning these newspapers through House Resolution 895, which passed 227 to 183 on Thursday.
Thank you, brave Congr –
Wait. I’ve just received a memo. Oh, ok -- the resolution was passed condemning the media for reporting too much. That makes much more sense.
On CNN.com, the story appears right above the headline, “Man Fights Alligator to Save Girlfriend’s Dog.” I’m glad Congress is there to tame this rabble-rousing rogue media….
The “Sense of Congress” resolution accuses certain media outlets -- notably the New York Times, which broke the financial monitoring story -- of placing “the lives of Americans in danger.” Funny, I thought it was the occupation of Iraq and U.S. policies that boost terrorist recruitment and anti-American sentiment that have done that.
The New York Times reported on a classified program in which the CIA has been monitoring international financial transactions handled by the banking industry-owned cooperative known as SWIFT.
Indeed, the House Resolution is nothing if not Swiftian. The pages of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, often filled with the bellicose admonishments and fear-producing propaganda that allowed the administration such leeway in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, are now under attack from the GOP, with some even going so far as to accuse the newspapers of treason. I’ve thought for a while that the editors of the Wall Street Journal were really Islamist fundamentalists, or, at the very least, Communists.
This release of information, combined with the leak about the NSA’s domestic spying program, has rattled the administration. President Bush called the printing of the information “disgraceful.” House Speaker Dennis Hastert explained the situation simply, to help us understand: “Basically, loose lips kill American people.”
Like a Star Trek Convention, this issue has brought out all the nuts. Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning, the man who refused to debate his opponent and hired extra body guards because he thought he was an al-Qaeda target (“there may be strangers among us,” he explained to a reporter) accused the New York Times of treason. New York congressman and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee Peter King, the man who once compared the Million Man March to a “Klan rally,” has tried to invoke the Espionage Act and said that if there is another terrorist attack, the “blood will be on their hands,” referring to the New York Times.
So, if the Resolution is not condemning the media for their massive failures like I thought it was, then what IS it saying?
The seven-page document is saying a lot, actually. It says that these newspapers are going to kill us, as they “ultimately endanger American lives” and “have placed the lives of Americans in danger both at home and in many regions of the world, including active-duty armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.” It says that they are going to make us broke, as the disclosure “costs the United States taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost capabilities.”
It also says that these programs are lawful, thus cleverly legitimizing the programs and combating future legal questions while shooting the messenger, or at least calling the messenger a terrorist.
According to the resolution, “the United States Government initiated a lawfully classified Terrorist Finance Tracking Program and the Secretary of the Treasury issued lawful subpoenas to gather information on suspected international terrorists through bank transaction information.” Surely, you can’t bring up constitutional issues, now that the legality has been so clearly explained in this resolution.
This fury emanating from GOP leadership is not for show; it is not election-season posturing. They are angry and they are hurt. They feel betrayed by a friend who told their secret, a friend who for so long has been loyal and subservient. The New York Times defended its decision to disclose the information in an editorial on Thursday. It defended its track record of loyalty, saying “The Times held its reporting about the government’s secret anti-terror wiretapping program for more than a year while it weighed administration objections.” Sounds like the New York Times has been a pretty good friend to the administration. C’mon, GOP, everyone slips up sometimes and accidentally does a good job, give ‘em a break.
Though the GOP had its feelings hurt, it’ll soon make nice with the media and the friendship will be back on track. And the administration will know if the media is insincere and is talking about it behind its back, because they have the phone records.
Other Articles by Aaron Sussman