On the afternoon of Dec. 15, New York Times executives put the paper’s preferred First Amendment lawyer, Floyd Abrams, on standby. In the pipeline for the next day’s paper was a story that President George W. Bush had specifically asked the paper not to run, revealing that the National Security Agency had been wiretapping Americans without using warrants.
The President had made the request in person, nine days before, in an Oval Office meeting with publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., executive editor Bill Keller and Washington bureau chief Phil Taubman, according to Times sources familiar with the meeting.
That Dec. 6 session with Mr. Bush was the culmination of a 14-month struggle between The Times and the White House—and a parallel struggle behind the scenes at The Times—over the wiretapping story. In the end, Mr. Abrams’ services were not needed. The piece made it to press without further incident.
But the story, which began with reporter James Risen and was eventually written by Mr. Risen and Eric Lichtblau, very nearly didn’t reach that endgame at all. In one paragraph, the piece disclosed that the White House had objected to the article—“arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations”—and that The Times had “delayed publication for a year.”
In fact, multiple Times sources said that the story had come up more than a year ago—specifically, before the 2004 election. After The Times decided not to publish it at that time, Mr. Risen went away on book leave, and his piece was shelved and regarded as dead, according to a Times source.
“I’m not going to talk about the back story to the story,” Mr. Keller said by phone on Dec. 20. “Maybe another time and another subject.”
And that, as they say, is that. George W. Bush, in as clear a violation of the Constituion of the United States as the one that led to the resignation of Richard Nixon, ordered illegal wiretaps on American citizens whose politics displeased him — environmentalists, vegetarians, and gays and lesbians opposed to the military’s exclusionary sexual orientation policies.
Oh and people who may be thinking of placing a call to Osama Bin Ladin. Yeah, them too.
And why should we care, after all? For as George Leroy Tirebiter says “You can believe me because I am always right and I never lie.”
Of course there are those naughty naysayers like Jane, John, and Atrios. So if you want to find out some detailed information about what President Bunnypants and the real power behind the throne, Darth Cheney, are up to you should check them out. After all the lips of the “newspaper of record” are sealed.
Yes indeedy we’re One Nation Under Surveillance these days .And truth to tell we always have been. I became aware of this seemingly startling fact back in 1961 — my freshman year at Communist Martyrs High ( aka. The High School of Music and Art) in New York city.
“Hey look,” said my pal Elenora Mantovanni “it’s the Red Squad!” She was poiting to a seemingly ordinary sedan with a couple of men in business suits sitting inside, parked across the street up on Morningside Heights. If you kept an eye peeled you could see them whip out their cameras and snap pictures of us kids. Why? Well a great many were the relatives and offspring of 30’s era leftists of note. “Red Diaper Babies” they called them.
And what did the “Red Squad” hope to learn form these “Babies” ? We’ll never know. Anytime anyone approached the car they scurried away like rats and roaches. Consequently if their intent was to intimidate these “Anti-Communists” failed miserably.
As the years wore on and I became involved in anti-Vietnam demonstrations, and the gay rights movement, the presence of such “observers” became so common as to scarcely merit comment much less concern. How many times was I photographed? Where and when? Maybe I should get my FBI file and stroll down memory lane. But I prefer my own ability to recall the past more than any agency’s clandestine summoning of artifacts, culled from a perversely skewed persepctive.
Yes, nous sommes tous les Red Diaper Babies maintenant. So get used to it. Yes, even in times as semingly dire as these. For as the great John Garfield says in the last line of that Abraham Polansky classic (released the year that I was born), “What are you gonna do — kill me? Everybody dies.”