Patterico's Pontifications

7/8/2006

Jack Shafer: Gauging from My Vast Well of Ignorance, I Suspect That the Following Thing Happened, Which I Just Made Up

Filed under: Morons,Terrorism — Patterico @ 12:03 am



A snarky Jack Shafer writes in Slate regarding the disclosure of the Swift counterterror program:

In an open society such as ours, it’s up to the White House to convince the editors not to publish. I claim no inside knowledge about why talks between the administration and the Timeses cratered. Gauging from the White House’s fury, I suspect that it either failed to make a plausible case for keeping the program secret or didn’t want to make a case.

Oh, well. If you claim no inside knowledge, why not just make something up? That’s a lot more fun than, say, doing research to see what someone who does have inside knowledge says.

Gauging from what was said by Doyle McManus, the L.A. Times Washington Bureau Chief who was actually in on these talks, I suspect that Jack Shafer is full of crap. Let’s review what McManus told the AP:

Treasury Department officials spent 90 minutes Thursday meeting with the newspaper’s reporters, stressing the legality of the program and urging the paper to not publish a story on the program, McManus said in a telephone interview.

“They were quite vigorous, they were quite energetic. They made a very strong case,” he said.

Anyone who has followed this story with any degree of interest was aware of this story and this quote from McManus. Evidently, following the story closely is not a requirement for one to spout off in Slate about it.

If the talks broke down, Mr. Shafer, it’s because the papers decided to substitute their judgment for that of the government. It’s just that simple.

But thanks for playing!

17 Responses to “Jack Shafer: Gauging from My Vast Well of Ignorance, I Suspect That the Following Thing Happened, Which I Just Made Up”

  1. And here I thought that the dead horse had not only been re-beaten but canned and sent out to the pet food shops.

    [You and your pals in the media would like nothing better than to treat this as a week-long flash in the pan, and then let’s “move on.”TM But Shafer’s piece was barely a day old when I posted. — P]

    steve (8fa5f3)

  2. It doesn’t matter that Mr Shafer just pulled that stuff out of his . . . hat. Since it’s been published in Slate, it won’t be long before someone else picks it up, links it as a Source, and continues on with the notion. After a few more links, it’ll become the Documented Truth.

    Dana (3e4784)

  3. Shafer’s argument is a non sequitur, anyway. Why would the fury of the White House indicate a tepid attempt to get the paper not to publish? I would have thought that the contrary.

    KRB (75c291)

  4. Congratulations, Patterico:
    “If the talks broke down… it’s because the papers decided to substitute their judgment for that of the government. It’s just that simple.”
    Concise and excellent summary of what a free press means.

    Asinitra (30ea99)

  5. Shafer writes the Swift episode was only the latest of other failed appeals not to publish.

    Unless something else is meant by “head-butting conversations.”

    A couple of those stories [the Abu Ghraib outrages; the United States’ rendition of terrorism suspects to countries where torture is commonplace; its secret prisons in Eastern Europe; the NSA’s eavesdropping without warrants; and the surreptitious harvesting of phone logs] were published after head-butting conversations between the press and the White House, so you know the White House has to be angry.

    Whatever its mood, the administration may have found it politically expedient at this juncture, just before the fall elections, to cultivate a domestic perception that the New York Times is as much an enemy as al-Qaida.

    steve (8fa5f3)

  6. I’ve got a re-write for Mr. Shafer:
    “In a society of laws under a constitution, it is the duty of citizens to obey lawfully elected constitutional authorities, unless they can put forth a very good argument to the contrary.”

    Steve: The NYT is really helping them along with that argument, eh?

    Mikey NTH (36b985)

  7. Why the muted response to the NY Daily News which may have jeopardized the tracking of a cell of bomb-plotters?

    There’s no chance now of working the PATH tunnel investigation from the inside, turning the lead actor and using him to keep the plot moving forward so you can trace everyone else – the money, the accounts, the weapons dealers, everyone who might not have been in the chat rooms.

    Newspapers are occasionally fed criminal investigation leaks – with knowledge of the chain of command – to game the system, shake loose leads and even rennovate careers. Terrorism is no different, though the stakes are higher. As is the habit of officially screaming bloody murder during Act II.

    steve (8fa5f3)

  8. congratulations on a great generic post title which can be used over and over again. for a quick yukk, let’s apply it to dubya alleging that saddam was trying to get yellowcake from africa.

    assistant devil's advocate (93635c)

  9. Pay no attention to what people say. Look at the response. McManus is a clubby beltway type beholden to access. He’s being polite — you know, maintaining good relations with a little flattery. I suspect you have to pretty damn needy to take McManus at face value — and I say that with the utmost contempt. The administration response makes clear, as always, that this just an opportunity for posturing. Shafer is exactly right.

    Tweedle (dd1490)

  10. It matters not the results of this debate: until the administration publicly unveils a vigorous investigation of those who leaked these stories, with grand jury subpoenas flying hither and yon, the bad guys win. Without action we’ll see lots more leaked stories in the weeks ahead, especially with an election coming and the CIA trying to elect Democrats. It’s all on Bush– the man who talks a big game against leaks and does exactly nothing.

    MTf (a6fe46)

  11. Asinistra,

    Do the people of the US have the right to make laws to keep information classified?

    Yes or no, please.

    Bostonian (69704e)

  12. Preposterous twaddle by ignorant twits. While I may agree with Asinitra that once the secret cat is out of the bag and in a reporter’s hands, it’s up to the government to persuade a newspaper not to print, that task becomes more difficult when folks such as Keller and Baquet are devoid of common sense. An argument is only a useful device if there are two adults in the room.

    Keller actually told Charlie Rose that he believed that the banks participating in the SWIFT program could simply tell their national governments that they “had to do it because they had received a subpena” and that would satisfy any complaints by their governments. If you’ve read the press reports of various actions taken the Belgian government and the European parliament you’ll see that Keller is a buffoon on that point.

    Mike Myers (290636)

  13. Asinitra wrote:

    Congratulations, Patterico:

    “If the talks broke down… it’s because the papers decided to substitute their judgment for that of the government. It’s just that simple.”

    Concise and excellent summary of what a free press means.

    Yes, actually. Freedom of the Press means that you get to publish (almost) anything you want, without fear of prior censorship. It does not mean that you are absolved of responsibility for the repercussions from what you print.

    I do find the disconnect amazing, really. People write things specifically because they want to have an impact on policy; I’m sure that Asinitra has heard of editorials and (attempted) persuasive writing. Why, then, would he think that no responsibility attends writing?

    Dana (1d5902)

  14. Amen, Dana.

    sharon (fecb65)

  15. To Bostonian–short answer to your question: yes, I do think the people of the US have the right to make laws to keep information classified. Long answer: they also have the right to pass laws outlawing drink and disenfranchising blacks. What’s the point?

    To Dana–I didn’t write much in my post, but you sure are reading a lot into it. I have no trouble assigning journalists responsibility for what they choose to report, even if it means they have to do jail time to ensure the public’s right to challenge government. A free press, like the right to vote, is worth fighting for…they’re our only protection from the tyranny of the power hungry and the servile. Long live John Peter Zenger! And terminal diarrhea to those who would bring back the Alien and Sedition Act.

    Asinistra (30ea99)

  16. “Long answer: they also have the right to pass laws outlawing drink and disenfranchising blacks.”

    Actually, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 sort of took care of the disenfranchising blacks thing, unless, like Jesse Jackson, you’ve decided to warp what “disenfranchise” means.

    sharon (fecb65)

  17. Asinistra,

    I was just trying to find out how much you respect democracy, that’s all.

    Bostonian (69704e)


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