Friday, July 07, 2006

New Yorker: The press and the White House

The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town by David Remnick: "In the past six years, the Administration and its surrogates have issued a stream of disinformation about intelligence and Iraq; paid friendly “columnists” like Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher tens of thousands of dollars to parrot the White House line; accredited to the White House press corps a phony journalist and ex-prostitute (Jeff “Bulldog” Gannon, a.k.a. James Dale Guckert) as a reliable pitcher of softball questions; tightened Freedom of Information Act restrictions; and pioneered a genre of fake news via packaged video “reports.” The President has held fewer solo news conferences than any of his modern predecessors. The Vice-President kept the Times reporter off his plane because he didn’t like the paper’s coverage. The atmosphere, in general, has been one of crude manipulation and derision. After Seymour M. Hersh published, in this magazine, his third article on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in as many weeks, the Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita, overlooking the truth of the reports, publicly declared that Hersh merely “threw a lot of crap against the wall and he expects someone to peel off what’s real.” (Hersh’s articles, he said, composed a “tapestry of nonsense.”)

In recent months, the critique has grown more ominous. Cheney and other officials have attacked Dana Priest’s article in the Washington Post detailing the rendition of prisoners to secret jails in Europe and James Risen and Eric Lichtblau’s articles in the Times describing the government’s attempt to fight terrorism with warrantless domestic wiretaps. Aping the spirit, if not the �lan, of his predecessor, Cheney called the articles disloyal, damaging to national security, and undeserving of the Pulitzer Prizes they won.

Late last month, the Times published a long report by Lichtblau and Risen on the C.I.A.’s and the Treasury Department’s monitoring of an international banking database in Brussels to track the movement of funds by Al Qaeda. The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times very quickly followed with their own articles on the government’s monitoring of Al Qaeda’s financial transactions, which has been an open secret ever since it was trumpeted by––well, by George W. Bush, in mid-September, 2001. Infuriated that the editors of the Times had not acceded to blandishments to kill the story, Bush and Cheney, in a co�rdinated offensive, described the Times report as a disgrace and, outrageously, as a boon to further terror attacks."


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