Spying on the press

The revelation on MSNBC that the Bush administration was spying on reporters was pretty arresting television. Check out the video where NSA whistleblower Russell Tice gives classic “NSA-speak” answers. What’s most interesting to me is the way it was done: the journalists’ data/phone calls/emails, etc. were “set aside”, ostensibly to preclude them from being lumped in with Suspicious Persons, but in reality so they could be strutinized at length. And then the NSA was able to keep this from Congress by telling Committee A that it was Committee B’s jurisdiction, and telling Commitee B. . . well, you guessed it.

All of which has Dick Cheney’s fingerprints all over it:  this is exactly the kind of bureaucratic shell-game that he took to whole new levels in the last eight years.  Also smacking (I might say stinking) of Cheney is the overall plan: Cheney inherited Nixon’s hatred for journalists, and this last White House thought of prosecuting some of them in the wake of revelations on those pesky wiretaps.

But why prosecute when you can just destroy them instead? Again, we have Cheney’s MO front and center. As Barton Gellman wrote in Angler, while many rolled their eyes at how Cheney headed up Bush’s VP search committee and then picked himself, the real issue in play was that this allowed Cheney to obtain confidential data on all his rivals. So when Frank Keating was nominated for attorney-general, a story appeared in Newsweek with embarassing (and extremely hard-to-obtain) revelations about him that effectively destroyed his chances. Gellman thinks this ultimately led back to Cheney, and I would tend to agree.

So the overall contours of the plan become pretty clear at this point: listen in 24/7 on all the journalists in the country, and then use the part where they call their dealer/call-girl/whatever for leverage/revenge. Had the Bush presidency enjoyed the same power across its second term that it did in its first, who knows what we might have seen.  But by that point the presidency was on the defensive, and there’s evidence that Cheney’s own ambitions were increasingly circumscribed:  his endless lobbying for a war with Iran, for example, got nowhere. The same might have been true of the war on the press. Then again, what we know now is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

2 Responses to “Spying on the press”

  1. narciso Says:

    Seriously if you’re going to believe knuckleheads like Tice, and think that the Lowery invocation’s anything special, well I may not get your sequel. The innaugural speech was bland and missed the import, Elizabeth Alexander’s non profane poem for once, was nonsensical, but Lowery I find most dissapointing; an event so long in the making, and yet utterly useless.

  2. David Williams Says:

    You’ll get the sequel, Narciso. Even if we don’t see eye to eye politically, you aren’t going to want to miss out on the most insane space battle of all time. Trust me on this.