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January 8, 2006 - "Read All About It!" - While You Still Can

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Book Wrangler

January 9, 2006

By Bob Patterson


When the New York Times published the story on Friday, December 16th of last year, about the NSA gathering intelligence via monitoring phone calls and e-mails, my personal reaction was that it sounded very much like old news being recycled under a new headline.  The next day, I fired off an e-mail story suggestion to the man in charge of the editorial staff of the CJR Daily website and suggested that it was old news. 


After that had been sent, we came across the name of the program, Echelon, and then found out on the following Monday morning that the Drudge Report had linked to a transcript of a story Sixty Minutes had done on Echelon several years back.


In the week following the publication, more details became known.  They had held the story for about a year and it was being published to coordinate with the publication of James Risen's new book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration  ($26 Free Press), which was all about the NSA Echelon program, but, oddly enough, the news stories about this book always seem to omit the code name of Echelon.


That explained the fuss over the old story; it was to hype a new book.


Then the President announced that the story had given the terrorists important information and that there would be an investigation into who had leaked the story to the New York Times.  A short time after that, there was an announcement that the Justice Department would conduct an investigation.  It seemed that either the President and all the Intelligence agencies were blissfully unaware of what the public had been told previously, or Bush did know it and he was just using the new story as a pretext for a witch-hunt among the journalists.  Either one sounded very plausible.


My imagination went to warp speed and I was soon imagining that perhaps I would be part of the investigation, because I had retained many of the specifics of the Sixty Minutes story.  It was fun to envision myself testifying in a Congressional hearing.  I could just picture myself sitting in the same seat that Howard Hughes had and saying: "Senator, I can't recall specifically when and how I first became aware of the Echelon program."


Would they question everyone who had seen the Sixty Minutes segment?  Maybe they could use the Echelon program to track all those folks who did?


The implications of this investigation are very disturbing.  If the government doesn't know about the Sixty Minutes story, then our Intelligence gathering capabilities are so pathetically inadequate that well informed citizens will realize it's at the "Abbott and Costello" level of achievement.  With an intelligence group that inept it would be very reckless to start any war based on their information.


If, on the other hand, the President does know about the Sixty Minutes story, then the implications of the witch-hunt among journalists is that it is the death knell for a free press. 


The conservative pundits, who seem to spout Republican talking points on command, are advocating the point of view that the staff of the New York Times is guilty of treason for publishing the story.


There is precedent for getting all the opposition under control - the Germans called it "Gleichschaltung."  


The result of government management of the news is publications like the Völkisher Beobachter, which was the official newspaper of the Nazis in Germany.  One can easily imagine many of the conservatives enthusiastically endorsing this concept.  They seem to be giving the concept a practice run by being in perfect harmony with each other and the Republican talking points.  Isn't it ironic that they consider themselves advocates of "rugged individualism?"


Journalists, historians, and regular citizens, in the future, may well look back on the beginning of 2006 as a time when many very important topics were experiencing rapid change simultaneously and wish that they had paid more attention to various aspects of the complex events.  As it is, for most Americans some juicy tidbits of celebrity news seem to calm their fears about losing freedom of the press.


On page 200, of William L. Shirer's book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, he says: "'The street gangs," in the words of Alan Bullock, 'had seized control of the resources of a great modern State, the gutter had come to power.'  But – as Hitler never ceased to boast – 'legally,' by an overwhelming vote of Parliament.  The Germans had no one to blame but themselves."


Now, if the disk jockey will play the Victory at Sea album in its entirety, we'll sail out of here for this week.  Have a total victory type week.





Copyright © 2005 - Robert Patterson

Email the author at worldslaziestjournalist@yahoo.com



Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
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