January 19, 2006
The Peoples' (Conditional) Right to Know
Italian authorities arrested three Algerians who were members
of the al Qaida -linked terror group GSPC.
were plotting attacks on ships, railway stations and stadiums
in the United States in a bid to outdo the casualties caused on
9/11, said Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu.
made front page news in newspapers in Italy, Britain and France.
But apparently the only U.S. newspaper to mention them was the
Philadelphia Inquirer, in a short AP dispatch
on page A-6. The AP did not mention that the principal
targets of the plotters were in the U.S.
of our news media about the plotters and their plots is curious,
especially in light of the mysterious death of Joel Hinrichs,
21, a Muslim convert who, wearing a suicide vest, blew himself
up Oct. 1 on a park bench outside the stadium in Norman where
the university of Oklahoma football team was playing Kansas State.
When Hinrichs' apartment was searched after his death, the FBI
found a plane ticket to Algeria.
Algerian plotters went unmentioned because describing how they
were caught -- the Italian authorities were listening in on their
telephone conversations -- would interfere with a current journalistic
16th, the New York Times published a story revealing
that the National Security Agency has been listening in on conversations
between al Qaida suspects abroad and people in the United States
without first obtaining warrants.
of the New York Times are in high dudgeon. The Bush administration
has instituted "a major shift in intelligence gathering practices,"
the Times declared in an editorial.
knew this wasn't true, because on May 27th, 1999, the Times
printed a story by reporter Niall McKay about Echelon, a much
broader electronic intercept program begun during the Clinton
administration. I could find no editorials in the New York
Times criticizing Echelon. Apparently,
warrantless electronic intercept programs threaten civil liberties
only when a Republican is president.
who are not supposed to be expressing opinions in the news columns
make their views known by the term they use -- "whistle blower"
-- to describe the person or persons who told the New York
Times about the ultra-secret NSA program.
may ask, is the difference between a whistle blower and a leaker?
blower is someone who discloses secrets helpful to Democrats or
embarrassing to Republicans.
on the other hand, is someone who discloses secrets helpful to
Republicans or embarrassing to Democrats. The person or persons
who told journalists that Valerie Plame, wife of Joseph C. Wilson
of uranium-in-Niger fame, worked at the CIA invariably are described
to be seen whether the person or persons who outed Ms. Plame committed
a crime. It is clear that the person or persons who revealed the
existence of the NSA program have done so.
is a crime that could have serious consequences. Those who have
something to hide change their behavior when alerted they may
be under surveillance. Since the New York Times story
appeared, there has been a surge in the purchase of large quantities
of disposable cell phones by people from the Middle East and Pakistan,
ABC News reported Jan. 12th.
cell phones are popular with drug dealers and terrorists because
they are all but impossible to track. Such phones were used as
detonators in the Madrid train attacks in 2004.
excuse putting Americans at risk by disclosing information helpful
to terrorists on the grounds of "the peoples' right to know."
But "the peoples' right to know" apparently doesn't
extend to major portions of the Barrett report, which is due to
be released Thursday.
is the independent counsel who investigated Henry Cisneros, secretary
of housing and urban development in the Clinton administration.
reportedly found evidence of abuses of power by Clinton administration
officials in the Justice department and the Internal Revenue Service.
Much of the
Barrett report has been suppressed, without a murmur from journalists
who complain about the NSA intercept program.
Barrett report could be released without endangering national
security, and it is about actual abuses of power, while critics
have been unable to identify any in the NSA intercept program.
if the information is embarrassing to Democrats, the people don't
have a right to know about it.