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Foer & The MSB

Via Sullivan, Frank Foer castigates liberal blogs (which he calls the "mainstream blogosphere" or "MSB") for "heaping disdain" on the NY Times over the NSA story:

These attacks should be meaningless, except they're not. The administration has now launched an investigation into the leak that produced the Times story. This is a dangerous case that could seriously threaten the ability of reporters to do their jobs. And liberals should be apoplectic about the threat it represents. But instead of apoplexy, many in the MSB are sitting on their hands. The Bush administration has opened a new front in its war on the press, and the press has no defenders. Thanks to the MSB's sweeping, reckless criticisms, the Times has lost much of the credibility and authority that it needs to mount a robust defense. For this, the bloggers deserve some credit. Well done, guys.

Foer is a talented guy, but this is rather weak. First, the DoJ investigation into the NSA story isn't a "new front in [the Bush administration's] war on the press."  If anything, it's a declaration of war on leakers inside the administration, but even that is probably a stretch - as we've seen, it's standard procedure to open an investigation when classified information is leaked to the public.

Second, any vulnerability the Times suffers is largely of its own making after demanding an investigation into the leak of Valerie Plame's name. Most of the media and the left were gung ho for probing leaks until Patrick Fitzgerald doggedly went to work doing his job questioning reporters. But Fitzgerald hardly "declared war" on the press.

Finally, at least in the case of the leak of the NSA surveillance program there is clear, indisputable evidence that a crime was committed to justify an investigation. Half of the Washington press corps knew Valerie Plame's name before it was printed and there was considerable uncertainty about her status at the CIA (which is why Fitzgerald couldn't indict under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act), but even some of the most senior people in the White House didn't have a clue about the NSA story until it hit the pages of the New York Times last month.

Even if Foer considers the Plame leak a dirty trick and the NSA leak an act of heroism, that doesn't support the claim that investigating the latter is a declaration of war on the press but investigating the former wasn't. In fact, that sort of thinking is at least part of the reason for the New York Times' credibility problem.