Category Archive 'Washington Post'
19 Jul 2010

WaPo Top Secret America Website Launched Today

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The Washington Post’s sexy new multimedia web-site adversarially reporting on the US Intelligence Community’s components, contractors, facilities, size, and expenditures is, as was predicted, up and running today.

The introductory 1:47 video and a lengthy article by Dana Priest and William Arkin take a downright conservative-sounding tone of skepticism of big government, complaining about massive growth, duplication of effort, paralysis and confusion stemming from over-large bureaucracy, and an excessive cult of secrecy leading to a lack of accountability.

After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine. …

An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. …

Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.

Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year – a volume so large that many are routinely ignored. …

The U.S. intelligence budget is vast, publicly announced last year as $75 billion, 21/2 times the size it was on Sept. 10, 2001. But the figure doesn’t include many military activities or domestic counterterrorism programs.

At least 20 percent of the government organizations that exist to fend off terrorist threats were established or refashioned in the wake of 9/11. Many that existed before the attacks grew to historic proportions as the Bush administration and Congress gave agencies more money than they were capable of responsibly spending. …

Beyond redundancy, secrecy within the intelligence world hampers effectiveness… say defense and intelligence officers. For the Defense Department, the root of this problem goes back to an ultra-secret group of programs for which access is extremely limited and monitored by specially trained security officers.

These are called Special Access Programs – or SAPs – and the Pentagon’s list of code names for them runs 300 pages. The intelligence community has hundreds more of its own, and those hundreds have thousands of sub-programs with their own limits on the number of people authorized to know anything about them. All this means that very few people have a complete sense of what’s going on.

“There’s only one entity in the entire universe that has visibility on all SAPs – that’s God,” said James R. Clapper, undersecretary of defense for intelligence and the Obama administration’s nominee to be the next director of national intelligence.

Such secrecy can undermine the normal chain of command when senior officials use it to cut out rivals or when subordinates are ordered to keep secrets from their commanders.

One military officer involved in one such program said he was ordered to sign a document prohibiting him from disclosing it to his four-star commander, with whom he worked closely every day, because the commander was not authorized to know about it. Another senior defense official recalls the day he tried to find out about a program in his budget, only to be rebuffed by a peer. “What do you mean you can’t tell me? I pay for the program,” he recalled saying in a heated exchange.

These contentions sound reasonable, though the idea of top secret government functions and processes being reformed by even more unaccountable journalists with a record of personal career advancement via damaging leaks of highly classified intelligence operations strikes me as a case of the local foxes putting on efficiency expert Halloween costumes and volunteering to improve operations in the chicken house.

I’m not in the least persuaded that the Post really needed to publish a cool interactive map of government facility and contractor company locations and a searchable database of companies working on top secret contracting assignments. Why do Washington Post readers need such detailed information? Couldn’t foreign intelligence services do their own research?

It is also far from clear to me that Dana Priest and the Washington Post have not knowingly again violated the Espionage Act of 1917 by publishing that map and database. This time, who knows? It is much easier for a leftwing administration to undertake prosecutions of these kinds of offenses. The Obama Administration has already demonstrated more willingness to enforce the law in National Security cases than the Bush Administration ever did. It will be interesting to see how the government reacts.

Will Dana Priest go to jail or will she just collect one more Pulitzer Prize?

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Fox News says the Obama Administration is expecting some absurd spending stories and quotes Intelligence Community sources talking about what a great resource for America’s enemies that Post website is going to be.

The Obama administration is bracing for the first in a series of Washington Post articles said to focus in unprecedented detail on the government’s spending on intelligence contractors.

The intelligence community is warning that the article could blow the cover of contract companies doing top-secret work for the government. At the same time, a senior administration official acknowledged that the kind of wasteful spending expected to be spotlighted in the series is “troubling” and something the administration is trying to address.

“There will be examples of money being wasted in the series that seem egregious and we are just as offended as the readers by those examples,” the official said. The official said some of the information in the story is “explainable,” in that some “redundancy” is necessary in the intelligence community. But the official said the administration has been working to reduce “waste” and that “it’s something we’ve been on top of.”

Other sectors of the administration were on high alert over the piece. A source told Fox News that the series amounts to a “significant targeting document” in that it will apparently bring together unclassified information from the public domain in a single location, making it a one-stop shop for this level of detail. The official said “few intelligence groups have the assets and resources to pool” this kind of information.

This has led to warnings about how the information could be used. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence sent out a memo saying that “foreign intelligence services, terrorist organizations and criminal elements will have potential interest in this kind of information.”

18 Jul 2010

Decrying Panthergate

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Abigail Thernstrom, nearly two weeks ago in National Review Online, pooh-pooh-ed the scandal of Eric Holder’s Justice Department overruling prosecutors in order to quash the voter intimidation case against Philadelphia Black Panthers, describing it as insignificant by comparison to the (more abstract, and less sexy) issue of the Department of Justice requiring racially gerrymandered election districts.

Forget about the New Black Panther Party case; it is very small potatoes. Perhaps the Panthers should have been prosecuted under section 11 (b) of the Voting Rights Act for their actions of November 2008, but the legal standards that must be met to prove voter intimidation — the charge — are very high.

In the 45 years since the act was passed, there have been a total of three successful prosecutions. The incident involved only two Panthers at a single majority-black precinct in Philadelphia. So far — after months of hearings, testimony and investigation — no one has produced actual evidence that any voters were too scared to cast their ballots. Too much overheated rhetoric filled with insinuations and unsubstantiated charges has been devoted to this case.

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Nothing gratifies the left’s commentariat like a conservative come to Lenin, so Thernstrom’s characterization of the Philadelphia Panther affair as small potatoes was shouted from the rooftops.

Ben Smith, at Politico, treated it as headline news.

Adam Serwer, at American Prospect, gloatingly announced that Thernstrom’s comments exploded a conservative conspiracy to bring down Eric Holder and damage Barack Obama.

And Joan Walsh, editor in chief of Salon, was today hastening to admire Adam Serwer’s intelligence in the course of performing damage control. It turns out that the Washington Post, unlike the New York Times, really does have an Ombudsman representing the public’s interest in journalistic evenhandedness and objectivity.

The Philadelphia Panther Polling Place Intimidation story has been receiving coverage from Fox News and developing legs as a story and provoking public interest, causing Post Ombudsman Andrew Alexander to criticize the Post’s delay in covering it.

Walsh lays down the law in response to Alexander:

[I]t really is hard, with limited news room resources, to decide whether and how to cover the insane narrative of rumors, half-truths and lies being peddled by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, not to mention Fox News “reporters” like Megyn Kelly. By covering them (as Salon readers frequently remind us) we risk spreading lies and delusion beyond the right-wing smogosphere. But by ignoring the ones that gain political currency, we risk letting them acquire more influence than they deserve.

Let me state, for the record, that the New Black Panther Party is a despicable, deluded, crackpot fringe group, whose members’ insane anti-white rhetoric sometimes makes me wonder if they’re still on the payroll of the FBI’s COINTELPRO, that 60s-era project in which righty provocateurs infiltrated left-wing groups, including the Black Panthers, and egged on some of the worst violence (not that the old Panthers weren’t capable of violence and thuggishness all on their own, along with the breakfast programs their lefty admirers like to remember).

But the right wing needs the thuggish but miniscule and derided NBBP to matter, and to tie the crazy group to our black president, in order to advance their narrative of lies about Obama’s “racism,” tyranny and illegitimacy to be president. If they can convince enough people that Obama was elected thanks to intimidation by the NBPP, and “voter fraud” by the now-defunct ACORN, they won’t even need the crazy Birthers to prove he’s not legitimately president, even though he won with a bigger mandate than any first-term president since Lyndon Johnson (who of course had become president after the Kennedy assassination.) …

It’s the job of editors at big papers like the Post to expose those lies, and the movement behind them – not to flagellate themselves for not saying “How high?” when right-wing media watchdogs say “Jump!”

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The left’s arguments as to why the Department of Justice blocking prosecution of the Philadelphia Black Panther standing in front of the Fairmont Avenue polling station brandishing a nightstick is a non-story run like this:

J. Christian Adams, the former Justice Department voting rights attorney who resigned and later testified before the the U.S. Commission on Civil Right in connection with Eric Holder’s Justice Department’s handling of the Philadelphia case, is a Republican who was hired by another Republican attorney they dislike.

No one has proven that Eric Holder or Barack Obama personally interfered.

The New Black Panther Party is a small, unrepresentative fringe group that simply does not matter.

No one has produced voters testifying that they were prevented from voting by the Panthers.

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Most Americans do not agree that testimony coming from Republicans, even from conservative Republicans, of bias and improper conduct can be impeached successfully simply by identifying the witness’s politics. An obviously greater number of Americans trust the reliability of Fox News more that they trust other networks, the New York Times or the Washington Post, and more Americans believe that conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh are reasonably fair-minded than would say the same thing of Salon.

The unavailability of evidence of participation of senior officials in a far-from-thoroughly-investigated scandal is not per se exculpatory evidence.

The Fairmont Avenue nightstick-carrying Panther incident is known from a few very short videos which were posted on YouTube. A University of Pennsylvania student tried filming and interviewing the Panthers. He found them hostile and evasive. In the immediate aftermath of that confrontation, he or a Republican poll observer summoned the police. The Panther carrying the nightstick was persuaded by Philadelphia police to leave. His associate produced identification as a poll watcher, and was (despite his paramilitary get up) permitted to remain.

A Fox News reporter, Rick Leventhal, interviewed the Republican poll observer, who told him that the Panthers had tried to intimidate him when he tried to enter. The observer was also subjected to racial remarks. He says that he then phoned the police.

The police intervened after two Panthers, one armed with a nightstick, had been standing in front of the Fairmont Avenue polling place door for about an hour. It’s true that this specific incident involved two people and a fairly limited amount of time. But it was clearly a case of intimidation.

Is the fringiness of the intimidators some kind of legal defence?

What would Ms. Thermstrom, Mr. Serwer, or Ms. Walsh say about two people in paramilitary uniforms, brandishing a club and making hostile racially-charged remarks having probable discouraging impact in detering black or Jewish voters or observers from entering a polling place? Under the proposed insignificance rule, Nazis or Ku Klux Klansmen could police certain polling stations at will, as long as they remained basically few in number and intimidated only a few people. And, of course, if they succeeded in scaring people away from testifying about what had happened, that would be all the better, since it would prove that no one had been intimidated at all.

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Let my readers decide for themselves. Here are the videos.

1:21 University of Pennsylvania student films Panthers at 1221 Fairmount Avenue polling place video

1:00 video Philadelphia police intervene. The Panther with the bill club is ordered to leave. The other Panther is allowed to stay because he is a registered poll watcher!

Departing billy club wielder: “that’s why you’re going to be ruled by a black man.” 0:05 video

4:05 Fox News video from 2008 with Rick Leventhal.

Who was holding that billy club? Samir Shabaz 0:51 video

Addtional evidence of denial of entry and election fraud in Philadelphia appeared in a couple of other videos:

Poll watcher denied entry to polling place on 6125 Market Street. 2:53 video

This black voter in Overbrook Park tells CNN he voted “a coupla times.” 0:41 video

Earlier postings

16 Jul 2010

Breaking News: Major Intel Leak Planned by Washington Post

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Quinn Hillyer is breaking the story that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is warning federal contractors that a potentially disastrous leak of classified information by a major news outlet is on the way and is urging companies to remind their employees of their duty to protect classified information and relationships and their contractual obligation of confidentiality.

“Early next week, the Washington Post is expected to publish articles and an interactive website that will likely contain a compendium of government agencies and contractors allegedly conducting Top Secret work.”

The WaPo is expected to start the new leak site and associated coverage on Monday, July 19th.

27 Jun 2010

No Room on the Fence

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Dave Weigel, the Washington Post’s blogger in charge of covering Conservatism, resigned this week after Matt Drudge and Daily Caller leaked some of his emails from JournoList, a private listserv founded by Ezra Klein on which the left’s punditocracy compared noted and coordinated coverage.

Doctor Zero, at Hot Air, looked on with interest on the comedy following the Weigel resignation. The leftwing commentariat lamented how unfair Weigel’s ouster really was, remarked enviously what a great job he used to have, and its founder closed down Journolist.

There is little room left for neutrality in American politics these days, Doctor Zero reflects.

Weigel has spent the last few months working as an observer of the conservative movement for the Washington Post, whose readers must wonder about the identity of the vast Tea Party crowds occasionally blocking their view of the IRS building. As it turns out, Weigel really hates the people he’s been covering, and sees himself precisely the way conservatives see most dinosaur-media reporters: as a partisan operative of the Democrat Party. He expressed his hatred, and loyalties, in a series of communications posted to JournoList. These emails became an embarrassing burst of digital flatulence when they were made public. Weigel is out of a job at the Washington Post, and JournoList is gone.

Blogger Ace of Spades wonders why the Post couldn’t find a sympathetic correspondent to cover the “conservative beat,” and answers his own question by pointing out the Post has no interest in publishing material that might lead its readers to begin grooving to that conservative beat. The last thing they want is for their right-wing avatar to come back with a horde of angry natives behind him and lead a successful insurrection.

Here we cross the line between editorial decisions and bias. Why would an unbiased newspaper be afraid to honestly report news that makes one side of a political debate look appealing, instead assigning a reporter to highlight fringe material to cast them in the most negative light possible? Of course, they are biased, but it’s even worse than that. They’re subjective. They pretend to be commentators, but they’re actually players in the game… just like everyone else. Our fates are all controlled by the immense central government worshipped by the Post. They have a vested interest in ensuring its sustained growth, so they can make their fortune writing epic tales of its heroic deeds.

Big Government makes for bad journalism. As I like to point out whenever someone like David Frum gushes over “moderates,” there is no meaningful way to be moderate when a carnivorous super-State is chowing down on huge portions of the private sector, while dismissing bedrock Constitutional rights with an irritated wave of its hand. You either resist the onslaught of the State with all your might, or bear passive witness to its expansion.

At this moment in American history, there is no functional difference between a genuine “centrist” and Dave Weigel’s right-wing “ratf**kers.” If you think you should be allowed to keep your own medical insurance, and see your own doctor, you’re taking an extreme partisan stance. If you don’t think the government should be able to revoke the First Amendment or due process rights of private corporations at its convenience, you are a declared enemy of the State.

Read the whole thing.

23 May 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

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Brook trout fishing, filmed by F.S. Armitage on June 6, 1900 somewhere along the Grand Trunk Railroad. 1:15 video.

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Who should replace Dennis Blair as National Intelligence Director? No one, proposes John Noonan at the Weekly Standard:

Unnecessary bureaucracy has a venomous effect on the national security establishment, whether it’s infantry or intelligence. The director of national intelligence, which has ballooned to a 1500-man supporting office, was a top down solution to a bottom up problem.

Admiral Blair was a casualty of Intelligence Community turf wars. Closing the DNI office would reduce unnecessary conflicts and duplication of effort. It’s too logical a course of action to be given serious consideration most likely though.

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Bruce Fleming
says that standards at US service academies have been lowered for affirmative action and to allow academy teams to compete in the NCAA top divisions. He thinks standards should be restored or all the service academies closed down.

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Robin Hanson observes a unidirectional dynamic at work in progressive statism.

[I]n any area where we let humans do things, every once in a while there will be a big screwup; that is the sort of creatures humans are. And if you won’t decrease regulation without a screwup but will increase it with a screwup, then you have a regulation ratchet: it only moves one way. So if you don’t think a long period without a big disaster calls for weaker regulations, but you do think a particular big disaster calls for stronger regulation, well then you might as well just strengthen regulations lots more right now, even without a disaster. Because that is where your regulation ratchet is heading.

What if you can’t imagine ever wanting to weaken a regulation, just because it was strong and you’d gone a long time without a big disaster? Well then you apparently want the maximum possible regulation, which is probably to just basically outlaw that activity. And if that doesn’t seem like the right level of regulation to you, well then maybe you should reconsider your ratchety regulation intuitions.

Hat tip to the News Junkie.

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Ann Althouse chides the Washington Post: If you’re going to criticize the new social studies curriculum adopted by the Texas Board of Education, you’d better quote it or link it, not paraphrase it inaccurately.

28 Jun 2009

Why Froomkin Got the Axe

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When the Washington Post announced it was terminating the blog written by Dan Froomkin, howls of outrage arose from the left blogosphere, along with paranoid accusations of WaPo free speech being curtailed by sinister neocon influence. Right! At the same Washington Post employing Dana Priest to leak national security secrets.

I was wondering myself though what went down, and today I finally found an explanation by Andrew Alexander. It wasn’t personal, it wasn’t political, it was just about the money.

(B)ased on my discussions with others at The Post, as well as Froomkin, here’s my take.

First, it’s not about ideology. My original Omblog post quoted Hiatt as saying Froomkin’s “political orientation was not a factor in our decision.” In my discussions with Froomkin, he has not cited ideology as the primary reason. And several veteran Post reporters have dismissed that as the cause. In an online chat this week, Post Pulitzer-winning columnist Gene Weingarten, who expressed “respect” for Froomkin and regret that White House Watch was ending, said: “I don’t know why Froomkin’s column was dropped, but I can tell you that the diabolical conspiracy talk is nuts. Froomkin wasn’t dropped because he is too liberal; things just don’t work that way at the Post.” It’s also worth noting that The Post hired Ezra Klein, a liberal political blogger, within the past several months.

Second, reduced traffic played a big role. White House Watch had substantial traffic during the Bush administration, but it declined noticeably when President Obama took office. The Post will not disclose precise numbers. Froomkin acknowledges the drop but told me much of it can be blamed on a change in format and poor promotion. He said that shifting White House Watch from a column to a blog when Obama took office was disruptive to his audience and “dramatically reduced the number of page views per reader.” He also said poor promotion, especially through links from the home page, had caused traffic to dip. “I felt that with adequate promotion, page views would have been much higher,” he said.

Third, money was a factor. The Post is losing money. The Washington Post Co.’s newspaper division, which is dominated by The Post, reported a first-quarter operating loss of nearly $54 million. Every aspect of The Post’s print and online operation is being scrutinized for cost-cutting. Thus, when editors detected the drop-off in Froomkin’s traffic and looked at what he is being paid (a former Post Web site editor puts it “in the $90,000-to-$100,000” range), he became vulnerable.

Finally, there was disagreement over changing the direction of White House Watch. Some reporters and editors at The Post view Froomkin as a superb, hard-working “aggregator” whose blog needed more original reporting. Weingarten, without expressing his own judgment, alluded to this in his chat: “I can tell you that there has been some disagreement about Froomkin’s column over the years between the paper-paper and dotcom; the issue, I think, was whether he was as informed and qualified to opine as people who had been actively covering the White House for years.” Froomkin said his editors were urging changes in White House Watch, and he acknowledged
disagreement over content. For example, he was urged not to do media criticism. “I had always considered media criticism a big part of the column, as a lot of what I do is read and comment about what others have written about the White House,” he said.

In the end, Froomkin said that he was told in a recent meeting with his editors that his blog “wasn’t working anymore.”

“They wanted me to do it differently,” he said. But “the public response suggests that the readers were quite happy with it the way it was.”

And that, I think, succinctly captures the issue from both sides. The Post, needing to cut costs, sees a blog that has lost traffic and believes its author is unwilling to adjust to boost his audience. Froomkin acknowledges a traffic decline, but insists he maintains a robust audience and cites the large and loud reaction to his dismissal as evidence.

It raises several questions. Would Froomkin have been willing to work for less? (He did not answer the question when I posed it, and Post editors won’t say whether they offered.)

03 Jan 2009

Not Enough Media Bias in Washington For Him

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Josh Marshall complains that representatives of the MSM in the nation’s Capitol are insufficiently on his side.

Like many others, I’ve been saying this for years. So I’m surprised to be surprised. But the journalistic establishment in Washington, whether it’s the Post or the Politico or much of the rest of the journalistic apparatus in the city, is essentially Republican in character — not necessarily in terms of individual voting habits, though you’d be surprised, but in fundamental outlook about whose opinions matter and how government functions, which is what really counts. And you can see that resurfacing with increasing clarity just in that last week.

Personally, I think the Washington Post would need to be blowing up US troops with IEDs to be more any more anti-Bush Administration than it is. I’d be curious to see Josh Marshall try expanding and justifying this curious claim to victimhood.

14 Oct 2007

CIA Inspector General’s Office Under Investigation

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On Thursday last, the New York Times reported that CIA Director Michael Hayden has initiated an unusual investigation into the activities of the CIA’s Inspector General’s Office.

According to the Times, all this stems from criticism by that office of the CIA’s performance pre-9/11, and from “aggressive investigations” of “detention and interrogation programs and other matters.”

But, as MacRanger points out, it was Inspector General John L. Helgerson who personally recruited the same Mary O. McCarthy who was fired in April of 2006 for leaking information on covert counter-terrorism operations to Washington Post reporter Dana Priest.

AJStrata thinks the Times is spinning, and agrees that this story is really about CIA internal efforts finally to do something about the partisan leaks of highly classified national security information to the press by adversaries of the Administration within the agency.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we aren’t beginning to see some reciprocity, in the form of the Agency actually doing something about the most outrageous leaks, in return for the Bush Administration’s surrender, its abandonment of efforts to reform the Agency, and the reinstatement of Stephen R. Kappes and Michael Sulick.

09 Oct 2007

Bush Administration Blamed for Bin Laden Video Leak

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The Washington Post has a new club to beat the Bush Administration. with today.

A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company’s Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group’s communications network. …

(Rita) Katz (the firm’s founder) said she decided to offer an advance copy of the bin Laden video to the White House without charge so officials there could prepare for its eventual release.

She spoke first with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding, whom she had previously met, and then with Joel Bagnal, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security. Both expressed interest in obtaining a copy, and Bagnal suggested that she send a copy to Michael Leiter, who holds the No. 2 job at the National Counterterrorism Center.

Around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, Katz sent both Leiter and Fielding an e-mail with a link to a private SITE Web page containing the video and an English transcript. “Please understand the necessity for secrecy,” Katz wrote in her e-mail. “We ask you not to distribute . . . [as] it could harm our investigations.”

Fielding replied with an e-mail expressing gratitude to Katz. “It is you who deserves the thanks,” he wrote, according to a copy of the message. There was no record of a response from Leiter or the national intelligence director’s office.

Exactly what happened next is unclear. But within minutes of Katz’s e-mail to the White House, government-registered computers began downloading the video from SITE’s server, according to a log of file transfers. The records show dozens of downloads over the next three hours from computers with addresses registered to defense and intelligence agencies.

By midafternoon, several television news networks reported obtaining copies of the transcript. A copy posted around 3 p.m. on Fox News’s Web site referred to SITE and included page markers identical to those used by the group. “This confirms that the U.S. government was responsible for the leak of this document,” Katz wrote in an e-mail to Leiter at 5 p.m.

Al-Qaeda supporters, now alerted to the intrusion into their secret network, put up new obstacles that prevented SITE from gaining the kind of access it had obtained in the past, according to Katz.

So Ms. Katz called up the White House, and passed along to three officials, two of whom she’d never even met, a web-link to the video in question. Having thus shared a piece of information obviously picked up via the Internet to strangers, Mirabile dictu! one or another of those strangers shared it some more.

How difficult it is for anyone possessing the appropriate linguistic skills to penetrate Islamic extremist sites seems uncertain. Obviously those sites exist with the intention of reaching audiences of persons not intimately connected in a single terrorist cell. Their proprietors are likely also to feel that the language barrier alone is adequate to provide protection against ordinary outsider readers. At most, one would expect some very modest sort of password protection, probably using a trivial and obvious Islamist expression like Allah Akhbar.

Access via that kind of password to some semi-public web-site is not exactly the same thing as possession of atomic secrets.

Someone like Ms. Katz, working in the Intelligence business, ought to be familiar with the old maxim: “A secret that is known by three full soon will not a secret be.”

05 Sep 2007

25 US Papers Censor Sunday Comics to Avoid Offending Muslims

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At least 25 of the 200 newspapers carrying Berkeley Breathed’s comic strip Opus, including the Washington Post, the comic strip’s own syndicator (!), refused to carry the last two weekly episodes.

Editor&Publisher reports that the Post’s Sales Manager explained that “some client papers hesitated to run a sex joke and others won’t publish any Muslim-related humor.”

But, as the Chicago Tribune makes clear, it doesn’t seem likely that mere mild sexual innuendo caused panicky editors at 25 newspapers to shun the last two episodes.

Some newspaper editors think cartoonist Berkeley Breathed might have crossed a line when he incorporated sexual innuendo into an “Opus” comic strip about a character’s conversion to radical Islam. But it’s not the first strip by the artist to poke fun at religion.

The cartoon ran in the Tribune, but not in The Washington Post, the strip’s home newspaper, or in a couple dozen other papers that pick up “Opus.”

Editors at the Washington Post reportedly showed the strips to Muslim employees, who disapproved of the depiction of the Lola Granola character dressed in traditional Muslim garb, declaring conservative Islamic views and making a sexual innuendo.

But the same care apparently was not taken with any of the previous irreverent cartoons that referenced Lola’s spiritual quest, which included introducing the Amish to nude yoga. The punch line of an Aug. 19 “Opus” poked fun at the late Rev. Jerry Falwell.

The Weekly Standard wonders:

Why would editors have felt constrained to solicit the views of Muslim staffers?

Were all the Baptists in the Post newsroom consulted about the Jerry Falwell joke? Is “Doonesbury” shown in advance to all the Republicans in the Post newsroom?

6:32 MSNBC video

Islamic-themed comic strips:

26 Aug 07

2 Sep 07

Jerry Falwell-themed comic strip:

19 Aug 07

The same Washington Post which was not afraid to publish leaks disclosing secret National Security operations in time of war behaves like this over… cartoons!

19 Aug 2007

Rove Accused of Playing Politics Again

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The Washington Post is shocked, shocked at its own conclusion that Karl Rove far more systematically than his predecessors arranged local appearances by administration officials intended to win support for GOP candidates. The rascal!

Democrats are investigating furiously, the Post reports, to see if they can find the slightest pretext for finger-pointing and scandal-mongering. Get ready for the 601st democrat investigation of the Bush Administration. “Round up the usual suspects!” Henry Waxman has probably already ordered his minions.

02 Jul 2007

Bush Bears Up

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Peter Baker, in the Washington Post, records the observations of some eyewitnessses that George W. Bush is taking his second term setbacks and low poll numbers with grace. The reporter’s glee at the depth of the president’s misfortunes is actually tempered by some grudging admiration.

Other presidents have been crushed by the pressure. Lyndon B. Johnson was tormented by Vietnam War protesters outside his window shouting, “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” Nixon swam in self-pity during Watergate, talking to paintings and once asking Henry Kissinger to pray with him. Bill Clinton fumed against enemies and nursed deep grievances during his impeachment battle. …

Kissinger, who advises Bush, said the president has never asked him to kneel down with him in the Oval Office. “I find him serene,” Kissinger said. “I know President Johnson was railing against his fate. That’s not the case with Bush. He feels he’s doing what he needs to do, and he seems to me at peace with himself.”

Bush has virtually given up on winning converts while in office and instead is counting on vindication after he is dead. “He almost has . . . a sense of fatalism,” said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who recently spent a day traveling with Bush. “All he can do is do his best, and 100 years from now people will decide if he was right or wrong. It doesn’t seem to be a false, macho pride or living in your own world. I find him to be amazingly calm.” …

Horne, the British historian, found himself with Bush on another occasion after Kissinger gave the president “A Savage War of Peace,” Horne’s book on the French defeat in Algeria in the mid-20th century. Bush invited Horne to visit. They talked about the parallels and differences between Algeria and Iraq as Bush sought insight he could apply to his own situation.

Horne said he is not a Bush supporter but was nonetheless struck by the president’s tranquility. “He was very friendly, very relaxed,” Horne said. “My God, he looked well. He looked like he came off a cruise in the Caribbean. He looked like he hadn’t a care in the world. It was amazing.”

01 Jul 2007

Demoralizing America

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If the United States withdraws from Iraq in defeat and dishonor, it will not be because American military forces became demoralized or failed to perform their mission. American forces will not have been defeated on the battlefield. Nor will American units have been surrounded, cut off from supply, or forced to retreat by superior military forces.

The defeat will not even have taken place in Iraq or the Middle East.

Our defeat will have occurred right here at home in the United States, and the adversary responsible will not be al Qaeda, Iraqi insurgents, or foreign jihadists fighting in Iraq.

When US defeat occurs, that defeat will be at the hands of the Mainstream Media.

One of its members, Tom Ricks, the Washington Post’s (ironical choice of) military correspondent, finds the same point being made in an unspecified recent issue of Armor magazine by Captain William Ault.

Ricks raises his pinky finger delicately in the air, sips his tea, and sneers at the very idea.

Captain Ault wrote:

The media assists insurgent forces by continually maintaining pressure on the supporting government and military establishment. . . . This battlefield is not new. It has gained popularity because it has continually worked against stronger forces. The eventual withdrawal of forces from Vietnam, Beirut, Somalia, and a host of other locations was from an active public opposition, not a decisive military defeat. Erosion of public support through a constant bombardment of media outlets that portray negativity induces a type of mass hysteria in the population that eventually leads to the vocal, and sometimes violent, opposition to the military forces being deployed.

06 May 2007

The Press Is Not The Public

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David Broder, in today’s Washington Post, claims the left has a mandate for defeat, surrender, and withdrawal.

The gap between public opinion and Washington reality has rarely been wider than on the issue of the Iraq war. A clear national mandate is being blocked — for now — by constraints that make sense only in the short-term calculus of politics in this capital city.

The public verdict on the war is plain. Large majorities have come to believe that it was a mistake to go in, and equally large majorities want to begin the process of getting out. That is what the polls say; it is what the mail to Capitol Hill says; and it is what voters signaled when they put the Democrats back into control of Congress in November. …

The question that naturally arises is why the strongly expressed judgment of the people — responding to news of increasing American casualties in a seemingly intractable sectarian conflict — cannot be translated into action in Washington. …

One way or another, public opinion ultimately will be heeded on the war in Iraq. It is hard to imagine the Republicans going into the presidential election of 2008 with 150,000 American troops still taking heavy casualties in Iraq.

It’s true that the democrats won control of Congress last November, but many other issues and factors besides the war, and a number of Republican scandals, undoubtedly also played a role in that election’s results. The democrats gained a very narrow Congressional majority, and can hardly be described as possessing a mandate to do anything other than avoid taking bribes and molesting pages.

Which mandate alone should represent a more than adequate challenge, requiring all the moral resolve and political will the democrat party can possibly muster, if not more.

One hears the claim a lot these days that public opinion thinks this, and public opinion demands that, as if opinion polls conducted by news organizations represented some sort of meaningful, objective, binding, and official process. This sort of claim represents the grossest sort of attempt by journalists to usurp political authority.

The poll Mr. Broder cites in his own editorial was conducted by two notoriously biased news organizations, the Washington Post and ABC News. And its results are based on the responses of a mere 1082 adults, including an intentional “oversample of African-Americans.”

Opinion polls of 1000 or so of the people willing to talk to pollsters on the phone prove basically nothing. Opinion polls are typically artfully crafted. The questions they contain steer answers in the direction their creators desire.

That WaPo/ABC poll, which Broder cited, asked:

Do you think (the United States should keep its military forces in Iraq until civil order is restored there, even if that means continued U.S. military casualties); OR, do you think (the United States should withdraw its military forces from Iraq in order to avoid further U.S. military casualties, even if that means civil order is not restored there)?

But if I asked instead:

Do you think (the United States should abandon the civilian population of Iraq to Islamic Fundamentalism and sectarian violence, if that means destroying our future credibility in the eyes of both our friends and our adversaries abroad): OR, do you think (the United States should keep its word and implant stable and democratic government in Iraq, even at the cost of US military casualties)?

the poll results would be quite different.

Mr. Broder’s polls never can produce anything resembling a mandate. They only represent propaganda, typically created by dishonest and dishonorable advocates.

The only opinion polls which count occur officially and in November. The last election was inconclusive, as are the war’s current results.

Members of the left and its allies in the punditocracy looking for a mandate for surrender, withdrawal, and defeat need to look for it in the results of the 2008 election, and stop claiming that they already possess it.

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