Category Archive 'Washington Post'
19 Aug 2010

18% of Americans Say Obama is a Muslim

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Obama looks at home in Islamic outfits

Our lords and masters at the Washington Post are in a foul humor today because, once again, the American people has proven itself to be an affront and an embarrassment to its betters.

Bitterly, the Post notes the results of latest Pew Research poll.

The number of Americans who believe — wrongly — that President Obama is a Muslim has increased significantly since his inauguration and now account for nearly 20 percent of the nation’s population.

What is the matter with you people? Don’t you read the Post?

It’s right there, in black and white, right in front of you. Obama is a Muslim is WRONG. And the correct answer is also there.

The number of people who now correctly identify Obama as a Christian has dropped to 34 percent.

After all, Obama has formally identified himself as a Christian, attending for more than 20 years a politically-influential, inner city Black Liberation church, whose congregation whoops and hollers and sings loud hymns in the intervals between delivery of the gospel according to Marx and God-damn-America! sermons by its extravagantly unorthodox cast of clergy. Does attending such a church by an ambitious young community organizer angling for political support for election to minority legislative seats not count as serious evidence of Christian belief?

How can a fifth of the country possibly answer affirmatively to a poll question that asks, Is Barack Obama a Muslim?

Well… it’s not as if Barack Hussein Obama is not an Islamic name or that he does not have a Muslim father and grandfather, which last considerations –in some people’s eyes, Muslims, at least– would automatically make him a Muslim.

When I was a boy, I went to parochial school, was taught religion out of the Baltimore Catechism, and served mass as an altar boy. If someone pointed to those facts as evidence of my having a Roman Catholic identity, despite my adult skepticism, I don’t think I could reasonably claim that he was incorrect.

Barack Obama, at the same period of life, was attending a madrassa, memorizing verses of the Koran, and knocking his forehead on the floor during devotions at a mosque in Indonesia. Even if Obama is as estranged from the religion of his boyhood as I am from mine, it would not be incorrect to identify him as being a Muslim by birth and upbringing.

But Barack Obama’s personal relationship with Islam clearly did not stop when he moved from Indonesia to Hawaii.

Just the other day, an American president celebrated Ramadan in the White House and held an… how do you spell it? “Iftar dinner” in the State Dining Room. How many Iftar dinners does the average Christian American hold?

While American troops are in the field fighting against Islamic fanatics, that president praised Islam and claimed (on heaven only knows what basis) that Islam has “always been part of America” and that Mohammedans (what ones?) had made extraordinary contributions to the United States. It is not typical of American presidents to make a point of celebrating the holidays of foreign adversaries in the White House or to resort to gross flattery and refer to the completely imaginary relevance and contributions of the foe.

Barack Obama, in reality, frequently displays a personal enthusiasm for Islam and Islamic culture. He always speaks of “Pahk-ee-stan,” carefully adopting a native’s pronunciation. He has boasted of a personal interest in Urdu poetry. He proudly demonstrates his familiarity with Islamic practices, customs, and terms, and has been known to incorporate Islamic phrases, greetings, and parting salutations in his public statements. He said “Ramadan Kareem” just the other day.

It is the Washington Post which is silly, naive, and deluded to take a politician’s pro forma practically required public position as probative and factual and to dismiss as irrational the American public’s obvious perception of differences in Barack Obama’s loyalties and identity.

That Pew Poll merely shows that the American people are capable of thinking for themselves, independently of the media establishment which believes itself entitled to define reality any way it likes, and the Washington Post’s petulant response evidences its frustration with its inability to impose its own version of reality.

23 Jul 2010

Top Secret America Graded By A Professional

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Thomas G. Mahnken, Professor of Strategy, U.S. Naval War College and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning, harshly criticizes the Washington Post’s “Top Secret America” in Foreign Policy.

I’ve just finished Dana Priest and William Arkin’s “Top Secret America,” The Washington Post’s two-year, three-part “investigation” into U.S. classified activities. If one of my graduate students handed this in as a term paper, I’d have a hard time giving it a passing grade. …

[T]he authors have, at best, a weak thesis. That’s actually giving them the benefit of the doubt, because the series as a whole doesn’t really have a thesis. Instead, it is a series of strung-together facts and assertions. Many of these facts are misleading. For example, the authors point to the fact that large numbers of Americans hold top-secret security clearances, but fail to distinguish between those who are genuinely involved in intelligence work and those who require the clearances for other reasons — such as maintaining classified computer equipment or, for that matter, serving as janitors or food service workers in organizations that do classified work. Similarly, they point to the large number of contractors involved in top-secret work without differentiating those who actually perform analysis and those who develop hardware and software.

Second, the authors fail to provide context. They make much of the fact that the U.S. intelligence community consists of many organizations with overlapping jurisdiction. True enough. But what they fail to point out is that this has been a key design feature of the U.S. intelligence community since its founding in the wake of World War II. The architects of the U.S. intelligence system wanted different eyes to look at the same data from diverse perspectives because they wanted to avoid another surprise attack like Pearl Harbor. …

In emphasizing the growth of the intelligence community since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the authors are at the same time accurate and misleading. They accurately note that the size of intelligence agencies grew rapidly after 9/11, but that’s like saying that the scale of U.S. warship construction ballooned in the months after Pearl Harbor. It’s true but misses the larger point. …

During the 1990s the size of the U.S. intelligence community declined significantly because both the Clinton administration and leaders in Congress believed that we were headed for a more peaceful world. Indeed, the Clinton administration made trimming the size of the intelligence community a priority through its Reinventing Government initiative. Many intelligence analysts took offers of early retirement and became contractors — contractors that the U.S. government hired back after 9/11. A good deal of the post-9/11 intelligence buildup thus involved trying to buy back capacity and capability that had been eliminated during the 1990s.

Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

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

, , , ,

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!

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