Documenting and Exposing the Liberal Political Agenda of the New York Times.
Spy Scoop Fizzling?
On Wednesday, reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau have a damp squib of a follow-up to their overhypedstory
from Friday on domestic terrorist surveillance by the Bush administration, "Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls -- Some Exchanges Are Said to Be Purely Domestic."
"A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say. The officials say the National Security Agency's interception of a small number of communications between people within the United States was apparently accidental, and was caused by technical glitches at the National Security Agency in determining whether a communication was in fact 'international.'"
Here's the sum total of the evidence the Times presents: "But in at least one instance, someone using an international cellphone was thought to be outside the United States when in fact both people in the conversation were in the country."
So when the Times claims "some exchanges" in its headline, they apparently mean "at least one."
John Hinderaker at the PowerLine
blog is less than impressed with the paper's scoop.
"Wow, is this a scandal, or what? On rare occasions, the NSA has inadvertently recovered a conversation involving an al Qaeda operative who is normally stationed overseas and uses an international cell phone number, but who has in fact entered the United States. Even the Times should recognize that this circumstance makes it more urgent, not less so, for the al Qaeda operative's communications to be tracked. The idea that this kind of inadvertent intercept renders the program unlawful is risible on its faceï¿½.Today's reporting continues to be argument-free."
Intelligence reporter DouglasJehl
has this lame rebuttal Wednesday to Bush's claims that Congress was in fact briefed about the National Security Agency surveillance of suspected terrorists in the U.S. ("Spy Briefings Failed to Meet Legal Test, Lawmakers Say"). The story's text box explains that "The law requires written reports, not briefings." Ok.
Jehl's complaint seems pretty nit-picky, unless one is utterly enamored by Democratic anti-Bush complaints: "The limited oral briefings provided by the White House to a handful of lawmakers about the domestic eavesdropping program may not have fulfilled a legal requirement under the National Security Act that calls for such reports to be in written form, Congressional officials from both parties said on Tuesday."
Jehl also complains, but also reveals that the "handful of lawmakers" briefed was actually fairly robust:
"All told, no more than 14 members of Congress have been briefed about the program since it took effect in 2001, the Congressional officials said. Now lawmakers from both parties are debating whether those members-only briefings provided a sufficient basis for oversight of an activity that is only now coming under intense Congressional scrutiny."
Does any of this mean Congress and congressional Democrats weren't, in fact, briefed?
To read the rest of Risen and Lichtblau's follow-up to their spy scoop, click here.
The Times Appreciates the Flat Tax -- In Estonia, Anyway
Mark Landler's "Letter From Estonia" Wednesday is a surprisingly respectful look at free-market economic policies in the former Soviet republic of Estonia, "A Land of Northern Lights, Cybercafes and the Flat Tax."
Estonia Prime Minister Andrus Ansip even calls two-time Republican presidential candidate Steve Forbes "a genius." Below is an extended excerpt (because you don't read things like this very often in the Times).
"Estonia, one realizes after a few days in the abiding twilight of a Baltic winter, is not like other European countries. The first tip-off is the government's cabinet room, outfitted less like a ceremonial chamber than a control center. Each minister has a flat-screen computer to transmit votes during debates. Then there is Estonia's idea of an intellectual hero: Steve Forbes, the American publishing scion, two-time candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and tireless evangelist for the flat tax.
"Fired with a free-market fervor and hurtling into the high-tech future, Estonia feels more like a Baltic outpost of Silicon Valley than of Europe. Nineteen months after it achieved its cherished goal of joining the European Union, one might even characterize Estonia as the un-Europe. 'I must say Steve Forbes was a genius,' Prime Minister Andrus Ansip declared during an interview in his hilltop office. 'I'm sure he still is,' he added hastily.
"The subject was the flat tax, which Mr. Forbes never succeeded in selling in the United States. Here in the polar reaches of Europe it is an article of faith. Estonia became the first country to adopt it in 1994, as part of a broader strategy to transform itself from an obscure Soviet republic into a plugged-in member of the global information economy.
"By all accounts, the plan is working. Estonia's economic growth was nearly 11 percent in the last quarter -- the second fastest in Europe, after Latvia, and an increase more reminiscent of China or India than Germany or France."
The Times, of course, gives room to dissenters: "The flip side of Estonia's market ethos is a thinner social safety net than those in Europe's welfare states. Opponents of the flat tax here -- and there are some -- say it has widened the divide between rich and poor, making Estonia less like its Nordic neighbors and more like the United States."
But Landler uniquely portrays the tax-raising impulses of the European Union in a sinister light: "The suspicion goes both ways. French and German leaders complain that Estonia and other flat tax countries practice 'tax dumping,' using their rock-bottom rates to attract foreign investment. The solution, they say, is for European countries to harmonize their taxes, a proposal that gives most Estonians disquieting memories of their centrally planned past within the Soviet Union."
For the rest of Landler on Estonia and the flat tax, click here.