As we noted earlier today, the New York Times is out with a story in which it says the Bush administration has been monitoring -- without warrants -- telephone calls and e-mail messages originated in the United States. What we didn't mention, and should have, is this snippet from the piece: "The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting."
Our question: When did the White House make its request, and what does "a year" mean? The Times is awfully light on details here, leaving itself open for speculation from the left as to whether the Times sat on the story through last year's presidential election. At the same time, the right is free to speculate about the Times' decision to run the story now, just as the Senate was about to take up and -- as it turns out -- vote down the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act.
"A year ago, when this information first became known to Times reporters, the administration argued strongly that writing about this eavesdropping program would give terrorists clues about the vulnerability of their communications and would deprive the government of an effective tool for the protection of the country's security. Officials also assured senior editors of the Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed that satisfied everyone involved that the program raised no legal questions. As we have done before in rare instances when faced with a convincing national security argument, we agreed not to publish at that time.
Its a legitimate question, did the Times withhold this story during the Presidential election? In other news from Salon, Bush tells reporters what the top story of the day is.
When Bush tried to sidestep questions today about the New York Times' report on his secret spying program, PBS's Jim Lehrer protested that the story is on "the front page of the New York Times, the Washington Post, every newspaper in America today, and it's ... it's the main story of the day." Bush cut him off and said: "It's not the main story of the day ... The main story of the day is the Iraqi election."
The President who thinks he determines what the news of the day is. I guess that's what happens when you elect someone who doesn't read the paper.