Free press. Where?

Posted: June 29, 2006 in News, Politics

I usually don’t give a stuff about American politics (hey, if you’re stupid enough to vote in a member of the Bush family – twice no less – then you deserve to get screwed over) but this did get my attention.  From this captivating The Hill article:

House Republican leaders are expected to introduce a resolution today condemning The New York Times for publishing a story last week that exposed government monitoring of banking records.

The resolution is expected to condemn the leak and publication of classified documents, said one Republican aide with knowledge of the impending legislation.

The resolution comes as Republicans from the president on down condemn media organizations for reporting on the secret government program that tracked financial records overseas through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), an international banking cooperative.

Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), working independently from his leadership, began circulating a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) during a late series of votes yesterday asking his leaders to revoke the Times’s congressional press credentials.

The Standing Committee decides which organizations and reporters can be accredited, according to the rules of both the House and Senate press galleries. Members of that committee are elected by accredited members of those galleries.

“Under no circumstances would we revoke anyone’s credentials simply because a government official is unhappy with what that correspondent’s newspaper has written,” said Susan Milligan, a reporter for the Boston Globe, which is owned by the Times, who also serves the standing chairwoman of the Standing Committee of Correspondents. “The rules say nothing about the stories a newspaper chooses to pursue, or the reaction those stories provoke. The Times clearly meets our standards for credentials.”

The Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal all reported the existence of the program on their websites last Thursday.

President Bush criticized the reports during a press event Monday, calling the disclosure “disgraceful” and a “great harm” to national security. Vice President Dick Cheney, who voiced support for the program over the weekend, followed Bush’s criticism with harsh words of his own.

In an open letter responding to these criticisms, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller wrote that a free press was the key check on government’s abuse of power.

Now it is my understanding that in a proper democratic nation, the Press has every right in the World to try investigate and expose improper dealings by those in positions of power.  For any Government to undertake actions which censure a news media organisation for doing their proper job indicates that something is gravely amiss.  Did the original New York times report compromise the security operation?  No, probably not – all it really did was let the public know that the National Government was tracking monetary transactions in a bid to track down some terrorists.  What’s the big deal there?  Anyone with any sort of brain (especially the terrorists themselves) would probably have figured out they’d be doing that anyhow.  Unless, of course, we’re dealing with remarkably dense terrorists … which doesn’t reflect well on the ol’ US government anyhow since they’re having a tricky time catching them.

So the US Government, with apparently direct approval from the President, is moving to censure a news media organisation for not only doing their job but also telling the general public something they probably already knew anyhow.

Only in America.


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