Did the White House immediately issue statements denying the veracity of the information contained in these stories, and vowing to launch immediate investigations into who divulged state secrets to Times reporters? It did not. It neither denied, nor reacted in any way, other than a few brusque "no comments" due to the secretive, sensitive nature of the information that conveniently, somehow leaked out of the deepest recesses of the Situation Room.
For its part, too, Congress was initially and predictably silent. After all, the drone strikes are an open secret. Congress appropriates the money for them.Thousands have died from American bombs in Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia, many of them innocent men, women and children. The only outrage had been coming from the lonely outposts of the civil libertarian blogosphere and independent journalism. Polls have shown that most "liberals" are just fine with our President unilaterally taking it upon himself to kill Muslims, to keep us all "safe."
But when the Paper of Record sat up and took notice and spilled the beans on the Kill List and Stuxnetgate, Congress also finally sat up and took notice, howling about how that, and the drone program revelations are endangering national security. Depending on their political party, they alternately blamed the newspaper itself for publishing the articles, and accused the White House of being the source of the leaks. Democrat Dianne Feinstein is upset that such information being made public will make us less safe. Republican John McCain is livid that the information appears to have been leaked for pure political gain, to boost the president's re-election prospects. None of the power elites is complaining about the illegality of the programs, executive overreach, or the loss of innocent human life. Just the leaks, and nothing but the leaks.
And today, President Obama himself sat up and took notice. Without actually confirming that he is in fact, Lord High Executioner, he vociferously denied that his White House has been the source for the Times stories. (this, despite the fact that reporters wrote that their sources were a hefty three dozen White House insiders!) Quotes from his press con this morning:
"The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive. It's wrong.... People I think need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people around me approach this office."Notice that while Obama decried the leaks themselves, he did not deny their veracity or that these were horrendous allegations in and of themselves .... only that they didn't come from him. He even claimed that the Times reporters have now said they didn't come from the White House. Actually, the reporters have said no such thing, at least publicly.
"When this information or these reports -- whether true or false -- surface, on front page newspapers, that makes the job of folks on the front lines tougher, and it makes my job tougher," he said. "Which is why, since I've been office, my attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks and speculation."
"We're dealing with issue that can touch on the safety and security of American people, our families or our American security personal, or our allies, and so we don't play with that," he went on to say. "It is a source of consistent frustration -- not just for my administration, but for previous administration -- when this stuff happens, and we will continue to let everybody know in government, or after they leave government, that they have certain obligations that they should carry out."
Scott Shane, co-author of the "Kill List" story, did write a blogpost this week blaming readers for misinterpreting the article. For example, he now denies ever having said that David Axelrod was present during "Terror Tuesday" meetings, even though his article did explicitly state that Axelrod was a silent observer. He also tried to run from his own lead, which had implied that the president mulled killing a 17-year-old girl. And then Shane blamed thousands of "left-wing" bloggers for starting rumors based on his reporting, strangely seizing upon the libertarian Prison Planet as an example of left wing rumor-mongering.
I have a feeling that Scott Shane, for all his hagiographic reportage on the Assassinator in Chief, got a bit of blowback from the White House after the publication did not have the desired effect. The majority of reader-commenters, far from cheering for the killing president, expressed disgust and shock. Shane subsequently made a lame attempt at some stenographic damage control, particularly on the Axelrod connection (as a campaign operative, he is not legally allowed to participate in White House policy meetings) and doing his patriotic duty to slime the left wing blogosphere that has had the nerve to be critical of the drone murders. Here's what I replied to Shane*:
With regard to David Axelrod's claim that he was never present at Terror Tuesday meetings, please allow me to quote the salient paragraph from your original article:
"David Axelrod, the president’s closest political adviser, began showing up at the 'Terror Tuesday' meetings, his unspeaking presence a visible reminder of what everyone ne understood: a successful attack would overwhelm the president’s other aspirations and achievements." Can you understand why your readers did not discern the difference between the casual Terror Tuesday meetings in which Axelrod merely hung out as a silent observer, and the real nitty-gritty meetings in which other people ultimately decided who was to live and who was to die? I was among those who totally missed the nuance -- so our bad, huh?
You are a master of innuendo. In this blog post, for instance, you gripe about the thousands of posters "from the left" who went nuts with their inaccuracies. You then use as an example the conspiracy site "Prison Planet" -- thus subtly implying that leftist blogs are kind of nuts. Prison Planet, incidentally, is run by a self-professed libertarian -- not a leftist by any stretch of the imagination.
For some real criticism from the left, I suggest reading Glenn Greenwald.
It seems to me that some kind of damage control is underway here. The White House thought revealing its Kill List would make the administration seem heroic. Instead, they are getting some blowback from shocked citizens. Good.
Meanwhile, The Times finds itself in the business of having to push back against the leak accusations, protesting that they were in no way spoon-fed the information by the White House. The articles in question were the results of hard digging over long periods of time by the reporters, insists Managing Editor Dean Bacquet.
It may be for all the wrong reasons, but the assassination program and accompanying evisceration of civil rights (both foreign and domestic) by this president is finally getting some attention from the mainstream media. For a good overview on the hypocrisy of the Administration's paranoid prosecution of low-level whistleblowers, read this piece by Josh Gerstein. (and of course, Glenn Greenwalds's continuing series exposing the hypocrisy and crime sprees.)
And in a literary approach to both the Times reportage and the Obama kill list itself, Francine Prose has written a stunning critique in the The New York Review of Books. Before Shane used his innuendo skills to semi-retract his own article, he used them, writes Prose, to pen a chilling indictment of Obama under the guise of flattery. She aptly compares the president's chief anti-terrorism advisor John Brennan to Rasputin and Obama himself to Tony Soprano. It's a short read, so don't miss it.
* I have taken to writing just a few of my Times comments under my maiden name initials in a craven effort to maintain my own sanity -- due to some recent personal attacks from the "veal pen" commentariat. I have been told, essentially, to shut up if I can't say anything nice about Our Leader. There is a band of people which literally "stalks" me on Times comments threads. It's the typical crap that Obama critics from the left have been subject to lately, and I have to say, it is getting nasty out there. One person even attacked me through my place of residence, describing my little hometown as being full of tattoo parlors and pitbulls. These are so-called liberals. The times they are indeed a changin'.
The only thing scarier than an Orwellian government are the Orwellian authoritarian citizens enabling it.