Press intimidation: Red meat for the Republican soul

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Is it just me, or is the notion that Congress “expects the cooperation of all media news organizations” in keeping classified programs–including, presumably, manifestly illegal ones–secret…a little chilling?

The House of Representatives yesterday voted to condemn the decision by several newspapers to publish details of the Bush administration’s secret program to track terrorist financing, in a swipe at the media aimed primarily at The New York Times.

The nonbinding “Sense of the Congress” resolution states that media organizations “may have placed the lives of Americans in danger” by revealing details of the classified program. It goes on to say that Congress “expects the cooperation of all news media organizations” in keeping classified programs secret (Boston Globe).

Hmm, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal all published stories on this, but a special mention for the New York Times (presumably in its role as proxy for elitist Blue America). Could this have to do with…politics?

Never mind that the administration itself has publicly discussed its monitoring of terrorist finances since 9/11; or that by at least one account the program had become decreasingly effective as terrorists got wise to the surveillance; or that the legality of the program has not been established. Never mind any of that. Republican lawmakers feel perfectly entitled to say the New York Times will have “blood…on their hands” (Rep. Peter King), that “loose lips kill American people” (Dennis Hastert), and that the disclosure “jeopardizes the safety of the American people” (John Boehner). This is bullying and demagoguery, plain and simple.

“Let’s be honest: We are here today because there hasn’t been enough red meat thrown at the Republican base before the Fourth of July holiday,” [said Rep. James P. McGovern, a Worcester Democrat]. “The administration and its allies have no problem with leaks to the press when those leaks advance their political agenda. But if a leak contradicts their agenda, suddenly they call it treason.”

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