Jabberwocky, The N.Y. Times And Broken Records

April 6, 2006 

The New York Times has supported electronic eavesdropping as a pillar of the First Amendment since 1996...and they continue to do so.  So...what’s their problem with the “warrantless spying on Americans” the National Security Agency (NSA) employs in the War on Terrorism? 

On December 21, 1996, a Florida couple, John and Alice Martin illegally intercepted and taped a cell phone conversation between then House Speaker Newt Gingrich and present House Majority Leader John Boehner.  The conversation concerned the political fallout from a House Ethics Committee investigation of Gingrich. It was not a matter of national security. 

Almost serendipitously, the following week, the Martins were invited to Washington, D.C. to attend a reception for incoming House freshmen.  These unassuming Florida lovebirds were both members of the National Education Association and officers of the Columbia County Democratic Executive Committee. 

Upon arriving in D.C. the Martins handed the tape over to Washington-state Democrat Jim McDermott, then a member of the House Ethics Committee.  McDermott immediately released the illegally taped conversation to the Ethics Committee and, according to CBS, McDermott immediately leaked the tape to “The New York Times and other news organizations”.  Of course, the Times et al immediately published the fruits of the Martins’ illegal spying. 

In case you were wondering...this is the same “Baghdad” Jim McDermott who, in 2002, “received a $5,000 contribution...from Shakir al Khafaji, an Iraqi-American businessman with alleged ties to the Oil for Food scandal.” 

For their part in this intrigue, the Martins pleaded guilty to intentionally intercepting the radio portion of a cellular telephone call, in violation of the United States Code-Title 18 on April 25, 1997.  I think that this is an ample indication that tape was illegally obtained. 

Yet, almost synchronized with the Martins leaking the tape to McDermott, a January 1997 Times editorial, Muddying the Gingrich Case, was adamant that the illegal “tape should be weighed by the committee and by House members as they consider the gravity of Mr. Gingrich's transgressions and his punishment.”  What a precedent...illegal spying is admissible evidence in Slimes-Land. 

The Times further cautioned F.B.I. Director Louis Freeh that any inquiry into the tape “must take care that the investigation does not chill news reporting” (as opposed to chilling national security).  Further, the same editorial accused the Republicans of “...hammering on legal questions involving the tape to confuse the public and to divert attention from the Speaker's ethical problems....”  Was this really only about sex?   

And, before the Martins were even arrested, the Times played judge and jury when it concluded that, “It is hard to imagine any jury convicting them (the Martins) for handing over information that they acquired without malicious intent and believed would be important to Congress.”  

The Martins illegal wiretapping, in the opinion of the Times’ editorial, “will be found to be protected by constitutional guarantees of free speech.”  After all, according to the Times, “The central matter before the House and nation is the nature of Mr. Gingrich's violations and the punishment he must bear” and “Try as they might, the Republicans cannot deflect attention from those questions” by protesting that the wiretapping was illegal. 

Yet, in the same year that the Martins illegally wiretapped Speaker Gingrich with the full support of the New York Times, the Times thought that wiretapping suspected terrorists was wrong.  In a July 1996 editorial, A Reasonable Response to Terror, the Times felt very strongly that a Clinton administration “proposal to expand the Government's wiretapping authority is excessive, especially given the proven need to watch the Federal Bureau of Investigation for invasion of civil liberties.” 

This was just one month after the June 25th Khobar Towers truck bombing which killed 19 American servicemen and slightly before the August 7, 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania...the work of al-Qaeda.   Within one year of those bombings, al-Qaeda trained 911 hijackers would start entering the US, sharpening their box cutters and talking on their cell phones. 

Also in 1996, a Times editorial endorsed New Jersey’s Robert Torricelli for the US Senate by saying that “Mr. Torricelli embraces a more aggressive role for Government in helping people who need it.”   

To prove the Times correct, Torricelli went on to lobby “both the Congress and the President on behalf of the MEK.  Torricelli also received at least $136,000.00 in hard money campaign contributions from MEK supporters and $23,000.00 in soft money contributions funneled to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee according to the Federal Elections Commission records.”  The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), aka the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), is a group, which according to the State Department, engages in terrorist activities including the killing of American service people abroad and the November 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Iran.   

But, all the Times could do was call for “the use of taggants in the most commonly used explosive substances, black powder and gunpowder” and lament that proposed requirements for taggant use “have been successfully opposed by explosives manufacturers and the National Rifle Association”.   

Forget the fact that neither black powder nor smokeless gunpowder (or the National Rifle Association) have ever been used in any modern-day terrorist bombing...but remember that the Times believes that illegally wiretapping Newt Gingrich is good for the First Amendment while wiretapping suspected terrorists is bad for the First Amendment.  What a bunch of jabberwocky! 

In a January 2006 editorial, Spies, Lies and Wiretaps, the Times condemned the “warrantless spying on Americans” associated with the NSA’s anti-terrorism methods.  Of course it was Republican President Bush who authorized this electronic eavesdropping.  Ipso facto, in the opinion of the Times, Congress must “rein in Mr. Bush and restore the checks and balances that are the genius of American constitutional democracy.” 

But, when a 1999 Appeals court ruling allowed John Boehner to sue Jim McDermott for using the fruits of the Martins’ illegal spying for political advantage against the Republicans, the Times called it “a nasty private lawsuit” that “began as a grudge match between two bitter political opponents” and “if allowed to go forward...may restrict the right of the press to publish truthful information....”  As opposed to the “untruthful” information gathered by the NSA from America-hating terrorists? 

In fact, “Lawyers for 18 news organizations - including ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post - filed a brief backing McDermott.” 

Let’s recap the New York Times’ position:  illegal spying by Democrats on Republicans is good; the National Security Agency’s spying on suspected terrorists intent on destroying the US is bad and a crooked Democratic Senator’s acceptance of payola from Iranian terrorists “embraces a more aggressive role for Government in helping people who need it”. 

No wonder that Alice needed Humpty Dumpty for an interpreter in Wonderland.

 

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