Where's the Doubt?

Sunday, July 09, 2006
The Deans of journalism schools have come together in an op-ed to defend Keller's decision to print the details of our terrorist financial tracking program. Most of it is a boiler-plate general civics lesson regarding the press's watchdog duties. The title of the piece is 'When in Doubt, Publish'.

Their problem is in characterizing the 'doubt' in the specific instance they are defending. This is really all they offer:

Keller has characterized the decision to publish the information as a "close call,"
That's it.

Keller asserts it was a close call? And that's that? (Keller himself has done no better in defending himself.)

Well, they say:

We believe that in the case of a close call, the press should publish when editors are convinced that more damage will be done to our democratic society by keeping information away from the American people than by leveling with them.
The deans are speaking in generalities again. How do I benefit from knowing the details about this program? What difference does it make to me, as a citizen, exactly? If, as Keller shouted, the SWIFT program was already common knowledge, what more do I gain by learning the details?

The bottom line is that the program was successful and legal. And all that's left is the fact that the details were secret and the possibility that revealing the details will harm the program and help terrorists and their backers. How is revealing the details leveling with us? Is it worth the risk in a "close call" if the government did nothing wrong?

And here we get to the thinking behind the deans and Keller. Bush keeps secrets!

In the aftermath of 9/11, a new climate of caution was a sensible response to a sophisticated terrorist foe. But Bush's reaction -- declaring a "war on terror" and claiming the Constitution grants almost limitless powers to the president in a time of war -- is excessive. His administration has been aggressively restricting access to information on the grounds of national security.
So there you have it. The entire justification for Keller's decision. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the details of this program, or the harm in revealing those details, or the legality or success of this particular program. It didn't even have to be a "close call". It's just that, on general principles, they disagree with Bush's policies which they feel give him too much power, therefore they claim it is their responsibility to spill every single bean.

Well, I personally think the bean fart is on them. The American public does not believe their interests were served by The New York Times revealing the details of a legal, successful, program. Especially since, even it weren't a war, this program would still be necessary and secret to help law enforcement. Even if Bush didn't exist!

That civics lesson should have included the part about trust in our institutions. Years ago a president violated the peoples' trust in the Presidency and now Keller has violated the trust in the institution of Journalism.

Do I dare say it? Keller is the Nixon of the Press.


chuck said...

Good one, Syl.

CF said...

Yes, it is.

Fresh Air said...

I just wish the Mediacrats would admit what is obvious to all of us: They operate every single day with one goal in mind--trying to bring down the president of the United States in a replay of Watergate.

That the real lessons of Watergate were never absorbed (namely, that Nixon was brought down by members of his own party, not Woodward & Bernstein) does not matter.

These are fantasists of the first order. Modern-day Capt. Ahabs furiously tossing their harpoons at the president. I have nothing but contempt for them and regret that I can't cancel my subscription to the New York Times again and again.

David Thomson said...

Deans of journalism school? Why are they using a hotmail.com address? Is this really the best that these prestigious individuals can do?: journalismdeans@hotmail.com.

Geoffrey Cowan was also a Clinton appointee. What else would you expect?

David Thomson said...

I did a Google search on:


Nothing came up! How established is this organization? One minute old?

Syl said...

Thanks chuck and Clarice!

I noted the email address too. I figure they got it just for responses to this op-ed.

Kinda cheapens it, doesn't it?

Barry Dauphin said...

So why doesn't Keller open up and create transparency? He should explain in detail the internal deliberations of the editorial board and open this up to public scrutiny, so that we can judge for ourselves whether the paper acted honorably. Perhaps they have miuntes from those meetings or a transcript of those meetings. Why should trust me be good enough?

vnjagvet said...

Great post, Syl.


This is probably the closest thing you will see to the admission you are wishing for.

There is plenty of precedent for a press that is downright hostile to our nation's war effort.

But it has been over 140 years since it has been so blatant.

During the Civil War, a significant portion of the north was opposed to the continuation of the war. At least half of the press was in their camp.

That group came very close to changing the course of history, and had it not been for the fall of Atlanta and Grant's successes in Virginia in 1864, they probably would have succeeded in electing McLellan President.

Fresh Air said...


Why are they using a hotmail.com address? Is this really the best that these prestigious individuals can do?: journalismdeans@hotmail.com

You obviously haven't spent much time in J-schools. $34,500 doesn't buy much bandwidth--and that's for the slobs who can get jobs.

Fresh Air said...


Yep, the Copperhead Press rides again. One significant difference I noticed while going through microfiche of the Civil War newspapers recently: the New York Times actually supported the president back then.

Hard to believe, I know.

topsecretk9 said...

Do I dare say it? Keller is the Nixon of the Press.

You did, and I am grateful and better informed because of it!

Syl said...

Thanks, Tops! :)