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From: Bart (129.171.32.13)
Subject:         The Wiretappers That Couldn't Shoot Straight
Date: January 8, 2006 at 8:04 am PST

The Wiretappers That Couldn't Shoot Straight
By FRANK RICH
Published: January 8, 2006

The president who once promised to bring a "culture of responsibility" to Washington can and will blame The Times and the rest of the press for his failures.

Excerpt:

Given that the reporters on the Times story, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, wrote that nearly a dozen current and former officials had served as their sources, there may be more leaks to come, and not just to The Times. Sooner or later we'll find out what the White House is really so defensive about.

Perhaps it's the obvious: the errant spying ensnared Americans talking to Americans, not just Americans talking to jihadists in Afghanistan. In a raw interview transcript posted on MSNBC's Web site last week - and quickly seized on by John Aravosis of AmericaBlog - the NBC News foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell asked Mr. Risen if he knew whether the CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour might have been wiretapped. (Mr. Risen said, "I hadn't heard that.") Surely a pro like Ms. Mitchell wasn't speculating idly. NBC News, which did not broadcast this exchange and later edited it out of the Web transcript, said Friday it was still pursuing the story.

If the Bush administration did indeed eavesdrop on American journalists and political opponents (Ms. Amanpour's husband, Jamie Rubin, was a foreign policy adviser to the Kerry campaign), it's déjà Watergate all over again. But even now we can see that there's another, simpler - and distinctly Bushian - motive at play here, hiding in plain sight.

That motive is not, as many liberals would have it, a simple ideological crusade to gut the Bill of Rights. Real conservatives, after all, are opposed to Big Brother; even the staunch Bush ally Grover Norquist has criticized the N.S.A.'s overreaching. The highest priority for the Karl Rove-driven presidency is instead to preserve its own power at all costs. With this gang, political victory and the propaganda needed to secure it always trump principles, even conservative principles, let alone the truth. Whenever the White House most vociferously attacks the press, you can be sure its No. 1 motive is to deflect attention from embarrassing revelations about its incompetence and failures.

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