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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Lileks on the Press and Plame

The press always mistakes its own fascinations for important news, figuring that if the WaPo and the NYT and friendly radio outlets hammer the story like a sheet of tin on a blunt study anvil, and the stories appear on the front pages of the second-tier dailies, it will somehow move the needle. Sometimes, yes. But it doesn’t help that this is scandal #8732.

The only reason I mention this is because I heard an account of the daily press briefing, the usual raft of sanctimonious boilerplate. One reported went on and on and on about the effect this had on Wilson family, attempting perhaps to connect with those soccer moms who wouldn’t want to have their family business splashed all over the news. (As if Wilson had somehow been dragged screaming from obscurity.) Well: what of the families of the charter airline pilots?

You may recall the story. The NY Times ran big piece on a charter airline the CIA was using to transport suspects. This isn’t just outing a covert operative; it was outing a covert operation. In the case of Wilson / Plame, we had an attempt to point out how two opponents of the adminstration were trying to thwart the foreign policy of the US government via the pages of the NYT and Vanity Fair; in the case of the airline, we had an attempt to peel back the Tupperware lid of secrecy of an anti-terrorist organization in order to ruin – I’m sorry, let the people know what they needed to know about the operation. Did anyone wonder whether the families of the people in that charter airline might be harmed in anyway? Did anyone wonder whether this information might compromise attempts to interrogate suspects? Did anyone ask what the devil was served by running this story?

Imagine the war was prosecuted by a Democratic administration; imagine a GOP operative blowing the charter airline’s cover to make a point about billing irregularies. Imagine the GOP operative slipping photos of the planes on the tarmac, tailfin numbers visible, to the press.

Imagine the press running with the covert-ops story, outraged that the Democratic administration had covered up this crucial story. Can you see that happening? You can?

The air on Bizzaro World – what does it smell like, exactly? As fresh and sweet as one can only dream?

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