The New York Times disgraced itself and betrayed the citizens of the United States when it repeatedly headlined misleading stories by reporter Judith Miller that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The paper issued a meandering apology well after the 2003 prompted by the inaccurate reporting of Miller, the self-styled "Miss Run Amok" reporter, and others. But it was too little and too late to correct the damage. And it seems the Times is still running amok at the expense of what's in the public interest.
One has to wonder if the New York Times and the White House coordinated efforts on the WMD matter. They certainly worked very well together, propping up in tandem the fear-based prophecy of a menacing Saddam who would deliver his nuclear filled hate to our shores. This was total nonsense, to put it kindly.
We know that the Bush administration and the New York Times editor, William Keller, communicated about a very sensitive matter before the 2004 election. New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau had discovered that the Bush administration had been illegally wiretapping citizens since Sept. 11, 2001. "Internal discussions about drafts of the article had been 'dragging on for weeks' before the Nov. 2 election, Mr. Keller acknowledged," according to an article by Times public editor Byron Calme Instead of publishing the story, Times editor Keller killed and barred the story from public release until December 16, 2006, 13 months after the 2004 election.
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Was this a coincidence? Not at all. Bush requested the story be killed for "national security" reasons. Forgetting the paper's shining moment when it released the Pentagon Papers, Keller willingly complied.
This was the election that would determine if Mr. Bush would have another four years to work the magic that's brought the nation to its current state of peril. When the story finally broke, it created a wave of negative reaction across the political spectrum.
Thanks to the New York Times' deliberate delay, we'll never know how the public would have responded just weeks before the 2004 vote. Based on the public response when the story was released, it may well have created enough of a shift to render the dirty tricks of Ohio and elsewhere meaningless.
The false WMD reports represented propaganda of the most frightening type. It came from reporter Miller who had relied largely on one source, Ahmad Chalabi. He was on the Defense Department payroll at the time that reporter Miller gained the WMD information from him. Without any doubt, the New York Times was a major enabler of the Iraq invasion and occupation.
By withholding a most devastating indictment of the lawless regime in power, namely illegal wiretapping of U.S. citizens, the New York Times denied citizens the option of a fully informed choice in 2004 and it played a major role in returning Bush-Cheney to power.
Four thousand U.S. deaths, tens of thousands of life long injuries to U.S. troops, 1.2 million dead Iraqis due to civil strife triggered by the war, 5 million Iraqi orphans, and the loss of United States' prestige on a massive scale: this is the shared legacy of the New York Times coverage leading up to the Iraq invasion. A nation on the verge of bankruptcy, foreclosures at epidemic rates, national debt so out of control it is difficult to even measure and a deep recession with possibly worse down the road: this is just a part of the legacy of the New York Times' coverage of the 2004 election.
How low will they sink?
Even on a smaller scale, their depths are without limits, it would seem.
The most recent example is the New York Times' coverage of the competency hearing on June 17, 2008 in the Susan Lindauer versus the United States in the Federal District Court, Southern District of New York, in lower Manhattan. Antiwar Activist Returns to Court for Iraq Spy Case, Alan Feuer, New York Times, June 18, 2008.
The headline betrays the first major problem with the New York Times coverage. Susan Lindauer has claimed all along that she was an anti-war and anti-sanctions activist as well as a U.S. asset. However, no one who has read the indictment or the informed coverage would refer to Lindauer as an accused "spy." She is charged with being an "unregistered foreign agent." The "high water mark" of the indictment, as Judge Mukasey called it, is the charge that Lindauer attempted to influence U.S. policy on behalf of pre-war Iraq through the delivery of this January 2003 letter to Andrew Card, then chief of staff for President Bush, and Colin Powell, then secretary of state.
The New York Times story opens with this curious statement:
"She rolled her eyes. She stuck her tongue out at the prosecutor. It was decidedly not the usual courtroom demeanor. Then again, it was not the usual federal case." New York Times, June 18, 2008 (NYT)
I attended the hearing and sat in the front row of the courtroom. Of all the spectators, I had one of the best views of defendant Susan Lindauer and the witnesses. With regard to "rolling her eyes," that was simply not visible from the public seating since Lindauer faced the judge showing spectators only her back except when she turned and was visible in profile. As for "sticking out her tongue," I saw no such behavior and Lindauer denies the reporter's claim vigorously. The alleged gesture was not reported by the New York Daily News, Associated Press, and New York Metro. Nor did I report it in this article on the hearing.
Why would the reporter begin a news story with such an inflammatory unverified charge?
If we skip to the end of the article, we might find an answer. The reporter closed the story with this statement by Lindauer from her post hearing press conference in the hall just outside Judge Loretta Preska's courtroom.
"She angrily contested an accusation in her indictment that she had illegally lunched with Iraqi intelligence operatives.
"You want to send me to prison because I had a cheeseburger," she said, "even though I'm not the person who actually ate the cheeseburger." NYT
The reporter plucked out of context a random remark about cheeseburgers to characterize Lindauer's denial of serious charges as weak and less than serious.
Lindauer was arguing that the indictment was both flawed and incorrect. She denied these charges, pointed out that she had not been in the city on the dates alleged, and asserted that she can prove it. Then she illustrated what she clearly believed to be the absurdity of the charges with the cheeseburger remark. By lifting this quotation out of context, an entirely different meaning is implied.
The New York Times reporting on the facts of the case is also notably wanting. The reporter echoed the prosecutors claim that "a half-dozen doctors claimed Lindauer suffered from paranoia and delusions of grandeur." Lindauer, the subject of these professionals, questioned the accuracy of the prosecutor's statement.
The story leaves out the psychiatrist who examined Lindauer just after her arrest and found no such thing. It fails to mention the two psychotherapists who saw Lindauer over a period of months and failed to report any of this. Observation and interaction over an extended period are powerful tools for diagnosis.
The reporter also failed to note the completed report submitted to the court by a distinguished Washington, D.C. area psychiatrist and academic which reportedly says that Lindauer is competent to stand trial. The psychiatrist is scheduled to appear on Lindauer's behalf at the next hearing before Judge Preska on July 7, 2008. But discovering this would require that the reporter actually talk to the defendant.
This was, after all, a competency hearing on the mental capacity of Lindauer to stand trial. Wouldn't you expect the New York Times to cover both sides of the story?
The New York Times described the last hearing of former judge, now U.S. Attorney General Mukasey, on the prosecution's request to have Lindauer forcibly drugged. He said that "Judge Mukasey declined to rule on the request, saying that the case would be assigned to a new judge — which turned out to be Loretta A. Preska — and that she would eventually have to decide." NYT
That's entirely incorrect. In his "Opinion and Order" of Sept. 6, 2006, Mukasey wrote: "Based on the evidence presented at a Sell hearing on May 4 and May 9, 2006, for the reasons explained below, the government has failed to carry this burden — - Accordingly, the motion is denied." (Author's emphasis)
The New York Times article referred to the defense witnesses' testimony as "suggestively odd." Why would the Times make that inference?
The first witness, Kelly O'Meara, was a former reporter for the Washington Times and Insight Magazine and a senior congressional staffer for over two decades. She established a strong connection between Lindauer and an individual reported to be a part of U.S. intelligence, a relationship that endured over time.
The second witness, Dr. Parke Godfrey, was deliberate and thoughtful. He is a long time associate of Lindauer's and a PhD level associate professor of computer science with a solid academic record. He told of Lindauer's anti-war activism and also of her warnings about 911.
"Appearing for the defense, Dr. Godfrey testified under oath that Lindauer told him of her specific concerns about an attack on the United States. She told him that a "massive" attack would occur in the southern part of Manhattan, involving airplanes and possibly a nuclear weapon. The witness said that she mentioned this in the year 2000, which coincided with the Lockerbie trial. And then in 2001, Lindauer also mentioned the anticipated attack in the spring, 2001 and then August 2001. Godfrey said, at that time, Lindauer thought an attack was "imminent" and that it would complete what was started in the 1993 bombing (the original World Trade Center bombing)." "Scoop" Independent News, Michael Collins, June 18, 2008
The Associated Press covered the 9/11 portion of the testimony but not the New York Times.
The New York Times coverage of this story opens with an inflammatory personal attack verified only by the reporter - the claim that Lindauer stuck her tongue out. It ends with a quotation clearly out of context leading to a negative view of Lindauer's coherence. Combined, the two inflammatory aspersions have the effect of presenting an unstable individual. Is the reporter qualified to make this assessment from the gallery? Is this some new form of remote diagnosis?
The story erred by ignoring Mukasey's highly significant "opinion and order" that denied the government the ability to physically force drugs on the defendant. The reporter jettisoned the facts by claiming that Mukasey simply passed that issue along to Lindauer's current judge, a factually incorrect statement.
The story ignored mental health reports that are the crux of the competency issue and favorable to Lindauer's claim, instead relying solely on the prosecutor's characterization of the government's evidence.
The New York Times blithely extended the personal attack on Lindauer to her witnesses by calling their testimony "suggestively odd." Both witnesses presented calm, considered demeanors, described relevant information, and gave every appearance, in my opinion, of being open and cooperative with the hearing process.
What is the New York Times up to? Was this just the product of a bad day by a reporter who preferred to be somewhere else? Is the New York Times entering a new realm of coverage that includes highly subjective personal attacks? Are we seeing the birth of a new deductive journalism in which the facts are tailored to create a story that the paper prefers?
These are the people who brought us Judith Miller's fatal distortions and covered up George Bush's illegal surveillance activities from consideration in the 2004 election.
They continued that tradition in the article on the Lindauer competency hearing by inflammatory claims that would lead uninformed readers to a significant bias against the defendant and factual errors about the history of the case that are less than helpful.
The reporter from the New York Times characterized Lindauer in a derisive and mocking tone. If he truly believed the prosecutor's experts with regard to Lindauer's mental state, he would be guilty of behavior that is simply not acceptable in almost any circle. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and presume that he had another motive for his characterizations.
Stories like this are not only unbalanced and biased. They promote injustice to citizens who deserve an opportunity to achieve justice through a fair trial.
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