AP Again Creates News Where None Exists

The AP is breaking another non-story. The headline: "Many Defendants' Cases Kept Secret"

Despite the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of public trials, nearly all records are being kept secret for more than 5,000 defendants who completed their journey through the federal courts over the last three years.

And right on cue, they blame Bush.

The data show a sharp increase in secret case files over time as the Bush administration's well-documented reliance on secrecy in the executive branch has crept into the federal courts through the war on drugs, anti-terrorism efforts and other criminal matters."This follows the pattern of this administration," said John Wesley Hall, an Arkansas defense attorney and second vice president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

The second most popular anti-Bush meme, behind the "Bush lied" screed, is the "secret government" line. So this story sounds like a big deal, right? The evil Bush administration is secretly locking people up and the Sixth Amendment is getting shredded all to hell.

Of course not. In fact, the story itself shows that this isn't newsworthy information. Here are these two highly relevant items from the article:

  • An Associated Press investigation found, and court observers agree, that most of these defendants are cooperating government witnesses
  • But the AP investigation found, and court observers agree, that the overwhelming number of these cases sealed for a limited time involve a use of secrecy that draws no criticism.

On top of that, look at the statistics they used to build this case of a "widespread pattern of secrecy in the Bush administration":

Of nearly 85,000 defendants whose cases were closed in 2003, the records of 952 or 1.1 percent remain mostly sealed. Of more than 82,000 defendants with cases closed in 2004, records for 1,774 or 2.2 percent remain mostly secret. And of more than 87,000 defendants closed out in 2005, court records for 2,390 or 2.7 percent remain mostly closed to the public.

Barely two percent of the tens of thousands of cases, not to mention the fact that most of those "involve cooperating government witnesses" and an "overwhelming number involves a use of secrecy that draws no criticism".

So where is the story in all of this? There isn't one.

And it should come as no surprise that it comes from the same AP writer who manufactured this past week's Katrina "retracted" non-story.

I wonder how long before the AP hires Dan Rather.