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What follows is the lede from a Baltimore Sun article today (Sunday) about Army recruitment as reprinted in The Day in New London, Connecticut. It demonstrates, again, the truth of Mark Twain’s dictum, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Unlike the other major broadcast network Sunday talk shows (as reported by NewsBusters), NBC’s “The Chris Matthews Show” led with Thursday’s historic elections in Iraq, while mentioning the surveillance scandal raised in a New York Times article Friday as almost an afterthought. Then, after the break, Matthews began on another topic that is likely much more of a concern to Americans than the legality of wiretaps on terrorists, illegal immigration.

An extraordinary election occurred in Iraq on Thursday. However, all three major network Sunday talk shows – ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and CBS’ “Face the Nation” – all began their programs this morning with a discussion about revelations released on Friday by The New York Times that the White House has been authorizing surveillance of potential terrorists on American soil without getting court orders.

When the panel discussion on this morning's ABC's 'This Week' turned to the 'War on Christmas,' Sam Donaldson had this to say [close approximation]:

"With his talk of a war on Christmas, Bill O'Reilly stirs up his yahoos."

Donaldson then paused and added "in his audience."

However you slice it, Donaldson managed to slur both O'Reilly and a good chunk of his viewership.

Hubert Humphrey was known as the Happy Warrior for his cheerful approach to the political wars. In contrast, Fox & Friends Weekend's Julian Phillips, judging by his crabbiness this morning, might be dubbed the Whining Warrior.

Beyond his rain-on-the-parade words, Phillips' body language and facial expressions oozed negativity. The shot to the right is a file photo, but typifies Julian's less-than-sunny demeanor.

It's with a convenient indignation that the New York Times goes after Bush for something they would have you believe is illegal. The dishonesty of the Times calling this new or as they put it "a sea change" is shameful. Was the NY Times brain dead when they published this article about Bob Barr and other republicans trying to make this very practice accountable to congress? In 1999? When Bill Clinton was in the White House?

Since the Times can't seem to do any research on their own, I'd like to juxtapose two articles. The opening of the Times article and a section from the (now archived) Catching Americans in NSA's Net by the Baltimore Sun, published ten years prior.

New York Times
December 15, 2005
Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The Baltimore Sun
December 12, 1995
...the basic rules set by Executive Order 12333, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 and a few court decisions are as follows: NSA can intercept any communication -- phone call, fax, electronic mail, etc. -- as long as at least one end is in a foreign country.

On Thursday, The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued its report on their attempted audit of the United States Government's financial statements. The GAO opened its Media Release (2-page PDF) with the following:
GAO Again Disclaims An Opinion on U.S. Government's Financial Statements For the ninth straight year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is unable to provide an opinion as to whether the consolidated financial statements of the U.S.

As reported by the MRC’s Brent Baker, the media are in full dudgeon over new revelations of a secret eavesdropping, antiterrorism strategy by the White House. However, there are some key elements of this story that the president just discussed in his weekly radio address as reported by the Associated Press that The New York Times and others either neglected to share with the public, or downplayed in their reports:

“Bush said the program was narrowly designed and used ‘consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution.’ He said it is used only to intercept the international communications of people inside the United States who have been determined to have ‘a clear link’ to al-Qaida or related terrorist organizations.”

In a post-9/11 world, this does seem to be a reasonable strategy to avert further terrorist attacks. Wouldn’t most Americans wish that the 9/11 hijackers all had their “international communications” intercepted regardless of the existence of a court order to do so?

In his article, “Iraq insurgents say election truce won’t last”, Fadel al-Badrani offers the reader a view from the insurgents’ side of the war. According to al-Badrani, “secular insurgents and Islamist militants” (AKA Islamofascists) plan to resume attacks against US troops and Iraqis that cooperate with the United States.

Paul Farhi wrote an article for today’s Washington Post that confirmed yesterday’s Drudge Report exclusive sited by NewsBusters that the New York Times failed to disclose a major story it broke surrounding U.S. spying in America was part of a soon to be released book by one of its columnists, James Risen. In addition, Farhi indicated that the timing of the release of this report might indeed have been designed to correspond with a Congressional vote to renew the Patriot Act. The antiterrorism bill was blocked last evening in the Senate with members claiming revelations in the Times article may have been the death knell.

According to the Post:

“The [Times] offered no explanation to its readers about what had changed in the past year to warrant publication. It also did not disclose that the information is included in a forthcoming book, ‘State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,’ written by James Risen, the lead reporter on yesterday's story. The book will be published in mid-January, according to its publisher, Simon & Schuster.”

And what about the timing surrounding the renewal of the Patriot Act?

Today's (Friday December 16, 2005) Los Angeles Times appears to have delivered two different versions of "headline news" yesterday morning. The actual print edition celebrated the election in Iraq with a generous headline and a jubilant color photo (see below). However, visitors to the same morning got a different lead story.

Actual Print Edition:

Picking up on a front page New York Times story, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” the three broadcast networks led Friday night with the revelation, which animated the cable networks during the day, about how post-9/11 the NSA has monitored communication by a few thousand people in the U.S. in touch with those on al-Qaeda lists captured in Pakistan, or an expanding chain of those connected to that initial cache. Despite the limited focus on identifying sleeper agents before they could murder Americans, the networks treated the policy as a violation of the rights of all Americans. With “Big Brother” in front of a picture of President Bush, ABC anchor Bob Woodruff teased: “Big brother, the uproar over a secret presidential order giving the government unprecedented powers to spy on Americans." NBC's Brian Williams teased: "Government spying. Tonight, revelations of domestic eavesdropping on hundreds of phone calls by the federal government, part of top secret orders by President Bush after 9/11." Williams insisted that now “the questions begin about civil liberties and privacy and the protection of all of us.”

Though the White House maintains the policy is legal and congressional leaders as well as a federal judge were told about it in 2002, CBS characterized the policy as illegal. CBS anchor Bob Schieffer asked: "Has the government been using its spy satellites to illegally eavesdrop on Americans?” Schieffer then declared as fact: "It is against the law to wiretap or eavesdrop on the conversations of Americans in this country without a warrant from a judge, but the New York Times says that is exactly what the President secretly ordered the National Security Agency to do in the months after 9/11.” (Transcripts of the newscast leads, and some excerpts from the New York Times story, follow.)

On the 4pm hour of CNN's The Situation Room, on air personality Jack Cafferty blasted the Bush administration's decisions to combat the War on Terror, especially the Patriot Act and the Iraq war. Cafferty also said the administration leaked name of CIA agent and "covert operative" Valerie Plame. This diatribe served as a segue for "The Question of the Hour", which asked reader's opinions about the New York Times' report of the NSA spying on American citizens. Cafferty offers no proof other than the report by a known left-wing publication.


Full transcript follows.

Newsweek correspondant Howard Fineman and New York Times' writer Anne Kornblut appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews to discuss the Times report that the NSA was given permission by the Bush administration to spy on potential terrorists. This report just so happened to be printed on the front page of the Times a day after the successful election in Iraq. Surprisingly, Chris Matthews wanted to get the reason why the newspaper decided to print this information on the front page when the historic event in Iraq should have been the only story receiving big headlines. Matthews asked Kornblut "why did you break it today", only to get a simple response that "there was room in the paper". Matthews later followed up with "you have no criticism on this" [referring to the Times' decision to put this on the front page], Kornblut said "I was working on other things today so I don't know". How convenient.



Transcript follows.

David Bauder, television writer for the Associated Press, is reporting that conservative syndicated columnist Robert Novak is leaving CNN after 25 years to join Fox News:

“Commentator Robert Novak, who hasn't been seen on CNN since swearing and storming off the set in August, will leave the network after 25 years and join Fox News Channel as a contributor next month.

“Novak, 74, said Friday he probably would have left CNN anyway when his contract expired this month even if it hadn't been for the incident.”

The columnist seemed to want to play down the August incident when he walked off a set in the middle of a debate with Democratic strategist and commentator James Carville: