Friday, July 07, 2006

A leak is a leak is a leak

I wanted to post this interview on Wednesday evening, the same day it aired. Sadly, it wasn't available until more recently.

So here it is, late and all...Christopher Hitchens and Hugh Hewitt getting to the nitty-gritty of what the Times did and why:

HH: I'm just wondering, why do you suppose...this is David Remnick, by the way, writing in the New Yorker, that he is beside himself with fear that the press, especially the mainstream press, is in a collective state of anxious transition, hurt by scandals, by the appearance of a blizzard of new technologies, and ideologicalized alternatives like Fox News. He even calls it a time of existential worry for the press. I mean...

CH: Ah, well that, I mean, David was always smart about these things, I think is right about that. I'll also add something about what I think is happening at the Times, which is that collectively, what they think over there, is that they were played for a sucker by the administration about things like WMD and other matters arising from Iraq, whereas in fact, if they waited a bit longer, they could actually have found the evidence is perhaps a bit stronger than the administration even thought it was. I put that in parenthesis. But they...and they let Judy Miller, in effect, go to jail because of this ridiculous prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, and his desire to get everyone in the press to turn over their notes, which is something that I think you should be denouncing a lot when it does happen. There's an element to me of overcompensation involved. They're trying to prove that they're, as the saying goes, watchdogs, not lapdogs. And it's a bit like the embedding mistake that the administration made with the press. I think the press shouldn't have lent itself to being embedded, and it left a huge number of journalists who couldn't get that prestige with nothing to write except another story. And obviously, that wasn't going to be a friendly one. They'd have to write something different. And I think all of these things need to be factored in. The real problem of the press is it wants to be novel. It wants to be new, and it wants to appear brave. And this is what they do when they feel they've been used.

HH: Are they being brave when they deny what Doyle McManus, among others, say is conceivable that they assisted terrorists? Are they being brave, Christopher Hitchens, when they refuse to credit the reaction of more than two-thirds of America, that it was a bad idea, and a potentially killing idea to run this story?

CH: They ought to have taken that point on board a bit more than they did. I mean, the piece that I'm sure you read by Richard Clarke and one other...

HH: Right.

CH: ...about this was I thought only about 50% persuasive. The real question is in a way, need to know. And then there is also the question of, which is exactly what's raised by the Fitzgerald prosecution, what are you now supposed to do, everyone having supporting the witch hunt against Karl Rove, which pulled out an empty net, and the jailing of Judy Miller, which pulled out an empty net as well. What are you now supposed to do when someone gives you classified information? Everyone has already gone on sides saying that the use of the Intelligence Agents Protection Act, which...Identities Protection Act, which is a repressive piece of law designed to gut the 1st Amendment, was okay. If they concede that, I can't quite see how they can well, we can print any classified information/leak that we like.

HH: Well, that is...that is, I think, the key point.

CH: That's the bind that they're really in that nobody points out, because that goes down the middle, as it were, between the parties on that.

HH: Well, that's true. You cannot stand and say that the name Valerie Plame is an injury to all of our well-being, but the publication of the methodology by which Hambali was obtained is not. That's impossible.

CH: That's been my point for ages. I mean, it was absolutely legitimate, in my view, to mention the connection between Joseph Wilson's wife, his career, the roll of the CIA in sending him to Niger, the way he got it all wrong, the way he lied about it subsequently. That really was something one needed to know if one was going to discuss the subject at all. And Novak didn't know he was leaking anything classified when he said it. He thought it was common knowledge, which in Washington, it was. But after all the fantastic hysteria about this, I must say, I'm a bit cynical about them saying well now, we have the right to disclose anything from any mole we like. This is really deplorable. I still don't think, though, that there should be an attempt to say that what's printed is worse than, as it were, the right to disclose.

For those who think it's easier to listen rather than read, you can listen to the interview here.

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