Sunday, November 18, 2007

Serious Spin: Secrecy, National Security And The Liberal Media

The New York Times brings its readers bad news from Pakistan on the diplomatic front.

Envoy Elicits No New Promises From Musharraf
Continuing to defy the United States, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan declined to say when he would lift a two-week-old state of emergency during a meeting with a senior American envoy today, Pakistani and Western officials said.

In a two-hour, face-to-face meeting with Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte, the United States’ second highest ranking diplomat, General Musharraf said he would end the state of emergency when security improves in the country.

General Musharraf’s defiance continues to be a major embarrassment for the Bush administration, which has provided more than $10 billion in aid to the military leader’s government since 2001 and declared him a valued ally. Ten days ago, President Bush personally telephoned General Musharraf and asked him to end the state of emergency, with no result.
No result. Again. So it's time for some serious spin, and therefore the NYT brings some of that as well:

Bush Failed to See Musharraf’s Faults, Critics Contend
In the six years since Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, joined President Bush in the fight against Al Qaeda, it has been an unlikely partnership: a president intent on promoting democracy and a military commander who seized power in a bloodless coup.

Mr. Bush has repeatedly called Gen. Musharraf “a friend.” In 2003, the president invited the general to Camp David, a presidential perk reserved for the closest of allies. Last year, at the general’s insistence, Mr. Bush risked a trip to Pakistan, jangling the nerves of the Secret Service by spending the night in the country presumed to be home to Osama bin Laden.

But now that the general has defied the White House, suspending Pakistan’s Constitution and imposing martial law, old tensions are flaring anew. Mr. Bush is backing away from the leader he once called a man of “courage and vision,” and critics are asking whether the president misread his Pakistani counterpart.

They said Mr. Bush — an ardent believer in personal diplomacy, who once remarked that he had looked into the eyes of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and had gotten “a sense of his soul” — was taken in by the general, with his fluent English and his promises to hold elections and relinquish military power. They said Mr. Bush looked at General Musharraf and saw a democratic reformer when he should have seen a dictator instead.
No serious analyst anywhere believes that George Bush is "intent on promoting democracy". Bush's serious critics don't fall for this "personal diplomacy" nonsense either. But you won't see any of them in the NYT.

It takes a heavy-handed dictator to know one, and Bush knew Musharraf right from the start. So the Times does its best to provide cover. But the cover might not have been enough, and therefore it was time to release the following nugget of previously secret information.

U.S. Secretly Aids Pakistan in Guarding Nuclear Arms
Over the past six years, the Bush administration has spent almost $100 million so far on a highly classified program to help Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, secure his country’s nuclear weapons, according to current and former senior administration officials.

The aid, buried in secret portions of the federal budget, paid for the training of Pakistani personnel in the United States and the construction of a nuclear security training center in Pakistan, a facility that American officials say is nowhere near completion, even though it was supposed to be in operation this year.
Is it even true? Who knows? But why are we finding out about this now?
The New York Times has known details of the secret program for more than three years, based on interviews with a range of American officials and nuclear experts, some of whom were concerned that Pakistan’s arsenal remained vulnerable. The newspaper agreed to delay publication of the article after considering a request from the Bush administration, which argued that premature disclosure could hurt the effort to secure the weapons.

Since then, some elements of the program have been discussed in the Pakistani news media and in a presentation late last year by the leader of Pakistan’s nuclear safety effort, Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai, who acknowledged receiving “international” help as he sought to assure Washington that all of the holes in Pakistan’s nuclear security infrastructure had been sealed.

The Times told the administration last week that it was reopening its examination of the program in light of those disclosures and the current instability in Pakistan. Early this week, the White House withdrew its request that publication be withheld, though it was unwilling to discuss details of the program.
Nice. With Pakistan in full crisis, the White House withdraws its request that publication be withheld. They say it doesn't matter anymore because the secret is out.

But at the other end of the secrecy spectrum:

Ruling Blocks Challenge to Wiretapping
A federal appeals court said today that secrecy laws forced it to exclude critical evidence about the National Security Agency’s domestic eavesdropping program from being used by an Islamic charity in a lawsuit even though the mere existence of the program could no longer be considered a “state secret.”

The complex ruling was a victory for the Bush administration and signaled trouble for civil rights groups that are trying to show that the eavesdropping program was unconstitutional and to hold telecommunications companies liable for carrying it out.
And this despite the fact that
the appeals court spent most of its 27-page ruling explaining why the eavesdropping program should not be considered a state secret. It listed numerous public statements, including those by President Bush, former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales, and the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Michael V. Hayden, about details of the program. And it said: “In light of extensive government disclosures” about the Terrorist Surveillance Program, “the government is hard-pressed to sustain its claim that the very subject matter of the litigation is a state secret.”
The moral of today's story: Secrecy and National Security go hand in hand for this administration. It will reveal state secrets at the most opportune times, and pretend publicly available information is still a state secret; it will whatever it takes, no matter how absurd, to protect the continued tenure in office of this cruel and unusual administration, which (of course) they call by the least appropriate name available: "National Security".

And the New York Times will never admit any of this -- they won't even discuss it -- because that's what the "liberal media" do in post-democratic America.