The New York Times and the NSA Wiretap Story
This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," December 19, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
RICH LOWRY, GUEST HOST: The New York Times is under fire yet again. This time for the timing of Friday's front page report that President Bush authorized the NSA to conduct domestic eavesdropping. The Times said it held the story for over a year to conduct additional reporting, but the paper did not give an explanation as to why it chose to publish the story last Friday.
Most importantly, the paper did not disclose that the author of the article, James Risen, is about to publish "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration."
So has The New York Times' front page become ad space for publishers? Joining us now is the founder and president of the Media Research Center, our friend, Brent Bozell, and FOX News contributor and "Newsday" columnist, Ellis Henican, also our friend.
ELLIS HENICAN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Gee, I wonder about that "friend" thing. What is that?
LOWRY: I just wanted to leave you hanging there. A little mystery.
Brent, let me get you in on this first. The New York Times had been reporting the story, they say, for a year, and the day, coincidentally, when they decide to publish it, is when there's this hugely important debate and vote in the Senate on the Patriot Act and, apparently, just weeks before the author of the article is going to have a book coming out which was north disclosed in the paper. It seems kind of odd, doesn't it?
BRENT BOZELL, MEDIA RESEARCH CENTER: No. We're talking about The New York Times."
LOWRY: Sorry. I stand corrected.
BOZELL: The New York — The New York Times, unfortunately, is developing a history of doing this type of thing.
They did it on the eve of the elections last year. They had the infamous Al Qa Qaa non-explosive-explosive story. They've done this kind of thing before, and it makes us scratch our head.
If this story is so important why didn't they run it a year ago? They themselves write in the article that the Bush administration asked them not to do it because the information was going to be helpful to terrorists. And they themselves say that some of the information was omitted from the final report, which leads one to conclude only that some of the information in here has been helpful to terrorists.
LOWRY: Ellis, let me get you in on this on a different aspect of this story. I know on the Valerie Plame controversy you've been a huge advocate of the big leak investigation and a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of the leak of the secret identity of this person that could damage our national security. Do you support a leak investigation in this case?
HENICAN: Absolutely. The government ought to investigate itself when someone leaks. I have no problem with that. But I don't want to make the leap of saying that therefore the media shouldn't write the truth.
You guys are in a problem here, OK? You are trying to beat up on the truth teller and trying to deflect attention from the president, who almost certainly violated the law in this thing, who has definitely created a major political problem for himself.
LOWRY: That's still — that still remains to be seen.
HENICAN: Well, we're going to — we're going to fight it out.
LOWRY: ... defense...
HENICAN: But why — but why do you and Brent all of a sudden want to start bashing the truth teller? We should get down on our knees and thank God...
LOWRY: First of all, we have — we have been bashing — we've been bashing The New York Times for a long time now.
BOZELL: I'm happy to answer that.
COLMES: ... toward war, that had bad sources like Chalabi, that had Judith Miller that some people claim helped push us toward war. And Brent, you can't have it both ways.
If the New York Times went right with the story and the administration says don't go with the story you'd yell that they were compromising national security. When the "Times" now says, "We found way to do the story without giving away CIA information or secrets that would compromise intelligence," now you complain about the timing. You wouldn't like anything the Times did.
BOZELL: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait. Wait a minute, Alan. That's not what the New York Times said.
COLMES: It is...
BOZELL: Read the article. Alan?
BOZELL: The article says very clearly...
BOZELL: ... that some of the information that could be helpful to terrorists was omitted. Clearly, it says not all the information.
HENICAN: It said some of the things that the administration didn't want them to write have been omitted. The Times doesn't concede that they're helping terrorists.
Listen, the Times is defending the most basic — hold on a second, Brent.
BOZELL: Let me ask — let me ask...
HENICAN: Hold on a second.
BOZELL: I didn't finish my point. I didn't finish my point.
HENICAN: The Times is pursuing the most basic principle of good journalism. Investigate carefully, make sure you have your facts straight, put it in the paper when you know it and let the chips fall politically. Why do you want to run interference for the administration on this thing every time?
BOZELL: Very simple. You asked this question before and I'll answer it now. Ellis, let me explain something. We are at war. There is a war going on.
HENICAN: The Constitution hasn't been suspended.
BOZELL: Let me finish. Ellis — Ellis...
HENICAN: Hasn't been suspended.
COLMES: Let him finish.
BOZELL: Hush. Hush. There is a war going on against a worldwide organization that is trying to destroy this country and has already shown what it can do to us. The only way we're going to defeat them is with a certain level of secrecy.
You know what? I don't like civil liberties being compromised. But I would much rather my civil liberties be compromised than my family be nuked by a dirty bomb in Washington, D.C.
HENICAN: There are all kinds of...
COLMES: Brent, you have the opportunity to go to a secret court. And you want to deflect attention away from whether the story is true and talk about why does the guy have a book deal that has nothing to do with the actual story.
BOZELL: That is silly. What I said is not — this was not a star chamber at all. This was a decision — this was an effort that had bipartisan support. Harry Reid's complaining today, notwithstanding, he was in on this. He knew what was going on. And now, all of a sudden it's gotcha to the president. They were involved with this.
HENICAN: What this is about — what this is about, Brent, is that you don't like the story because it damages the administration. It calls into question where they strike the balance between civil liberties and this...
BOZELL: No, no. It's not that at all.
HENICAN: That's exactly what it's about.
BOZELL: No. No.
HENICAN: I'll tell you how I know, because no mad — excuse me, Brent.
BOZELL: I don't like anything...
HENICAN: Excuse me, Brent.
BOZELL: I don't like anything that compromises...
HENICAN: Whatever they do, you don't like it.
BOZELL: ... us in a war against terrorists.
LOWRY: I'm going to have to blow the whistle here. Guys, I'm going to have to blow the whistle there.
Ellis, I disagree with you about the politics, though.
LOWRY: I think it's the Democrats who don't realize we're at war who are in political jeopardy with the story.
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