Skunkworks

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The editors of the New York Times and Washington Post have been summoned to the White House on multiple occasions in recent months to discuss blockbuster National Security-related articles prior to publication, Howard Kurtz reported this weekend. Interestingly, neither paper's editor would comment until Kurtz got confirmation from "sources who have been briefed on them but are not authorized to comment because both sides had agreed to keep the sessions off the record," whoever the hell they are.

If these secret-stories-behind-the-secret-stories deals interest you, I recommend this long Jay Rosen post. And if you're still coming out of your post-Christmas food coma, the Times advanced the NSA-intercept story over the weekend, including a digestible Week in Review essay. I also found this sober tech-specs speculation by the normally raucous Poor Man to be useful.

NEXT: Dueling Headlines About Bringing the Boys Home

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  1. I think it was Slate had a piece, “Keller Must Go.”

    I got rid of a bunch of saved links writing a blog piece yesterday, Big Brother Is Watching YOU.

  2. I have a question that I haven’t seen addressed in the media: how is this going to affect the business climate for American telecommunications firms? As I understand it, the illegal monitoring took advantage of the US’ status as a sort of “free port” for telecommunications. Will the revelation that US firms handed to keys over to their government spark an interest among foreign governments and corporations to construct new networks that bypass the US?

    “National security” is a pretty broad concept. The things that get sucked up may involve trade, banking, technology transfers, and employment. The potential for and consequences of abuse are enormous. Whatever they might say about what they were doing and why, the fact remains that this was a substantial breach of an implied privacy agreement that the telecommunications firms had with their customers. I anticipate considerable long-term blowback. Trust can be built, but not rebuilt.

  3. That’s an excellent question, James.

  4. While we’re asking questions, this perhaps dumb one: Who told the Times about the telephone intercept story (the one prior to this widespread one)? They said they sat on it for a year, but at whose behest? It wouldn’t have been the administration, (the only party with a vested security interest), because it’s not in their interest to tell anybody they don’t feel they have to, which leaves the possiblity that one of the briefed congress members told NYT over a year ago, and made a deal with the Times to hold off for a year. But why would the congressperson want the Times to agree to a deal like that and withold potentially damning info over a presidential election cycle? Am I missing something?

  5. QD: I could see why a Republican senator might have qualms about the program but not want to sink his party four weeks before a national election. I don’t see anyone else’s motive, unless they simply wanted some time to let the trail get cold.

    In the NYT’s defense, their source was facing severe criminal charges if this ever got traced back to them.

  6. DumbQuestion — I’m almost positive it was NSA/CIA-type people who were alarmed by the program. Risen’s coming out with a book on post-9/11 CIA/spook stuff, so undoubtedly he’s getting some stuff from whatever internal rifts there are. (The same thing was at play in the Iraq-propaganda story.)

  7. This may be an example of being too ignorant (or possibly too knowledgeable?) to get the joke, but what does this have to do with Lockheed or black engineering projects or whatever?

    Or is it just that this kind of organized Fourth Estate complicity in government information control stinks to high heaven?

  8. Funny, I kinda know both the Phil Karn quoted in the Times 24th story and Lichtblau. Karn and I share a hobby and have met a couple times. Lichtblau once credulously reported an implausible and false story about my wife without calling her for a quote.

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