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The Tentacle


December 28, 2005

Operation Mata Hari

Kevin E. Dayhoff

In the war against terrorism, folks, whose only goal is to promote themselves in total disregard for our safety, recently launched “Operation Mata Hari.”

It began with shock and awe as insidious as an improvised explosive devise. The New York Times titled its December 16 Christmas gift to our nation, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts.”

If you are just waking up from too much eggnog, the not-so-exotic New York Times article reveals – in the midst of a war – our commander-in-chief secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens and others in the United States who were communicating with potential enemies overseas.

For those who may be unfamiliar with Mata Hari, she was an infamous exotic dancer in World War I Paris. One version of history portrays her as a double agent working for the Germans and the French. However, the French convicted her as a spy in 1917. Her name has since become synonymous with “femme fatale.”

Comparing the Old Gray Lady – The New York Times – to a femme fatale is certainly a reach for the absurd; or is it? However, is it possible that the article could have tragic consequences?

On December 17, President Bush is quoted as saying: "Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk."

A National Review editorial on December 21, appropriately titled, “September 10 America,” said it best: “How could an American citizen who chooses to call, or accept calls from, an al Qaeda operative overseas reasonably expect that those conversations would not be monitored by American or other authorities?”

As the stock price of The New York Times plummets, its circulation is holding its own. The mainstream media dinosaur is avoiding decline and extinction because folks keep buying the paper just to see what it will do next in its desperate attempts to remain alive and relevant. Many wonder if perhaps the circulation remains high because terrorists overseas keep purchasing the paper to learn our latest secrets in the defense of our country.

Unsubstantiated reports indicate that the Arabic newspaper Al Jazeera, so famous for being a mouthpiece for al Qaeda, is really upset that it was scooped by the Old Gray Lady.

To put this breach of national security into perspective, Joseph Curl writing for The Washington Times on December 20, aptly called to our attention that: “Only a handful of people knew of the program.”

Those knowledgeable – and the only folks who should have ever known about the program – were “top officials in the White House, the leaders of the House and Senate, the senior lawmakers on the two chambers' intelligence committees and a small number of officials within the National Security Agency,” wrote The Washington Times.

CNN reported December 17 that in a statement released by The New York Times December 16: “Executive Editor Bill Keller said the newspaper postponed publication of the article for a year at the White House's request, while editors pondered the national security issues surrounding the release of the information.”

Perhaps what they also pondered was that “President Bush's approval ratings have surged in recent weeks. After a particularly trying period – Hurricane Katrina, rising gas prices, legal attacks on key players in the administration, uncertainty in Iraq – Americans seem to be regaining their confidence in the man they elected to be their top leader.” (Town Hall, Emily Lee, December 20, “Brighter Days for President Bush”)

Additionally, it has not been overlooked that the release of the information in the article came just in time to blatantly affect the vote on December16 on the renewal of the Patriot Act.

CNN further elaborated that the “political ramifications of the newspaper's report were felt even before Bush acknowledged the report's veracity.”

“Senators… used The New York Times' report as evidence that the government could not be trusted with the broad powers laid out in the act.”

However, The Washington Post writes: “Some Times’ staffers say the story was revived in part because of concerns that [James] Risen [who co-wrote the December 16 story] is publishing a book on the CIA next month that will include the disclosures. But Keller told The Los Angeles Times: "The publication was not timed to the Iraqi election, the Patriot Act debate, Jim's forthcoming book or any other event."

CNN also reported that Mr. Keller said: 'The question was not why we would publish it, but why we would not[?]'

Duh? One answer might be because it endangers the safety and lives of Americans.

Or, in the words of Gen. Michael Hayden, deputy national intelligence director who was head of the NSA when the program began in October 2001: "This program has been successful in detecting and preventing attacks inside the United States." (Washington Times, December 20, “Bush calls leaks shameful”)

This leaves many of us wondering; with The New York Times leaking national security information that endangers our lives, who needs enemies? Our fourth amendment rights are of little value to us if we die in a terrorist attack that could have been prevented.

Ben Shapiro wrote in Town Hall on December 21: “At the Republican National Convention in New York on Sept. 1, 2004, Sen. Zell Miller (D., GA) explained why he was backing President George W. Bush's re-election. Plainly put, he stated, the Democrats were soft on defense. "U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?" he asked Democratic leaders opposed to a variety of defense programs.”

And the spitballs are made of wadded up pieces of The New York Times.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org



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