Let the pushback begin. In response to reports today about a secret Bush administration program that collects data about international financial transactions, the New York Sun’s Josh Gerstein (who has the honor of being mentioned twice today in CJR Daily), has gone trolling for some criticism of the Times’ disclosure.
In a story with the tantalizing headline, “New Furor Erupts as Spying Secret Is Compromised,” the Sun sets the table for what promises to be a story full of conservative invective over the Times’ publishing of national security secrets. Gerstein kicks off the story by teasing, “A fresh barrage of criticism is erupting over the decision of The New York Times to disclose last night another classified surveillance program aimed at gathering information about terrorist plots.”
But this promised barrage, after reading the story, doesn’t live up to the hype.
After quoting an obviously peeved White House spokeswoman, Dana Perino, Gerstein tells us that “The Times was already facing calls for its criminal prosecution in connection with a December report on a classified National Security Agency program for warrantless surveillance of telephone calls between America and abroad that are thought to involve people affiliated with terrorism.”
So, where’s the news? The “fresh barrage of criticism” over revelations about the latest program turns out to be coming from a single guy: Gabriel Schoenfeld, editor of the conservative Commentary magazine — and writer of a weekly chess column for the Sun. Pretty convenient, that.
So, after all that buildup, all the paper manages to deliver is one person “who is one of the leading advocates of prosecuting the Times” for its December NSA wiretapping story. Schoenfeld doesn’t disappoint in this capacity, however, telling his colleague that “I think this is reckless and likely to encourage Attorney General Gonzales to prosecute them, if not for this story, for some of the other things they’ve done.”
But then Schoenfeld, like Gerstein before him, suggests that “there’s a lot of displeasure with what [the Times is] doing.” We’re sure there is, but it would be nice if one of these two guys could give us an example of just who is so angry about the story — and it would be even better if that someone came from outside of the New York Sun newsroom.
In the end, this whole story smells of a put-up job to push the idea of widespread anger toward the Times for publishing these stories. And it doesn’t succeed terribly well.