Anti-Bush Bias at the New York Times (So what else is new?)

Why did the New York Times splash a story about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) secret surveillance program? There appears to be no laws broken (it’s not clear that FISA applies here), and other presidents (like Clinton and Carter) have authorized similar programs in the past. So what was the motivation for the New York Times’s putting forth a story that it has been sitting on for over a year? Why now?

Edward Morrissey of The Weekly Standard has a plausible answer to that question in a story titled “Fit to Print? Neither the Bush administration nor the NSA broke the law, so why did the New York Times break the story?” He writes the following:

SO WHY PUBLISH the story at all? The Washington Post published a behind-the-scenes look at the Times‘s editorial decision and found a couple of motivations for the decision to dust off the story which had been spiked during the election year. With the Patriot Act up for renewal, the current headlines finally provided a political context that would make the story a blockbuster–not because it describes illegal activity, but because it plays into fears about the rise of Orwellian Big Brother government from the Bush administration. The second impetus to publish came from the upcoming release of James Risen’s book, State of War, due to be released in less than a month.

It had to dismay the editors at the Times, then, when an angry President Bush came out the next day, the day after that, and the day after that to take personal responsibility for the NSA effort. Bush called the Risen/Lichtblau bluff. Had there been any scandal, the president would hardly have run in front of a camera to admit to ordering the program. He changed the course of the debate and now has the Times and his other critics backpedaling.

The timing and questionable news value of the story opens the question about the motivation of the Times‘s editors. Has the Times allowed its anti-Bush bias to warp its judgment so badly that it deliberately undermined a critical part of America‘s defenses against terrorist attack to try to damage the president?

Bottom line: The New York Times appears to have an anti-Bush bias. I guess there’s nothing new here after all.

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