The NSA Bill in the Mainstream Media vs. the Blogosphere

NSA3.jpgIn reading the mainstream media accounts, one would get the impression that Senator Specter’s NSA surveillance bill is a compromise with the Administration, a way to limit Executive power, and that the Administration is reluctantly capitulating to judicial oversight.

New York Times: “Bush Would Let Secret Court Sift Wiretap Process.” The article states that the “proposed legislation represents a middle-ground approach.”

Reuters: “Bush agrees to court review of spy program”

LA Times: “Bush Agrees to Review of Domestic Spying Program: The tentative proposal would let a secret court decide whether the NSA can eavesdrop on Americans without first obtaining warrants.”

Associated Press: “Bush Agrees to Eavesdropping Court Review”

Washington Post: “Bush Compromises On Spying Program: Senate Bill Would Permit Court Review”

How can it be that they all seem to have almost identical news stories? Did they all get together to write the same story? The content of these stories is quite similar — they all seem to be based largely on interviews with Specter and his staff. Occasionally, there’s a quick soundbite from Senators Leahy or Feingold, but by and large, the mainstream media accounts are remarkably the same. It is as if Senator Specter and the Bush Administration’s PR team had written the stories.

The articles barely contain a whiff of what the blogosphere contains, which paints a very different picture of Specter’s bill.

Orin Kerr: “Maybe I’m missing something, but my sense is that it largely tracks the David Addington/John Yoo approach to Article II; that is, it would have Congress back away from the claims to authority that Congress made in 1978 that the Administration has suggested it believes are unconstitutional because they infringe on the Commander-in-Chief power.”

Marty Lederman: “So what does Specter do in the wake of the momentous Hamdan decision, which put all the cards in Congress’s hands? He introduces a bill, with Administration blessing, that gives the Administration everything it ever wanted, and much, much more. Indeed, come to think of it, the Specter bill is basically the sort of legislation one would expect if the Supreme Court had just held that Congress is powerless to enact legislation constraining the President’s “inherent” war powers — something that not a single Justice in Hamdan so much as suggested.”

Steve Vladeck: “The bill is remarkable in a number of respects, including that it does not require the President to submit the [NSA surveillance program] to the FISA Court, but does require transfer of a whole host of other actions to the FISA Court, where proceedings are ex parte and often secret.”

Hmmm. So the Bush Administration agrees to do what the law already requires it to do. It’s like a bank robber agreeing to set up a legitimate bank account. But what’s more, the bill doesn’t even require the Administration to go to the FISA court; and it gives the Administration a ton of new powers. To return to the bank robber analogy, it’s like authorizing the robber to continue to steal if he wants to; and providing him with a special entrance to the bank and a personal set of keys to the vault.

Of course, the mainstream media need not be as extreme as I am in describing the bill, but perhaps just a tiny bit of balance might be in order. At least provide a more complete account of the bill, not one that comes with the incredible spin that Specter and the Administration have put on it. Perhaps consult an independent expert or two. I thought the media’s job is to do some independent reporting, not just copy down what they’ve been told. I guess I was wrong.

You may also like...

5 Responses

  1. Danny Glover says:

    “How can it be that they all seem to have almost identical news stories” — and that bloggers have a far different take?

    Because the MSM by and large still refuse to recognize bloggers as legitimate sources whose opinions are worth reporting as those in officialdom like Specter, etc. And that’s a shame, too.

    One good way to get appropriate balance in news stories is for journalists to broaden the scope of who they contact for comment. Maybe one of these days my colleagues in the press will show a little more initiative and stop calling the same three or four officials and three or four talking heads. Until they do, the stories are going to continue sounding largely the same.

  2. Doug H. says:

    Lazy, herd mentality reporting from the MSM? Are you truly surprised?

    I think you hit on an important point: expertise. Most journalists not only don’t have the expertise to accurately assess these types of stories, they also don’t recognize who the real experts are.

  3. Benjamin Weatherwax says:

    Marty Lederman has two more brilliant posts this morning (Sat, July 15) over at Balkinization, taking apart a Time Magazine story and a disconnect at the Washington Post.

  4. As you’ve noted, it would be nice if Specter’s bill even required the Administration to observe the law already on the books, but it goes FAR beyond that by also providing for consolidation of any private suits in a court most friendly to Bushco, besides other obsequious provisions. For instance, recognizing the autocratic impetus inherent in those “unitary executive” Art. II arguments without any semblance of Congress having looked very carefully into it. And that’s not all.

    Roll over & play dead, Arlen. It’s Xmas in July–a fire sale, or somethin’ for the separation of powers doctrine & democratic government–& George goes home with a big bagful of new toys.

    I can’t even express how disgusted I am. Is this America or a 3rd world country? Moreover, it saddens, but does not surprise, me that bloggers caught on before the media did. The one thing that keeps me blogging is the chance, however, remote, that someone in the Capitol will take note of the news analysis & critiques coming from the blogosphere generally.

  5. NOTR says:

    OMG! The NSA might read our blogs too! Oh the horror! 🙂