Sunday, July 12, 2009

# Posted 9:35 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NYT VS. WaPo: THE CHENEY ANGLE. Like Dorian and Kathy, I'm fascinated by the story of a secret counterror program hidden from Congress by the CIA. When the NYT first reported the story, a big part of the splash was the suggestion that Dick Cheney gave "direct orders" to hide the program from Congress. Yet the WaPo has clearly chosen to downplay that aspect of the story. The article in the Post doesn't mention Cheney until its fifth paragraph, which reports,
The New York Times, on its Web site, reported yesterday that Panetta has told the committees that Vice President Richard B. Cheney gave the order to keep the information from Congress. The newspaper cited unnamed sources.
To be more precise, the Times quoted "two people with direct knowledge of the matter."

What's very interesting about these two people is that they let the Times know there was a secret program, that Congress was not informed, and that Cheney had something to do with it. Yet not a word about the nature of the program. Why? If you're already going to tell journalists half the story about top secret programs, why hold back the other half? My spider-sense is tingling. My instinct is similar to John McCain's (see here): “If I know Washington, this is the beginning of a pretty involved and detailed story."

As Dorian noted in his second post, the WaPo added a key piece to the puzzle, when it quoted a "senior intelligence official" who "said the program remained in the planning stages and never crossed the agency’s threshold for reporting to the administration and congressional overseers." If that's correct, there may not be so much air in this story's tires. This comment also seems to jibe with the NYT's reporting that the program "never became fully operational, involving planning and some training that took place off and on from 2001 until this year."

I think this story's momentum will really depend on what the nature of this secret program actually was. If it isn't something controversial, something that really gets passions going on both sides, then this will become a bureaucratic story about what precisely crosses the CIA threshold for Congressional reporting.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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What I find most interesting is that they are continuing the secrecy even while complaining about the secrecy. I think the real story is about the Obama Administration's attempt to have it both ways--redicule the Bush Administration for doing something they intend to keep on doing themselves (same as many other Bush policies).
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