Sunday, January 01, 2006

Memo from NY Times to Confidential Sources: You're Toast

Memo from: Bill Keller, Executive Editor The New York Times
To: Our Confidential Sources
re: Screwed, Blued & Tattooed. Sorry.

Gentlemen:

The dozen of you have been of inestimable value to the New York Times and I want you to know that we, the reporters, editors and shareholders, appreciate it. Your willingness to talk with us a year ago about your concerns surrounding NSA eavesdropping on Al Qaida conversations with their operatives in our homeland is evidence of how highly you value a free press.* It's a value we share with you and with all enlightened Americans living within our circulation footprint.

Your willingness to share highly classified information with Jim and Eric before taking it through the normal channels for internal complaints within NSA, CIA and Justice or even up to the congressional oversight committees was commendable. It allowed you to be effective, which as we all know is extremely difficult when one is in a minority position.

You helped us bring fresh light on this Administration's total disregard for American values, in that what is not explicitly legal is by definition illegal when the Administration is conservative. You showed up all those petty people who disagreed with your position, they'll be facing months of hearings and visits with their lawyers while attempting to defend a really useless attempt at defense. Talk about a win/win. Wow!

Even more, though. You can look forward to the day when the program itself is cancelled, thanks to your efforts. As it becomes less effective—I mean, you'd have to be a pretty dense terrorist to continue to depend on phone calls after this!–and the pain of running this formerly covert exercise increases what with the hearings and all, well… it's just natural that it will quietly fade away. Thanks to you!

So, let me pat you on the back and add my "atta boy!" to the congratulations I'm certain you're already enjoying from so many of your friends and neighbors who've heard your story.

Which is a pretty good segue, really, into some really not very important small detail that Punch and our lawyers suggested that I should share with you, confidentially. You'll remember that a year ago Jim and Eric swore that they'd never reveal your names to anyone, other than the six of us here in the newsroom of the Paper of Record? Well, they really meant it; we take these things very seriously, let me tell you.

Well, anyway. When they swore secrecy to you, that was a year ago. Then we dropped the story for a while. We had some legal issues we wanted to cover, to make sure the NYT was CYA, you might say. We also wanted to make sure that the free press* thing worked out optimally. And Jim has a book coming out, too, and around here that's sacrosanct. Writing books for six figure advances is more important than health insurance as a fringe benefit of being an alpha male at the Paper of Record.

Well, anyway. As I was saying, we talked it over. First with the attorneys, of course, and then amongst ourselves, just the 12 or 14 in the newsroom and down at the reception desk and on the dock who know your names. We actually took a little poll, we call it the Judy Miller poll, though I'm not sure how that name stuck. You've heard of her? She went to jail for 90 days or so on a nothing story, nothing like this!, and then spilled her guts to the prosecutor. She was quite the hero. Well not hero. Not heroine, either. Well, it's a long story and I don't need to trouble you with the boring details. The important thing is that we hear at The New York Times have learned our lesson in the past year, since we made all those promises, since you thought the story tanked, and you probably quit thinking about it every day, and puking your guts out every night wondering what was going to happen and nothing happened and you relaxed and thought nobody would know and no need to hire counsel or prepare the little lady for the thought of a lengthy absence because you had talked about what the NSA was doing during a time of real war.

Well, anyway guys. Here it is, the bottom line: Of the couple of dozen people here at The NYT who know your names, your addresses or your phone numbers, only one is willing to actually go to jail rather than talk to the investigator that W's damnably partisan Department of Justice has just appointed to investigate whether whoever spilled the beans on the most classified aspects of the GWOT actually was treasonous in time of war or only engaged in what Chuck Schumer called it this morning, a little "overly exuberant whistleblowing." The vote was actually a little worse than the numbers indicate, not that it matters when you're in the minority. The single volunteer for jail was one of our reporters who is slated for layoff in our current cost-cutting cycle; he views an extended stay in the slammer as a pretty god way to stay on the payroll for longer than would otherwise be the case.

You can't imagine how badly I feel about this, guys. But, as you know s**t happens.

We have taken some steps to ameliorate the situation and I'd like to outline for you, again in complete confidence.

First, we've already spoken with both our Senators. Boy, were they upset! The outright politics that the Administration is bringing to the table on this has really got them going. But, there's good news. In the short run, our senior senator is really pushing the "whistleblower" concept and he figures it's starting to resonate amongst the reasonable and intelligent people on his side of the aisle. This will work to our advantage in that it will lessen the number and volume of the politicians mouthing the phrase "death penalty."

This is good.

Our junior senator, who as you know has a terrific possibility opening for her next year, has also shown her support. I don't think it would be unreasonable for you to be thinking "Christmas Pardon" at the end of her first year in office. I know that we here at The New York Times would certainly support that approach. We'd do anything, anything at all to support the free press* that has come to mean so much to all of us editors, reporters and shareholders at The New York Times. I bet we could get the Washington Post and Newsweek to help, too. You can have a lot of confidence in this. I don't know anyone who isn't planning to vote for her.

Finally, I can't promise this, but there is a chance, just a chance, that we could be talking Presidential Medal of Freedom when all is said and done. Wouldn't that be great? Years from now, when we're all sitting around talking about what we did in the GWOT, you could stand right up there in the first row, right alongside we ink-stained members of the free press* and truthfully say that you helped end it.

So, my friends, best wishes in 2006. It will be a great year for you. We all support you. We appreciate you. Good job. Sorry.

-- Bill


* Free Press, the standard by which we and all intelligent and emotionally mature people of similar suasion simultaneously support our values, our freedoms and our jobs while doing good to others less fortunate.

Update: Captain Ed sees More Desperation at The Grey Lady

Update: Michelle Malkin sums it up in How The New York Times is Ringing in 2006

Update: John Hinderaker at Power Line explains how the law really works.

Update further: Tigerhawk talks ethics, though it may be too late.

Likely Final Update, the book is out and JustOneMinute speaks volumes.

1 comment:

Billy Hank said...

Clever and soon to be playing at a Grand Jury near you.