Bloggers respond to reports that the Bush administration has been monitoring American bank accounts. Warren Buffett’s stock goes up, while news on prewar intelligence only gets worse.
Follow the money: A Page One story in the New York Times on Friday revealed a federal program that has been tracking the banking transactions of potential terrorists since 2001. President Bush called the Times’ disclosure potentially harmful to national security. Times Executive Editor Bill Keller penned an open letter explaining that the government’s arguments against publication—that international banks would stop cooperating and that terrorists would change tactics—were not compelling compared to the “public interest.”
Captain Ed at Captain’s Quarters calls the piece “a ridiculously laughable story that tells us absolutely nothing we didn’t already know in concept.” Hugh Hewitt charges that the public interest “is not [Keller’s] to judge as against the laws passed by Congress, signed by presidents and interpreted by courts.”
Many bloggers suspect ulterior motives. The former liberal behind Neo-neocon calls the Times’ move a ploy to relive the “glory days” of the Pentagon Papers. KT Cat, the “marketer by trade” at The Scratching Post smells a “marketing effort” by the Times to pull up its sagging stock: “I suggest that the NYT is hoping, praying, begging the Bush administration to take them to court.” “National security be damned,” writes Stephen Spruiell at National Review Online’s Media Blog. “There are Pulitzers to be won.”
Conservative Scott Johnson at Power Line takes a break from Keller-bashing to upbraid the real perpetrators: the anonymous government sources. “[The administration] should promptly call Keller, Risen, Lichtblau et al. before a grand jury in which they are asked to identify their sources and given the Judith Miller treatment when they refuse,” he writes.
Dan Kennedy at Media Nation has a few quibbles with Keller but is more supportive: “[T]he mere fact that he believes journalists must explain themselves to the public shows how deeply the notion of transparency has taken root.”
Meanwhile, New York Rep. Peter King demanded a criminal investigation of the Times for letting “its own arrogant, elitist, left-wing agenda” jeopardize American lives. “Nobody elected the New York Times to anything,” he said. David Weigel at Reason magazine’s blog Hit and Run responds: “You could nitpick and point out that the Constitutional Convention and all 50 states have voted to protect the Times by rejecting any abridgement of ‘the freedom of speech, or of the press.’ But who knows better—them or the voters of (half of) Nassau County, New York?”
Bills for Bill: Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and the world’s second-wealthiest man, plans to turn over the majority of his $44 billion fortune to five charitable organizations, including $30 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Buffett puts a rare smile on bloggers’ faces. Sociology professor and Minnesotan Christopher Uggen calls the donation a “Buffett-like move.” “Mr. buffett is a boring old midwestern value investor, who famously stayed in his cheap li’l house in Omaha as his wealth skyrocketed,” he writes. “He’s shockingly devoid of the sort of ego that trips many of us up.” Blogger Tim Worstall writes that Buffett’s recent decision not to start a family trust “changes my opinion” of the magnate: “Given the vagaries of U.S. tax law, [family charities] perpetuate rather than diminish the value of inherited wealth. … Putting the dosh into the Gates Foundation is a very different kettle of fish.”
Wanderley, a commenter at Dvorak Uncensored, wonders why Buffett didn’t just donate his money directly: “Everybody knows that charities add overhead. By adding a ‘middle man,’ Mr. Buffett threw away maybe as much as 50 cents for every dollar.” (In Slate, Daniel Gross explains just how Buffet is avoiding this concern.) James Joyner at Outside the Beltway lauds Buffett’s decision to give the bulk of his money to the Gateses instead of the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named after his late wife and a sponsor of Planned Parenthood, among other organizations. “I’d certainly rather see the money used to help sick kids instead of abortion activism,” he writes.
Read more about Buffett’s donation.
WMD-ception: The CIA’s ex-European operations chief says he repeatedly warned the Bush administration before the Iraq war that allegations that Saddam harbored “secret germ factories” came from an unreliable source, according to a Washington Post front-pager. After Tyler Drumheller cut a passage from Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations in Janurary 2003, it reappeared in the final, flawed version.
The revelation confirms that the administration’s prewar rhetoric was not a matter of “lies” but “a near-perfect indifference to the truth,” writes Matthew Yglesias at TPM Cafe. Ray McGovern at the liberal TruthOut argues that Drumheller would have come forward earlier if the government offered protection for whistle-blowers. “It takes no little courage to come forward at the risk of ostracizing yourself … and making yourself vulnerable to the ‘Joe-Wilson’ treatment.”
Steve Benen at the liberal The Carpetbagger Report rejects claims that the report is old news: “I agree that policymakers should emphasize looking ahead, but Drumheller’s insights are not only devastating for the Bush White House, they’re also compelling evidence of an intentional fraud perpetrated by the administration to lie their way into a war.”
Read more about Drumheller’s early warnings.