That the mainstream media are increasingly conservative and gossip-driven is not exactly news.
"Electrifying and oh-so vital." If that sounds like model Melania Knauss testifying about the sexual prowess of her former boyfriend, Donald Trump, guess again. It's the sound of R.W.
This article is adapted by permission from Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century (O'Reilly).
China Spying Story: All the Excuses Fit to Print
The words of the FBI inquisitor concerning his treatment of Wen Ho
Lee couldn't have been more chilling: "It seemed like the more times you
hit him upside the head, the more truth comes out; it's like a little
That totalitarian sentiment was cited uncritically by the New York
Times as the summation of the first part of a lengthy examination of the
two-year case, in which the newspaper's reporting played a driving role.
Both the government and the Times acted as if Wen Ho Lee was presumed
guilty of spying until proved innocent.
The "little kid" in question, is a 61-year-old PhD and a highly
regarded ex-Los Alamos scientist. A Taiwanese-born US citizen, Lee
never was charged with actually spying or passing secrets to any
government, but he was held for nine months under what the judge in the
case came to define as "extraordinarily onerous conditions of
Those conditions, dictated over the judge's objections by the Justice
Department under its power in such cases, included solitary confinement
in a constantly lit cell and full-chain shackles even during brief
moments of exercise or meetings with his attorneys. That barbaric
treatment ended only after nine months, when Reagan-appointed
conservative Chief US District Judge James A. Parker released Lee for
time served, severely rebuked the prosecutors for deceiving him with
their flimsy case and, in an unprecedented gesture, added "I sincerely
apologize to you, Dr. Lee, for the unfair manner you were held in custody
by the executive branch." Lee was exonerated of fifty-eight charges and pleaded
guilty to unlawful retention of classified documents.
As the New York Times now concedes, government prosecutors had only
the weakest case against Lee but hoped that the threat of life
imprisonment and the harsh jail conditions could be used to break the man
and obtain a confession to a crime of spying for China, of which there
was not a shred of solid evidence.
Although the government case "collapsed of its own light weight," as
the Times put it, employing curious physics, the newspaper has only
feebly touched on its own role in this case.
Particularly onerous was the newspaper's original hoary front-page
headline: "Breach at Los Alamos...China Stole Nuclear Secrets for
Bombs, U.S. Aides Say." The story went further: "Working with nuclear
secrets stolen from an American government laboratory, China has made a
leap in the development of nuclear weapons: the miniaturization of its
That was a reference to the W-88 warhead, but in the conclusion of its
recap, the Times concedes that many of the top scientists in the Energy
Department and the FBI since 1995 have "disagreed with the conclusion
that China, using stolen secrets, had built a weapon like the W-88." At
the same time, the newspaper conceded that there was nothing in the files
downloaded by Lee that would actually allow China to build such a weapon
and that "secrets" concerning its development are widely dispersed
throughout the defense industry.
The techniques for miniaturization are also well understood by former
scientists for the Soviet Union, who long ago developed such weapons and
whose talents are for sale on the world job market. Despite having
destroyed Lee's reputation with its uncritical ventilation of government
leaks, the Times seems bent on continuing the process. Its recent series
is larded with such references as: "According to a secret FBI report
recently obtained by the Times, Dr. Lee told agents . . . "
Isn't the government committing a more egregious violation of national
security by leaking information about secret computer codes--as it
apparently did to buttress its claims against Lee in the current New York
In the landmark 1971 Pentagon Papers case won by the New York Times
before the US Supreme Court, the Times asserted that it was merely
exercising rights guaranteed by the free press clause of the 1st
Amendment to print in toto a lengthy secret government study of US
actions in Vietnam. The same principle of fully sharing information with
the reader should apply to so-called secret documents obtained by the
Times in the Lee case so that we can make our own judgments.
But in its two years of reporting on the Wen Ho Lee case, the New York
Times has relied extensively on selected references to secret government
documents that smeared Lee, documents that Lee and the newspaper's
readers were not permitted to examine. Freedom of the press is presumably
for the benefit of the readers in general and of victims of government
abuse in particular. Yet the Times, as with many media outlets these
days, has perverted that freedom to justify its willful participation in
government manipulation of the news.
The New York Times has not yet come to grips with the enormity of its
betrayal of the principles of fairness that should govern a great
newspaper. What could be more basic to that obligation than the vigorous
protection of the right of any citizen, Taiwanese immigrants included, to
the presumption of innocence?
Media critics are more accustomed to pointing out problems than pointing to victories.
What will be remembered about the Administration of William
Jefferson Clinton is not the sniping attacks of his critics, but rather
his eight years of considerable achievement. The center held, the economy
flourished and those bent on a cultural civil war were kept at bay. If
George W. Bush does half as well, the Republicans will hail him as a
The two previous Republican administrations created more red ink than
all previous administrations combined, but the GOP still will not credit
Clinton with putting the federal budget dramatically in the black.
Nor can they, even now, admit that Newt Gingrich's reckless road map
known as the "contract with America" was a divisive prescription for
disaster. By stopping Gingrich in his tracks, Clinton at least
temporarily stalled the right-wing lurch that the new Bush Administration
seems hellbent on reviving.
Clinton leaves office with unprecedented high approval ratings because
he demonstrated that it's possible to have a progressive federal
government that cares for the needs of the people while bolstering,
rather than bankrupting, the economy.
He gained the allegiance of poor and minority voters because--despite
an ill-conceived welfare reform--his centrist policies contained
reassuring support for affirmative action, earned-income tax credits,
college scholarships, family leave for workers and other measures to
insure that their lives are not totally ruled by the anarchy of the
market and a legacy of societal inequality.
He had the support of a clear majority of those on the cutting edge of
economic change on both coasts because they shared his alarm at the
forces of intolerance, be they inspired by misguided references to
religion, family, patriotism or sexism.
He supported immigrants, who are the lifeblood of our prosperity, and
dared to suggest that homosexuals should be treated the same as any other
productive and law-abiding segment of our population.
In foreign affairs, Clinton left his mark as a peacemaker willing to
deal boldly with the seemingly intractable problems of Northern Ireland,
the Balkans and the Mideast, while easing trade and other barriers among
True, the jackals nipping at Clinton's heels from the days he
announced for the presidency got their pound of flesh. But it's Clinton
who triumphed. When Jackal-in-Chief Kenneth Starr popped up on one of
last Sunday's talk shows to judge the Clinton years an "unfortunate era,"
he must have been referring to his own miserable performance and not the
well-being of the nation.
At no time in our modern history has a president been subject to more
abuse for claimed offenses that primarily concerned his activities before
attaining office. A minor investment, in which he lost money, was blown
out of proportion by the most respectable quarters of the media.
Think of the public outrage now if that same effort were put into
digging up the dirt on the new President's past business dealings, let
alone the excesses of his previous personal life. Imagine if the Los
Angeles Times were to conduct in-depth interviews with disgruntled Texas
Rangers, as the newspaper did with Arkansas troopers who had guarded
Clinton as governor. Or if the New York Times were to launch a four-year
investigation of the claims of one of Bush's less happy former business
partners. Would CBS' 60 Minutes consider a show based on what Larry
Flynt's investigators unearthed concerning allegations about Bush's
personal behavior in the years before he was president?
Nope, because the media has a double standard. Intimidated by the
right-wing's absurd claim of a liberal bias, journalists tend to be hard
on Democrats while granting Republicans a free pass. When will one of
those pompous media moralizers admit that his or her personal life is as
messy as that of the President they spent eight years denigrating? And,
face it, those rich media superstars lust for Republican tax breaks for
the rich as much as anyone.
We now know more than we need to know about the personal lives of our
leaders. It's doubtful that any of our past heroes could have better
withstood the merciless scrutiny extended to Clinton. He was flawed in a
way that all too many of us are, but the love and success of his wife and
his daughter suggest that some basic family values were intact. Yes, he
was a product of the sixties, and thank God for his not being
Clinton's historical reputation will more than surmount the petty
complaints of contemporary critics and leave him remembered as one of the
hardest working, most competent, fundamentally decent and smartest men to
ever serve in the office. He was an excellent President.
After thirty years spent building the Federation of American Scientists into one of the country's most valuable and venerable institutional voices for peace, democracy and real security, Jeremy S
Isn't it curious how often the policy disaster that is posited as the thing that will never happen takes place within minutes?
Dentists and cardiologists warn their patients about plaque, harmful to both teeth and arteries.