Okay, here’s the deal: Liberal blogs are buzzing over NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell’s interview with NYTimes reporter James Risen, which was posted at MSNBC.com. Acording to left-wing Americablog, a transcript of the original interview was altered to remove a question from Mitchell that suggested the Bush administration was eavesdropping on CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour.
In a statement to TVNewser tonight, NBC explained why:
“Unfortunately this transcript was released prematurely. It was a topic on which we had not completed our reporting, and it was not broadcast on ‘NBC Nightly News’ nor on any other NBC News program. We removed that section of the transcript so that we may further continue our inquiry.”
Weird. Even weirder that the now-edited transcript makes no reference to the fact that Mitchell’s question about Amanpour was edited out to “continue their inquiry.”
I’m having trouble getting worked up about this. Even if the Amanpour story were true, which I doubt, it does not follow that this is one of the “great scandal stories of modern political history” as one blogger put it. If the NSA eavesdropped on Amanpour–and that is a huge if–it’s likely it did so because she was communicating with a suspected or known member of al Qaeda. No, I am not suggesting that Amanpour is herself a terrorist. But in the course of her reporting it’s possible she spoke with someone who is.
Bear in mind that such eavesdropping could be perfectly legal. If two people are located outside of the U.S., their communications with each other clearly fall outside the ambit of FISA as long as the device used to eavesdrop is located overseas (see Section 1801(f) of FISA). As Tom Maguire notes, Amanpour resides in London.
The Cindy Sheehan wing of the Democrat party may believe that NSA should forego legal opportunities to monitor phone calls between foreign-based al Qaeda operatives and foreign-based journalists. But I’m confident most Americans will disagree.
To me, the most troubling part of the story at this point, once again, is not the (possible) eavedropping but the (possible) leak. In the unlikely event that a government official blabbed about whom the NSA has monitored, he or she broke the law and should be prosecuted.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Mitchell soon receives a call from DOJ prosecutors. Mitchell hasn’t published a news story about the Amanpour matter, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be asked to reveal her sources.
Joe Gandelman has a thorough summary and round-up of analysis of the tempest.
Smash is “reserving judgement.”
McQ at Q&O:
The point lost here is, given the fact that certain reporters are known to have contacts on both sides of a conflict, it isn’t at all a stretch to wonder if in fact that might not be the case with Amanpour. And if it is, and if an international phone call she made to a known or suspected terror suspect was picked up by NSA, would the administration actually deny it?
I’d guess probably not. In fact, it might actually help instead of hurt the administration if that happened to be the case, given a portion of the population’s feelings about journalists in general.
So keep any eye on this little story as it develops.
I am having an easy time conjuring deeply untroubling scenarios in which Ms. Amanpour might have been spied upon. Of course, other scenarios are also possible.
Last thought: However this story plays out, NBC’s activities are troubling. First, it published what amounts to an unsubstantiated rumor. Then it edited the transcript to remove the unsubstantiated rumor but did not acknowledge it had done so. Only after bloggers got on the case did NBC acknowledge what it had done. Remember this incident the next time some media poohbah criticizes bloggers for publishing unverified information and speculation.
Update: Via Tom Maguire, CNN is reporting that the NSA did not target Amanpour:
A senior U.S. intelligence official told CNN Thursday that the National Security Agency did not target CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour or any other CNN journalist for surveillance.
Related: Apropos of the NSA story, Scott Johnson examines The Times and The Law and concludes:
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Is the New York Times a law unto itself? In gambling that constitutional immunity protects it from criminal liability for its misconduct, the New York Times appears to me to be bluffing. Those of us who are disinclined to remit the defense of the United States to the judgment of the New York Times must urge the Bush administration to call the Times’s bluff.
January 12, 2013 11:20 AM by Doug Powers
October 29, 2013 11:53 AM by Doug Powers
January 31, 2013 12:54 PM by Michelle Malkin
December 27, 2012 01:26 PM by Doug Powers
October 10, 2013 04:03 PM by Michelle Malkin