Civil Rights and Liberty
Updated August 19, 2007
On December 16, 2005 in a now well-known article, NY Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau exposed a three-year old program authorized by George W. Bush, in which the National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropped on "hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants." "Nearly a dozen current and former officials" were concerned enough about the program's legality and lack of oversight to discuss it with the Times.
As reported by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, Bush had "summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story." Bush's concern, Alter suggested, was not that public discussion of the program "is helping the enemy," as he claimed. (Many American Muslims suspected that the government might be monitoring their communications long before the Times story was published.) Rather, Alter wrote, Bush was "desperate to keep the Times from running this important story ... because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker." (The Times acknowledged that it delayed publication of the story for a year to "conduct additional reporting," and also omitted some "information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists.")