Politics & Policy

Bill’s Secrets

Really, there are some things we just don't need to know.

No wonder we’ve chosen him to make what he called one of those “agonizing decisions” on what should be a security secret and what doesn’t really matter. Here’s a tiny excerpt of the latest Keller revelation, from the IHT’s version of the Times piece:

American officials, in urging The Times not to publish Friday’s article, expressed concerns that Swift, which has its headquarters in Brussels, could be prompted to pull out of the program if its role were revealed – particularly in light of sharp anti-American sentiments in parts of Europe [1].

A free footnote, too. [1] By “parts of Europe” the U.S.-based writers of this piece mean an area stretching roughly from Iceland to the Urals and from northern Lapland to Turkey, excluding Albania. By now even Times editors should know that to mention “U.S.” and “spying” in the same sentence in “parts of Europe” is to invite a reaction as mind-numbingly predictable as an Al Gore movie about global warming, but louder! And far more exciting! American newspapers are the Dumpsters of American security, and my, how the Europeans love to dive in.

The previous Times frijole-toss — announcing the brazen effrontery of the U.S. government in listening in on Qaeda-calls to sharia-law-abiding cronies in America — still animates discussions about European cooperation in the war on terror. The meaningless Council of Europe will forever rattle on — as in this report in the Swiss daily La Liberté (and echoed in this Guardian dispatch) — about Swiss parliamentarian Dick Marty’s evidence-free indictment of the CIA’s rendition flights and “secret prisons”; this of course was the Pulitzer Prize-winning product of the Washington Post, tarnished only slightly by lack of substantiation. Those allegations of course have now been accepted as near-fact by the Council in an act of parliamentary hysteria rightly and deftly attacked by Britain’s former Minister for Europe, Denis MacShane in the Wall Street Journal (for capitalist swine with expense-accounted subscriptions only):

Instead of this kind of counterproductive grandstanding, Mr. Marty, the Council of Europe and their friends at the European Parliament have the power to take a decisive step in the fight against against terrorism and jihadist ideology. They could support the abolition of banking secrecy in Switzerland and other European countries. Much of the funding of terror and its linked international criminality thrives on those numbered accounts, which neither Mr. Marty nor his fellow Swiss legislators ever campaign to abolish. Fighting for the human rights of those jihadis is apparently more important than fighting the jihadis themselves.

You obviously haven’t been reading your Times, Mr. MacShane. What kind of a country would Switzerland be if it treated murderous jihadis like murderers? (Answer: Israel.)

By mid-week, Libération, was telling its nervous readers not to worry: “Committee R” of the Belgian Senate would investigate what the paper called an “extension of [American] anti-terrorism laws to European territory with the passive complicity of local authorities…[which] violated European privacy laws.” As a service piece for Belgian Wahabists, Le Soir got into the spirit by publishing (.pdf alert) a “confidential” backgrounder on how Swift worked with the Americans, while Le Monde was quoting the director of the ACLU who was repeating what virtually every Euro-politician was saying: The whole thing was just “another example of the abuse of power by the Bush administration.”

Just in case revealing (after due agonizing, of course) national-security programs might be considered reckless, the press has been bending over backward to cover their asses (how else could you do it, really). The IHT carried the Times’s explanation no. 712 — that everybody knew about the financial monitoring anyway (“a generally open secret,” the paper’s headline called it), In defense of “one of the most outstanding newspapers in the whole world,” the Münchner Merkur rounded up opinion from the Washington Post and other papers that ran the story to reiterate that the security monitoring wasn’t exactly news, so what are conservatives worrying about? European readers have so far been spared Richard Clarke’s reiteration of Keller’s bizarre assertion that if conservatives think revealing national-security secrets in the daily paper is so damned “unpatriotic and dangerous,” then maybe they shouldn’t be “drawing so much attention to the story themselves by yelling about it on the airwaves and the Internet.” I never thought that much of the Times, either, but Bill! They pay you!

So, now, Bill, if this was a generally open secret everybody knew that wouldn’t even have been noticed if conservatives didn’t talk about it so much, could you explain again in terms simple enough for those of us with a sub-Pomona education to understand — why, exactly, did the Times run the story?

My explanation: You agree with me and my monk that life is generally simpler without secrets. So I say do what the other Times did and print ‘em all! First, why do we need to pay John Negroponte if we have Pinch paying you? And second, Bill: Briefs or boxers? (Don’t say commando, you dog! Nobody would fall for that!)


Rodent news. For all the lamentations for the suffering of the 400 martyrs of Guantanamo, you’d have thought this week’s Supreme Court decision would have filled the Euro-press with stories about dancing in the streets of downtown Gitmo. But no. At least at the time of writing, this story — about the re-introduction of voles along the River Dore — on the BBC’s news site was more popular than this one on the potential reintroduction of Gitmites to the Mideast mainstream.

Cosmic Joschka. It used to be that when synchronicity struck, I’d turn up the Fugs and go with the groove. Now I just click a lot: Reminded to do so by a piece in Captain’s Quarters, I was reading Davids Medienkritick’s cheesed-off take on former German foreign minister and champeen Yank-bashing ex-bourgeois “terrorist” Joschka Fisher when a note from a German reader, Nico Klaric, arrived to tell me about this Spiegel item, also mentioned by CQ, about Fischer’s low profile escape from Germany to Princeton just months after being given a prize for being a “leading European.” Fischer, you may recall, was one of the more odious Security Council America-haters. His position had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq — where Germany had its own interests to protect. It had to do with the German electorate: As Schroeder’s Goebbels, Joschka helped the left score huge political wins by fanning the flames of anti-Americanism until polls showed that most Germans considered American citizens to be “bloodthirsty.” Joschka thus joins a yearly exodus of some 160,000 well-educated Germans, 159,999 of whom are much younger than he is. Maybe Peter Singer will take him out to dinner and eat him.

Going down. What do Jacques Chirac’s popularity numbers and stock in the New York Times Company have in common? Call it “depth.” The support for the Chirac-Villpein combo has fallen so low, according to this item in Le Figaro, they had to dig a big hole in the middle of Paris, France, to make room for the results. As part of the stand-up routine Villepin will need when he takes his one-man Bill Maher tribute show on the road, the prime minister and self-published poet told Le Monde he doesn’t want to be president, even of France.

Denis Boyles is author of Vile France: Fear, Duplicity, Cowardice and Cheese.

Denis BoylesDennis Boyles is a writer, editor, former university lecturer, and the author/editor of several books of poetry, travel, history, criticism, and practical advice, including Superior, Nebraska (2008), Design Poetics (1975), ...


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