Newspaper Ethics and Intelligence

NO LOVE POEMS

U.S. intelligence officials are said to be perturbed that the New York Times in recent days published the name of a former CIA official involved in the interrogation of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other terrorists.

This after CIA Director Michael V. Hayden and other agency officials told the Times they would be putting the individual and his family at risk if they did so, this columnist is told.

In an "editor’s note," the newspaper said they "seriously considered" the agency’s request, but "judged that the name was necessary for the credibility and completeness of the article."

The Times also said they printed the name "in view of the experience of other government employees who have been named publicly in books and published articles or who have themselves chosen to go public."

Intelligence officials have scoffed at the newspaper’s reasoning. "They decided to put people at risk," said my source. "Using the full name was not essential. It was reckless and arrogant on their part."

Otherwise, some officials are saying certain points of the article should be viewed with skepticism. For example, they say Mohammed never wrote poems to the former agency officer’s wife, a claim that is made in the Times’ article.

ODD MAN OUT

Being a bodyguard to visiting Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas carries its privileges almost all would agree.

This columnist in recent days spotted the foreign head of state happily dining on sweet-and-sour rib salad and baked grouper at a Washington restaurant under the watchful eye, or so it was learned later, of six bodyguards inconspicuously doing the same throughout the dining room. A seventh member of the protective detail drew the short straw and posted himself out front.

Mr. Kirkilas was in town, in part, to present Heritage Foundation distinguished fellow Lee Edwards, the force behind of the new Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, with the prestigious Lithuanian Millennium Star.

HOLD THE BOXERS

Washington lawyer Christopher C. Horner passes along a humorous story surrounding his visit in recent days to Brooks Brothers clothiers on Connecticut Avenue Northwest.

"I proceed to browse sale items when a distinguished gentleman, dapper and purposeful as Brooks’ sales force should be, strides directly toward me," Mr. Horner begins. "Not a fan of the pushy types, and nonetheless loyal to Leah, who has efficiently taken care of me for years, I vibe him off with an askance, ‘How you doing?’

"Undeterred, he sidles up and busily attends to the same table, then engages in a colloquy with another well-dressed gent, involving one of them going downstairs to check for a certain size. I’m a little unclear at this point as to who is serving whom. So I asked the pair of them if they’d take a look for a 38×34 in khaki, too.

"The one in my space stared at me like I’d ordered a Pomerol with my quiche. The other nodded, and politely said, ‘I’ll be back momentarily, Mr. President.’ I appreciate respectful service but that seemed a bit over the top. But the first ‘salesman’ seemed to appreciate it. I think it was an inside joke because he really looked like former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing.

"Not much help, though. He never did get me those pants. I nearly gave him a pile of underwear to hold at checkout for me."

An official at the French Embassy in Washington confirmed that Mr. d’Estaing was in Washington for talks surrounding Iraq.

LIFE OUTSIDE

It appears a new generation of Americans living outside the ring around the nation’s capital do not wish to defile their automobiles with political bumper stickers, let alone discuss politics.

Steve A. Brown, a Washington-area resident, writes to say that he has just concluded a 5,157-mile road trip to 13 Western states, during which he spotted a mere "five expressions in the form of bumper stickers. Four were for Sen. [Barack] Obama and one for Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate."

"I did not hear any discussion of the presidential election either," he adds. "If the people I encountered are a representative of the nation outside the Beltway, politics is not a staple. I did not hear anyone discussing District of Columbia v. Heller [the Supreme Court ruling invalidating the D.C. gun ban], Kennedy v. Louisiana [no death penalty for child rapists] or Boumediene v. Bush [constitutional rights for detainees]."

MUCH CLOSER

Despite presidential polls of recent days giving Sen. Barack Obama anywhere from a 12 to 15 point lead over Sen. John McCain, one leading Democratic pollster’s findings released this past weekend at the 2008 Aspen Ideas Festival give the Illinois Democrat "a slight" lead less than four months and counting until Election Day.

Douglas E. Schoen, who advised and conducted research for President Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign, finds Mr. Obama holds "a slight, but clear lead" over the Republican Mr. McCain.

Asked specifically who they would support if the presidential election were held today, 47 percent of voters said Mr. Obama, with 42 percent backing Mr. McCain.

Interestingly, both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain boasted nearly identical favorability ratings, 54 percent and 53 percent, respectively. Nonetheless, 51 percent of those polled indicated a preference for a Democrat, while only 35 percent care to deposit another Republican in the White House to follow President Bush.

SENOR OBAMA

It’s being dubbed a "convention first" [-] the entire 2008 Democratic National Convention simulcast gavel-to-gavel in Spanish for the approximately 35 million Americans who now identify Spanish as their primary language.

"We set out to bring down the walls and make this year’s historic convention as inclusive and accessible to as many people as possible," explains Leah Daughtry, CEO of the Denver convention, to be held August 25-28.

GREEN SEATS

Colorado-bound Democrats who demonstrate the highest level of commitment to offsetting their carbon footprint while attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver will receive special rewards, including priority seating on the floor of the Pepsi Center, announces House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Meanwhile, in order to save paper, the entire convention registration process is being handled online; 68 percent of the convention staff is currently walking, biking or taking public transit to work every day; and 100 percent of the Democrats’ employees are using compact fluorescent light bulbs.

KEEPS ON GIVING

The long-deceased daughter of a 19th-century president has given President Bush with a unique present on his 62nd birthday, or so we learn from the White House pool report.

The birthday gift presented Sunday night is described as "a simple wooden box made from a giant oak tree that fell on the White House lawn in 2007 (planted by Benjamin Harrison’s daughter in 1892): some of the wood had been sent to Texas to be fashioned into a small box (one and half feet by one foot) that was filled with notes and cards from members of his senior staff."

IMPOSSIBLY POSSIBLE

"The most impossible idea that you will hear during your time here … is the one that puts trust and respect in our government."
     —
 Lawrence Lessig, professor of law at Stanford Law School and founder of the school’s Center for Internet and Society, speaking at this week’s opening ceremonies of the 2008 Aspen Ideas Festival.

SOLDIER’S LESSONS

"It’s disheartening to see that cigarettes are big sellers in Iraq," writes Stan Welli of Aurora, Ill., who had read our recent item about stimulants being the preferred items purchased by the U.S. troops deployed in Iraq.

Based on information supplied by the U.S. Army and Air Force Exchange Service, so-called "energy drinks" Monster and Red Bull were the top-selling items purchased in June at Iraqi base exchanges (BX) and post exchanges (PX), with troops knocking back 284,482 and 78,753 caffeine-laden cans, respectively.

Meanwhile, Newport Kings and Marlboro Lights were the sixth- and eighth-biggest sellers and the most popular of any non-liquid items — with nearly 105,000 packs purchased last month.

Says Mr. Welli: "When I was in the Army, the old-timers gave me advice which can be summarized as: ‘Don’t go airborne, don’t get a tattoo, and don’t start smoking, kid!’ I followed the first two warnings but ignored the last one. Thus, I smoked for 22 years, spending the last 21 trying to quit."

PRISON POLITICS

"The Virginia Department of Corrections has neither censored or inspected this item and assumes no responsibility for its content."

So reads red lettering stamped across an envelope mailed to Inside the Beltway by Jeff Lisanick, prisoner No. 176124.

The last time Lisanick sat down in his cell and wrote to this columnist was in February 2006, after Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a Republican campaign contributor while on a quail hunt in South Texas:

"Your column item on the differences between ‘buck shot’ and ‘bird shot,’ headlined ‘Bird Brains,’ got me to thinking: Although Vice President Dick Cheney has said he won’t run for president, if he ever changed his mind, he’d have a great slogan: ‘The Buck Shot Stops Here.’"

The political landscape, obviously, has changed dramatically since Lisanick last wrote. Mr. Cheney, of course, is not seeking the presidency, even though he is five years younger than presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain.

"Now that Barack Obama has sewn up the Democratic nomination, let’s see if liberals are true to their principles," Lisanick writes in long-hand, curious in his captivity whether sufficient numbers of supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will show up at the polls to elect Mr. Obama president.

"After all, aren’t they the grand purveyors of identity-politics, with Hillary Clinton getting the woman vote and Obama getting the black vote?" he asks.

BARE THE GUARDS

Britain’s Prince Charles is getting purrs from the U.S.-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) after banning foie gras from royal menus and instructing chefs at his official residences to stop serving the delicacy.

"Good for you, Charlie!" PETA writes. "Now what about the bearskins on your mother’s guards’ hats?"


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