Accuracy in Media

In response to my criticism of a former CIA official for making vague allegations about unnamed journalists being targeted by the NSA surveillance program, that official, Philip Giraldi, has come forward to claim that he has a secret source inside the NSA.

Giraldi tells me, “My column was based on reliable information that came from an NSA employee who was in a position to know what he was talking about. I could not use his name for obvious reasons and he did not identify the reporters involved though he described them-reporters who were working on stories on terrorism and were talking on the phone to their contacts overseas.”

Despite the vague nature of these charges, I have responded that the NSA official who provided this information to him broke the law, and that he may have violated the law by publishing it.

When a former CIA official makes the charge that journalists were targeted in the program, that virtually guarantees more critical coverage. You can’t blame journalists for reacting with outrage at the idea that they may be under surveillance because they’re merely trying to do stories about terrorism. But the problem is that none of them is named. Giraldi’s secret source won’t name names. So the secret source has secret names.

Apparently it’s objectionable for President Bush to scare people about the threat posed by terrorists, but it’s fine for a former CIA official to scare journalists about the alleged threat posed by President Bush and the NSA. This is not his intention, but that is the effect.

Giraldi, who says the Iraq war was a “war of choice” and therefore avoidable, told the recent Conservative Political Action Conference that he opposes military action against Iraq as well. He believes any threat from Iran can be contained.

He describes himself as a traditional conservative Republican but has emerged as a strong Bush critic who writes the “Deep Background” articles for Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative magazine and works for Cannistraro Associates, headed by another former CIA official, Vincent Cannistraro, whose bio says that he “arranged the 1998 ABC interview with Usama bin Laden through his contacts in Saudi Arabia.”

This struck me as somewhat scary. After all, Bin Laden had declared war on the U.S. in 1996.

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