Friday, January 06, 2006

Question of the Day...Pour Christiane

Barely throw a blog in the fire, these days, to warm the place up when, lo and behold, there's another story about a journalist on the gallows. Pour Christiane, guess she's not Christian enough to be tamper-proof.

No doubt, you've heard the report that the NSA has been spying on Amanpour, a CNN regular, as revealed in a recent book by New York Times reporter James Risen. The turbulence began when NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell asked Risen directly, in an interview on NBC, if he had any knowledge that the government was, in fact, eavesdropping on the CNN reporter.
The entire transcript of the Mitchell-Risen interview appeared on MSNBC's Web site, which was edited, and the question about the NSA playing "I Spy" with Christiane "disappeared."
Rebuked for removing critical parts of the interview, NBC released what can only be called a bizarre statement: "We removed that section of the transcript so that we may further continue our inquiry."

From where I sit, the question isn't so much about whether or not a reporter was spied on by her government (ahem, that's right, the U.S. government), senior CNN correspondent John Ensor's explanation that "from time to time" mistakes "inadvertently" happen, and "wiretaps overseas or other intercepts" may include American citizens, as well as members of the American media, but whether the comfort level of a well-respected news correspondent with his government's dubiously legal, but nevertheless federal, policy of surveillance is something that bears examination. Also, by extension, is it okay for portions of an official transcript to be removed without explanation, and explanation provided only under duress? Clearly, to err on the side of caution with respect to providing concrete evidence is always a good thing. We saw, earlier this week, how painful it can be when erroneous information gets broadcast widely. That said, can citizens of a so-called democracy, whether we be members of the press or otherwise, afford to be that nonplussed by the covert, and undesired, attentions of our elected representatives?