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When Bush begged the Times


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Scott Johnson

August 6 2017

 

Yesterday in “Is the Times a law unto itself?” I wrote that President Bush begged then New York Times managing editor Bill Keller not to publish the Pulitzer Prize-winning story by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau disclosing the existence of the National Security Agency’s Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP). Bush made his plea at a meeting with Keller, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and then Times Washington bureau chief Philip Taubman on December 5, 2005. The Times rejected Bush’s plea and posted the story online on December 15, 2005.

Lichtblau recounts a related meeting in a book excerpt posted here. Michael Hayden discusses the TSP and his several meetings with the Times in chapters five and six of his memoir Playing to the Edge. This is how President Bush recalled the December 5 meeting in Decision Points:

“The New York Times is on the surveillance story again,” Steve Hadley told me in December 2005. The previous year, the Times had considered running a story exposing the TSP. Condi and Mike Hayden had talked the paper out of revealing the key elements of the program

 

(Snip)

 

I was disappointed in the Times and angry at whoever had betrayed their country by leaking the story. The Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into the disclosure of classified information. As of the summer of 2010, nobody had been prosecuted.

NOTE: General Hayden adds that Department of Justice lawyer Thomas Tamm, someone not “read into” the program, revealed himself to be a key source for the Times story in December 2008, but “since Justice did not pursue the investigation into the leak, whatever other sources Risen and Lichtblau had remain unknown.”

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