Friday, March 09, 2007

Anonymity Squared Digest

In which I compare and attempt to contrast the Washington Post and the Bush administration


John Solomon and Barton Gellman
declare that they have granted anonymity to Bush administration officials speaking with the permission of their superiors.

"But senior officials, speaking with permission on the condition that they not be identified, "

I thought such an action was forbidden by the Washington Post's rules for granting anonymity (which must mean I am ignorant about Post policy). It certainly should be. I have not removed relevant context from Solomon and Gellman's non explanation of why they granted anonymity. They did not bother to give any explanation let alone justification for their decision or for the request for anonymity.

They remind me of someone. As noted by Glenn Greenwald, Bush doesn't always try to hide the fact that he is breaking the rules set by congress. The NSA warrentless wiretaps show that he does break the law in secret, but, more often he does so openly declaring his criminal intent in signing statements

Solomon and Gellman do politely refute an attempt at deception by an anonymous sourcewho cited an anonymous squared source

FBI and Justice Department officials have long described national security letters as an indispensable tool in combating terrorism, and Fine's report, according to one official who cited excerpts, said investigators told the inspector general that the letters "contributed significantly to many counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations." Fine did not make an independent assessment of the efficacy of the letters as investigative tools.
The source clearly attempted to claim that the report also implies that the letters are useful. This is based on the claims of un named "investigators" who are the anonymous source's anonymous sources. As far as I can tell, the anonymous source did not dicuss possible motives for the anonymous^2 sources assertion. There is now way to know if they were people attempting to justify their misconduct. Note, for example, that the transcript of trials include arguments made by the prosecutor even if the accused is found innocent. An anonymous source can always claim that an un-named participant in a trial resulting in aquital said that guilt had been proved. That would be the prosecutor.

So we see that Solomon and Gellman are perfectly capable of understanding that their anonymous sources claim based on his or her anonymous sources is to be dismissed. Perhaps this is a hint to the reader to irnore their paraphrase of anonymous sources demanding anonymity while declaring that they are " speaking with permission." Perhaps their aim is to show how gross is the Bush administration's abuse of anonymity. Perhaps President Bush's sole aim is to finally convince Americans that constitutional safeguards are really needed and none of us is safe if we don't protect the rights of the accused and marinalised.

I am dismayed that my only defence of The Washington Post is to argue, with Lenin, that "the worse it is the better it is."

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