Today's revelations that the "President's Surveillance Program" was much broader than formerly reported is hardly shocking. Coupled with all of the other Bush era scandals that have been uncovered, partially uncovered, and those that have yet to be revealed, this one barely registers on our burnt out outrage-meters.

But there is something about this particular story that is unique. The media's own failure to report this matter timely may have handed reelection to George Bush.

More on the flip

The New York Times first reported the NSA's illegal wiretapping program on December 16, 2005. Now remember, the Times is purportedly the charter member of the "liberal media." So, of course, the criticism was strong. But in December 2005, things were already going poorly for Bush for the first time after 9/11.

Bush had been decisively turned around on his attempt to scrap Social Security. Hurricane Katrina happened. Then this scandal came out. This was all part of the beginning of the wave that broke on his ass in the 2006 elections.

The problem is, it should have broke before the 2004 election.

According to many sources, this one is the Los Angeles Times, NYT could have published the story before the 2004 election.

The New York Times first debated publishing a story about secret eavesdropping on Americans as early as last fall, before the 2004 presidential election.

But the newspaper held the story for more than a year and only revealed the secret wiretaps last Friday, when it became apparent a book by one of its reporters was about to break the news, according to journalists familiar with the paper's internal discussion.

IIRC, the initial reports were that the NYT had not learned of this before the 2004 election, only after. But the truth was they knew. And they didn't report it. That's old news. It's obvious that they were scared and didn't want to be criticized of affecting the election. But they assumed—wrongly—that they had the whole story and, gosh, it wasn't that bad. They were wrong and it has affected all of us.

We can't know if Bush would have been reelected anyway. We can't know if the report would have backfired and played into the Swiftboating. But, on the other hand, these revelations in the harsh light of a Presidential campaign may have led to the revelations that only came later coming out earlier, even those today.

I'm not writing this specifically to attack the NYT, but to ask: how many more reporters, federal workers—how many people are out there that could have blown the whistle sooner but were scared by Bush's "war on terror" rhetoric? How many are there still?

Originally posted to Attorney at Arms on Fri Jul 10, 2009 at 01:57 PM PDT.

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