It might be that embarrassed forces within the government have been pushing opposition research on the leaker and reporters, but they hardly needed to. From the outset, the Beltway nose was attracted towards the tabloid version of events. And from the outset, it had been pretty much decided among the pundit class that for someone to have reported this thing was even fishier than the extremely fishy thing being reported on.
Why? Just because the tabloid version is easier to produce, and digest? We know only the bare minimum of the government programs involved, but it's much easier to have an opinion on the leaker's girlfriend or on whether someone is a legitimate reporter or a mere interloper in punditry's typically more puffy, stylized game, so there's no doubt that if you have hours of airtime to fill it's much simpler on the noggin to ponder the personalities involved than to, say, wonder whether or not there might be an identified apparatus of government has contravened all of those long-cherished, supposedly sacred Constitutional protections using only the most implausible of fig leafs. But it's not just because it's easier to speculate on the leakers. As you can see below the fold, there's something worse involved.
On Meet the Press yesterday, shortly after host host David Gregory stunned many by suggesting that The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald should face prosecution, a roundtable of pundits discussed the unfolding Edward Snowden story. Mike Murphy, one of the Meet the Press pundits, mocked Snowden’s attempt to seek asylum, calling him a “so-called whistleblower,” and charging that “it’s never been easier in human history to be a whistleblower” through official means. [...]That's not laziness. That's journalistic crookedness. When you go out and fetch insights on a government leaker from a political "strategist" that just happens to make his very living from the cash cow being leaked, while hiding that rather salient fact from the audience, that isn't sloppiness or a minor oops moment in the ol' NBC news studios: That's being crooked. Flat out. That's inviting the wolf into the studio to give his opinion on whether or not the sheep need to be worried. Honestly, I don't even know how you get there.
But Murphy himself has a stake in this debate that arguably ought to have been disclosed. Though Murphy was introduced only as a “Republican strategist,” he is also the founding partner of Navigators Global, a lobbying firm that represents one of the NSA’s largest contractors. Disclosures show that Navigators Global represents Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) on issues before Congress. For at least a decade, CSC has won major contracts from the National Security Agency (NSA). Murphy’s firm has lobbied on behalf of CSC for bills that would expand the NSA’s reach, including the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act or CISPA, which passed the House of Representatives earlier this year. As the Center for Democracy and Technology noted, the “legislation is being billed as an expansion of a collaboration between the National Security Agency (NSA) and major ISPs dubbed the Defense Industrial Base Pilot.”
To quote every mechanic ever: There's your problem. It's not laziness, or sloppiness, or an inherent need of very shallow people to reduce every story to being shallow enough for even them to understand. It's that the voices opining on what goes on in government and which people, programs, and claims from that government ought to be trusted are members of the very goddamn institutions they are punditizing on. And it's so very, very ingrained into the very personality of the "press," the Beltway press, the specific subset of the Beltway press that interviews the big names and appears on television to tell you what you do or do not need to know about those names that it does not even rate mentioning.
How is that not remarkable? How is "Oh, we have got a fellow here commenting on a whistleblower who has an explicit and very large career stake in this whistleblower being dismissed as a crackpot" not something that comes up? And when it does come up, how is it that it still seems a perfectly fine idea?
It seems just another part of the impressive new (well, old) devotion to crookedness on the part of the new (well, old) American upper class. On Wall Street, the only concern over cheating a so-and-so or a million different so-and-sos is not whether the thing is illegal, but whether the profits available by breaking the law will offset any punishment for doing so. (Tip: It almost always does, and if it doesn't you can probably have the law changed to accommodate it.) Within the halls of Congress (and the press, but I practically repeat myself), the question of whether or not to lie your crooked ass off about a certain conspiracy theory, or statistic, or program is dependent entirely on whether or not you think the audience will approve of the lie. The government is hoarding ammunition so that gun owners can't get any? There are "suspicions" about whether or not baby Barack Obama was spirited into the country by Kenyan circus folk? Sure, what the hell, whatever brings the checks in.
In the current pundit class, the group that's supposed to be keeping a critical eye on all the other groups, there's not even that much introspection. Conflict of interest is no longer a thing. It couldn't be, because if it was there would be no Sunday shows at all. If you pushed every person off of television who made money either lobbying the government or collecting checks from one of the two political parties, if you pushed every person off of television who had, as their prime source of income, the compensated duty to publicly manipulate facts in order to financially benefit the groups that pay them, you would turn the studios of the network and cable channels into a wasteland.
This isn't a remarkable thing? This isn't, say, something worth noting? Probably not, because the people who get paid for noting things don't find it noteworthy, and so we sail merrily along. We know almost nothing else about government programs that collect information in wide swaths from millions of citizens, but we do know that Edward Snowden oughtn't to have done that, because a man whose company makes bucketfuls of money from those efforts says so.