Joe Klein digs Time’s hole deeper still

The still-uncorrected errors in the Time article are made far worse by Klein's ongoing deceit.

Topics: Washington, D.C.,

(updated below)

Joe Klein has just posted yet again about his FISA confusion, and it has now moved well beyond farce into an almost pity-inducing realm. If Time has any dignity at all, someone there will intervene and put a stop to this. It’s actually difficult to watch.

In the last five days alone, Klein has now written five separate times about his FISA debacle, and is further away than ever from having any idea what he’s even talking about — first was the column itself; second was the Swampland post the same day in which he emphatically defended the accuracy of what he wrote in response to my post; third was the post yesterday in which Klein said he “may have made a mistake in [his] column this week about the FISA legislation” — the understatement of the year; fourth was an Update he added to that post this morning claiming that he did speak to a Democrat but “may have misinterpreted a Democratic source’s point” and “if [he] did, a correction will appear in the print magazine next week”; and now, his fifth effort in tonight’s post, actually worse than all the others, in which he still professes confusion after “spen[ding] the past few days nosing around in the ongoing dispute about what the House FISA Reform bill actually says.”

The result of all this “nosing around”: “I’ve reached no conclusions.” And he then unleashes this:

I have neither the time nor legal background to figure out who’s right.

That’s been the point all along (although one doesn’t need “legal background” — just basic reading skills and a molecule of critical thought).



I now know who Klein’s editor for this piece was and I will have much more to say about all of this tomorrow. In comments to Klein’s new post tonight, the lawyer (and blogger) Anonymous Liberal quickly debunked the new, insultingly false claims from Klein about the alleged “dispute” over the meaning of the House bill. And the normally mild-mannered Ryan Singel of Wired earlier today — prior to Klein’s latest effort — wrote his second detailed post excoriating Klein’s completely ignorant, now-willfully false claims about FISA (“Klein now has two blog posts and one column (printed in Time magazine) that are all shot through with errors. . . . THREAT LEVEL, paraphrasing Klein’s column, continues to believe that Klein is well beyond stupid. He’s dangerous”).

Thus, for now, I just want to ask that everyone ponder the extreme lack of professionalism and corruption required for someone like Klein to write the article that he did accusing Democrats of wanting to give Terrorists the same rights as Americans (therefore showing, as always, that Democrats can’t be trusted on national security), and then — once he is exposed for having spewed outright falsehoods — he announces that he really isn’t interested in bothering to find out (and isn’t even capable of determining) if anything he wrote was accurate.

As my post earlier today here demonstrates, that is hardly unusual behavior for Time. But that doesn’t make it any less flabbergasting, or repugnant. Doesn’t it go without saying: if Klein doesn’t have the time or background to understand what he’s writing about, then he ought not to write about it? Doesn’t anyone at Time agree with that?

Finally, I’ll just add for those who didn’t see it this morning: The Center for Citizen Media — jointly affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University Law School — has picked up on the Klein/Time story, labeling Klein’s behavior “Shameful ‘Journalism’,” and contending that the “flagrantly inaccurate and misguided Time magazine column by Joe Klein” is “[o]ne of the most amazing episodes in modern American journalism.” They concluded: Klein’s “work in this case may become Exhibit A for what’s wrong with the craft today.”

That’s the real reason why this story matters. Klein isn’t unique. His “journalistic” practices are common. That’s what makes them so worth writing about.

UPDATE: Klein has now returned to amend tonight’s post by adding this phrase after his sentence about how he has neither “neither the time nor legal background to figure out who’s right”: “(ADD: about this minor detail of a bill that will never find its way out of the Congress)”.

This “minor detail” that he now wants to dismiss as irrelevant was the entire basis for his smear of House Democrats: namely, he claimed that the FISA bill they passed “would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target’s calls to be approved by the FISA court” and thus “give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans” — “minor details” that Klein cited in order to call their behavior “well beyond stupid.” The whole basis for Klein’s column was false to its core, and — in response to the avalanche of criticisms — he has now claimed, in sequence, that his false assertions were: (a) true, (b) disputable, (c) too complex and time-consuming to figure out, and (d) just a minor, irrelevant detail. Is this conduct not completely humiliating to Time?

Two other points: (1) Klein has the audacity to condescendingly label his know-nothing, confused, blatantly false post tonight: “FISA: More Than You Want to Know,” which provoked this superb Swampland comment — and this one; and (2) for reasons I explain here, I’m not letting this go until Time itself accounts for what happened here (and see this Swampland comment echoing that viewpoint).

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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