Time tries again

The editors went today and corrected yesterday's correction. They should keep trying.

Topics: FISA, Washington, D.C.,

(updated below)

Last night, Time posted a truly absurd correction to Joe Klein’s error-filled FISA column, a correction which generated at least as much criticism as Klein’s initial column and his five separate efforts to explain himself. At some point today, Time went and tried to correct its correction. Here is what it says now (with the new parts in bold):

In the original version of this story, Joe Klein wrote that the House Democratic version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would require a court approval of individual foreign surveillance targets. The bill does not explicitly say that. Republicans believe it can be interpreted that way, but Democrats don’t.

The Time correction last night completely mischaracterized Klein’s original false statement by stating: “Joe Klein wrote that the House Democratic version of [FISA] would allow a court review of individual foreign surveillance targets.” They now have changed it to say that Klein wrote that the House bill “would require a court approval of individual foreign surveillance targets.” That’s a little closer, but still wrong.

What Klein actually wrote was that the bill would “require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target’s calls to be approved by the FISA court” and thus “would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans.” What’s the point of correcting Klein’s false statements if they can’t even honestly summarize what he actually wrote?

Worse, the insertion of the new sentence “[t]he bill does not explicitly say that” is obviously an effort to avoid the “bad stenographer” criticisms. So, Time‘s Editors got brave today. They decided to write an actual declarative sentence about what the bill actually includes. That’s progress, I suppose.



But by noting merely that the bill does not “explicitly” include what Klein (and his GOP source) claimed it did, and thereafter quickly noting that “Republicans believe it can be interpreted that way,” Time actually compounds Klein’s original error by now misleading its readers into believing that there is some genuine dispute over whether the House Democrats really did give the same rights to foreign Terrorists as they gave to American citizens. Time is thus encouraging its readers to believe that perhaps Klein was right — that the Democrats’ bill does exactly that which it explicitly says it does not do.

Finally, Time leaves uncorrected the multiple other errors in Klein’s piece, including his bizarre claim that there was some great bipartisan bill agreed to by the House Intelligence Committee which Nancy Pelosi “quashed.” Nobody has any idea what Klein is talking about, including Intelligence Committee member Rep. Rush Holt (who would obviously know), because no such thing ever happened.

And then there’s Klein’s claim, citing Chris Dodd, that “when the President takes the oath of office, he (or she) promises two things: to protect the Constitution and to protect the nation against enemies, foreign and domestic.” Klein warns Democrats that to win in 2008, they must “find the proper balance between those two.” But the oath of office which the President takes actually says nothing of the kind:

Each president recites the following oath, in accordance with Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Directly contrary to what Klein said, Presidents only swear to “defend the Constitution,” not to “to protect the nation against enemies, foreign and domestic.” So that was completely wrong, too; all those serious errors packed tightly into an 855-word column.

So far, Klein has tried to explain himself on five separate occasions. Time has now had to issue two separate corrections — and counting. That’s all within less than a week. And none of them has yet to offer a single, straightforward acknowledgment of their transparent errors nor provide any explanation as to how they happened. How much more embarrassing could Time‘s conduct be? What this demonstrates about how our establishment media outlets think and function is, at this point, obviously far more important than the original (still uncorrected) fear-mongering lies in Klein’s column about the Terrorist-loving House Democrats.

UPDATE: On the page where one finds Klein’s article, Time has now also placed this — the ultimate motto of the media-stenographer: That little box links to a new page where Klein re-states his tortured, convoluted, patently false explanation about why the House Democrats’ bill really might do all the terrible things which his GOP sources claimed. And while Klein purports to excerpt the “FISA Section Under Dispute,” he doesn’t even list the section that expressly states that no warrants are required to eavesdrop on non-U.S. persons outside of the U.S. — the provision that gives the lie to what he wrote.

So even after all of this, Time and Klein continue to suggest that the House Democrats’ bill really can be read to require warrants for eavesdropping on foreign Terrorists’ calls even though it explicitly says no warrants are required. What else can one say about how dishonest this is?

Due to a complete lack of integrity and unwillingness to admit its errors, Time has now concocted this fantasy where there is now some sort of raging dispute in Congress about whether the House Democrats’ bill can be read to give the same rights to foreign Terrorists as it does to U.S. citizens — a dispute which is simply non-existent in reality, and which Time invented all in order to defend Klein’s original false claims, rather than simply stating that he was wrong. All of this week-long squirming and prevaricating just to avoid admitting that the article they published was false.

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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