The Chicago Tribune vs. Time magazine

The newspaper clearly and unequivocally states that Joe Klein's statements were false. UPDATE: GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra outs himself as Klein's source.

By Glenn Greenwald
November 29, 2007 9:26PM (UTC)
main article image

(updated below: Klein's GOP source outs himself

Update II

Update III)

As I noted yesterday, The Chicago Tribune reprinted factually false excerpts from Joe Klein's Time column. But unlike Time -- which disgracefully continues to stand behind Klein's falsehoods and actually bolster them -- the Tribune shows that it has basic journalistic integrity by posting this clear, unequivocal statement repudating Klein's false statements:


A Time magazine essay by Joe Klein that was excerpted on the editorial page Wednesday incorrectly stated that the House Democratic version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would require a court approval of individual foreign surveillance targets. It does not.

The shameful conduct and total lack of integrity at Time Magazine becomes more evident every day.

UPDATE: The Time/Joe Klein story just grows every day, and even when you think it can't get any more illustrative and amazing, it does.

GOP Rep. Pete Hoekstra has been one of the most obedient and loyal Bush-following Congressmen over the last six years. When the GOP controlled the House, he was the Intelligence Committee Chairman, faithfully enabling every Bush abuse. He is now its ranking member. As but one example of many, it was Hoekstra who -- as Atrios notes -- joined Rick Santorum in insisting on the WSJ Op-Ed page last year that there really were WMD in Iraq and we really found them, but our intelligence community just won't admit it.

Today, Hoektsra went to National Review to defend his good friend, "liberal pundit" Joe Klein, in what Hoekstra called the "venomous debate [that] has raged between Time columnist Joe Klein and his far-Left critics." As always on the pro-Bush Right, those who believe in the radical instrument called "warrants" are deemed to be "far leftists." Hoekstra pronounces Klein correct in everything he said, and then confesses that he was "one of Klein's sources for the complex technical and legal points that seem to be in contention."


So, in other words, it was Hoekstra -- one of Washington's most partisan GOP operatives -- who lied to Klein by claiming that the House Democrats' bill requires warrants for every foreign terrorist's call and that the bill thus gives the same rights to foreign Terrorists as American citizens. That's a real surprise. And Klein The Journalist then mindlessly wrote down Hoekstra's smears without bothering to check if they were true, and Time printed them as fact.

After defending Klein's honor, Hoekstra then lashed out at those who think that the Government should only be able to eavesdrop on our conversations with judicial oversight -- just like the law for 30 years has required:

The straw-man complaint of the Left, however, is that Americans who talk to targeted foreigners in foreign countries might incidentally have their conversations intercepted. It takes a pretty good degree of self-absorption or paranoia for someone to believe that efforts to target al-Qaeda operatives in foreign countries are somehow about them.

So if you don't place blind faith in the Leader to eavesdrop without warrants, then you are "self-absorbed." That would, of course, make the authors of the Fourth Amendment -- as well as the 1978 FISA law -- completely self-absorbed, as well as anyone else who does not believe in the Inherent Goodness of our Leaders.


It is also worth noting that Hoekstra's assurances of the Government's good faith are identical to the assurances issued by Richard Nixon's Attorney General, John Mitchell, at exactly the time the Nixon administration was abusing their eavesdropping powers for every conceivable improper purpose. From (ironically enough) a June, 1969 article in Time:

During his presidential campaign, Richard Nixon said that he would take full advantage of the new law -- a promise that raised fears of a massive invasion of privacy. To calm those fears, the Administration last week issued what amounted to an official statement on the subject.

In his first news conference since becoming the President's chief legal officer, Attorney General John N. Mitchell pointedly announced that the incidence of wiretapping by federal law enforcement agencies had gone down, not up, during the first six months of Republican rule. Mitchell refused to disclose any figures, but he indicated that the number was far lower than most people might think. "Any citizen of this United States who is not involved in some illegal activity," he added, "has nothing to fear whatsoever."

From the mouths of John Mitchell, Pete Hoekstra and Joe Klein: who wouldn't believe assurances from such beacons of trustworthiness like that? It was, of course, the same John Mitchell who presided over eavesdropping abuses so severe that their discovery is what led to the 1978 enactment of FISA, making it a felony for the government to eavesdrop on our conversations without warrants.


To see how truth-free Hoekstra is, just compare his defense of Klein's false statements about the House bill to the actual bill. Hoekstra:

Second, Klein was correct in his original contention that the bill recently passed by the House of Representatives "would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's call to be approved by the FISA Court."

The House Bill:


Sec. 105A. (a) Foreign to Foreign Communications-

(1) IN GENERAL - Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, a court order is not required for electronic surveillance directed at the acquisition of the contents of any communication between persons that are not known to be United States persons and are reasonably believed to be located outside the United States for the purpose of collecting foreign intelligence information, without respect to whether the communication passes through the United States or the surveillance device is located within the United States.

As The Chicago Tribune obviously recognized in its correction, Hoekstra's lying speaks for itself. Rep. Rush Holt, one of the architects of the bill, made it as clear as can be: "It contains no such provision."


Finally, Hoekstra ends on this note:

At the end of the day, we should be honest that this is not a legal debate, but a political one. It highlights the fact that Democrats believe that lawyering-up foreign intelligence to guard against every imagined or potential civil-liberties concern is more important than ensuring that we have the full capability to conduct quick and effective surveillance of foreign al-Qaeda targets in foreign countries. I'll welcome that debate anytime.

Hoekstra apparently missed it (or has understandably blocked it out), but America actually already had that debate. It was called the 2006 election. After House Democrats overwhelmingly voted against the legalization of warrantless eavesdropping last October, Republicans made this fear-mongering argument the centerpiece of their campaign, and got crushed. The outcome of that debate was Hoekstra's removal as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and his party's removal from power.

The fact that our "liberal media" -- including its "liberal pundits" -- churns out its "reporting" by mindlessly writing down outright lies from the most right-wing GOP operatives such as Hoekstra is about as potent an indication of how and why our establishment media is worthless and corrupt. The Pete Hoekstras whisper defamatory, fear-mongering falsehoods into the grateful ears of our "journalists," who uncritically pass it on as fact, and their editors and media outlets defend them. As the Center for Citizen Media put it, this Time/Klein scandal is Exhibit A to what has happened to the political process of the United States over the last seven years, at least.

UPDATE II: Editor & Publisher has obtained an advance copy of Klein's correction, which will appear in Time's print edition tomorrow:

Correction: I was wrong to write last week 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. To read the disputed section of the bill, go to

That "he-said/she-said" so-called "correction" suffers from the same obvious, severe infirmities as the second version of Time's "correction", which I noted here. Worse, the FISA page to which Klein directs Time readers is completely misleading, as it does not even contain the dispositive paragraph, excerpted above, which gives the lie to Klein and Hoekstra's claim.

Lawyer Scott Horton of Harper's, a qualified Joe Klein fan, has also weighed in on this affair, concluding:

I am a compulsive Klein-reader, and I read this [column] when it went up at the Time website. I winced immediately. Not only was the substance of [Klein's] description factually inaccurate in almost every respect, it was the very core of the piece. Moreover, what Time ran was a shameless mouthing of talking points that had been circulating on Capitol Hill by Republican spinmeisters through the prior week. . . .

But when Joe's bad, he's awful. And this was the worst thing I've seen emerge from the Klein pen in quite sometime. And the worst thing about it -- the unforgivable sin, and the one to which all writers-facing-imminent-deadline are vulnerable, is its lack of originality. It's always so tempting to take some pre-packaged product from the partisan PR masters of Washington and print it. And that's just what Joe did, to the great chagrin of his faithful readers. . . .

And disappointing as that discovery was, what followed was even worse. Time's follow-up to the well-deserved criticism has been defensive and its concessions of factual error grudging. And all of this reflects not so much an error on the part of Klein as the Time editors.

This has been an extremely bad week for Joe Klein.

And now we learn that Time was fed this smear not even by one of the fake GOP "moderate" types (such as Chris Shays), but by Pete Hoekstra, as much of a GOP hack as it gets in Washington. And Hoekstra, National Review, and Time all join together to defend Klein, a member in good standing of our "liberal media."

UPDATE III: Wired's Ryan Singel:

Time Edits Wiretapping Correction, Still Wrong

[T]he second correction fails to correct the central premise of Klein's column, turning what might have been unintentional, but dangerous misstatements in the original into a lie supported by Time's top editors. . . .

[S]uffice it to say that no one, Republican or Democrat, who is familiar with FISA could argue in good faith that the bill would "require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court" . . . .

For Time to continue to allow people to believe that that's possibly what this bill would do means after all the detailed criticism it has gotten is clear proof the original column is no longer a dangerous misunderstanding of a complex issue by a two-bit political columnist.

Instead, it's now an institutional lie.

As I've noted before, Singel is one of the most knowledgable commentators on surveillance/FISA issues in the country and also typically quite restrained with his rhetoric. But Time's conduct simply permits no conclusions other than the ones he has reached.


On a different note, Josh Marshall notes that Hoekstra is one of the most extreme and unreliable GOP sources anywhere in Congress. In addition to finding WMD with Rick Santorum last year in Iraq, Hoekstra also previously speculated that Al Qaeda and other foreign sources infiltrated the CIA and were responsible for leaks such as the NSA eavesdropping story. That is who Time allows to ghost-write its description of the House Democratic FISA bill with no fact-checking.

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

MORE FROM Glenn GreenwaldFOLLOW ggreenwald

Related Topics ------------------------------------------