CNN's journalism on the Cheney story

Two anonymous officials claim Cheney is getting a "bum rap" and CNN turns that into a news story.

By Glenn Greenwald
Published July 15, 2009 10:16AM (EDT)

This CNN article requires little commentary; it is so extreme that simply describing it conveys most of what needs to be said about it.  Here's the headline:

That's really all there is to the entire "news story":  two anonymous "former intelligence officials" claim -- based on assertions CNN repeats but does not investigate -- that Dick Cheney, the CIA, and the Bush administration did absolutely nothing wrong.  Hiding behind the anonymity CNN ludicrously granted them, these two "former officials" make one Cheney-defending argument after the next; CNN writes it all down faithfully; and then uncritically publishes it all as a "news story."  Remember never to accuse them of being "stenographers" because that is unfair and offensive.  Here is what this news article "reports":

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is getting a "bum rap" over reports that he ordered the CIA to withhold information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress, two former U.S. intelligence officials told CNN Monday.

According to both officials, any intelligence program of "great sensitivity" is first approved by the White House after a series of meetings. In any such situation, once the administration decides to pursue a covert program, there is discussion on whether Congress needs to be briefed, the officials said.

President George W. Bush "delegated" then-Vice President Cheney to chair many of the meetings that followed the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the officials said. . . .

Neither of the former officials who spoke to CNN would discuss the details of the program in question, but both said the CIA was developing a certain post-9/11 counterterrorism capacity.

As one official put it, "It should come as no surprise that we would go after the bad guys, the terrorists."

Both sources said the program that Panetta discussed fell under a presidential finding that broadly authorized covert counterterrorism activities. They said Congress had been briefed on that finding in the fall of 2001, and there was no requirement to brief lawmakers on a program that had not been implemented.

"When it goes operational, then you brief them," one of the former officials said.

Is any of that true?   CNN has no idea and doesn't care.  Finding out what is and is not true is not the role of the establishment journalist.  They're there simply to lay out the terms of the debate by writing down what other people say.  And what motives might these "two former officials" have to defend Cheney?  Are they blind Cheney loyalists such as Michael Hayden?  People who have a vested interest in shielding these activities from investigations?  Again, CNN has no interest in any of that.  To them, it's a "news story" that two anonymous officials -- from the very sector of the government whose conduct is in question -- argue that Dick Cheney is getting a "bum rap."

Glenn Greenwald

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