Thursday, August 03, 2006

Is the Media the Enemy?

In the case of the New York Times, the answer is almost assuredly yes

The New York Times suffered a major setback this week in its fight to keep reporters' phone records under wraps. A federal appeals court permitted the government access to the phone records. The government is investigating how two Islamic charities were tipped off to impending raids by the FBI.

The case began in 2004, after the Times discovered that the 2001 phone records of reporters Judith Miller and Philip Shenon were sought by prosecutors. During that time, the pair had authored stories on the Holy Land Foundation and the Global Relief Foundation, two organizations with suspected ties to terrorists.

Prosecutors claimed that the two reporters alerted the groups to FBI raids and a forthcoming freezing of assets. According to prosecutors, the phone records are central to the grand jury investigation.

Cooperative Research reports:

On December 3, 2001, New York Times reporter Judith Miller telephones officials with the Holy Land Foundation charity in Texas and asks them to comment about what she says is a government raid on the charity planned for the next day. Then in a December 4, 2001, New York Times article, Miller writes that President Bush is about to announce that the US is freezing the assets of Holy Land and two other financial groups, all for supporting Hamas. US officials will later argue that Miller’s phone call and article “increased the likelihood that the foundation destroyed or hid records before a hastily organized raid by agents that day...”

...Later in the month, a similar incident occurs. On December 13, New York Times reporter Philip Shenon telephones officials at the Global Relief Foundation in Illinois and asks them to comment about an imminent government crackdown on that charity. The FBI learns that some Global Relief employees may be destroying documents.

And just what are these Foundations?

Holy Land Foundation

In 2004, the U.S. Justice Department delivered a 42-count indictment against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which was long suspected of raising funds for Hamas. The Foundation and its leaders were named as co-conspirators in their efforts to provide funding to a terrorist organization and the families of suicide terrorists. The group reportedly funneled more than $12 million to Hamas affilliates (interestingly, the indictment also states the HLF raised $57 million since its incorporation, but only reported $36 million to the IRS).

Global Relief Foundation

The Treasury Department reports that the GRF has provided support for Usama bin Landen (UBL), al Qaeda, and other known terrorist groups. The GRF is accused of providing financial aid to individual associated with Al Qaeda and the UBL-directed 1998 bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

These are the groups that Miller and Shenon allegedly tipped off.

The 2-1 decision reverses a lower court ruling and upholds the subpoenas for the phone records from late 2001 of two reporters, Ms. Miller and Philip Shenon...

In the current case, the Times had argued that the First Amendment freedom of the press should prevent the government from examining the phone records of its reporters. The disclosure of those records would reveal the identity of dozens of confidential sources, both reporters say in affidavits...

The ruling, written by Judge Ralph Winter of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, holds that because the case involves an alleged tip-off, the reporters are not entitled to the extra protection often afforded to the press under the First Amendment...

The case is New York Times v. Gonzales. The Times initiated the case in New York, in what some thought was an attempt to get a friendlier set of judges than it might get in Illinois.

Is the media the enemy? In the case of the New York Times, you can judge for yourself.

New York Sun: Court Hands New York Times a Setback in Miller Case

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