Bill Keller: Founding Fathers Set Things Up So I Could Defy Bush
Tuesday night marks the debut on PBS (9 p.m., check local listings) of the Frontline documentary "News War," a three-part series on the often adversarial relationship between the government and the press.
Times Executive Editor Bill Keller was given a sympathetic interview about his tussle with the Bush White House over his paper's infamous National Security Agency scoop, in which the paper revealed government monitoring without warrants of the international phone calls and e-mail messages of people inside the U.S. while tracking possible links to Al Qaeda.
A preview clip from Keller's interview is available on the PBS website. Keller defended the handling of NSA scoop, and towards the end painted himself as the fulfillment of the fondest wishes of the Founders.
"In the end, you can't defer to the government on these kind of decisions. You know, it may seem odd to ordinary Americans that somebody like me has the power to defy the President of the United States, but in fact that's the way the inventors of the country set things up. Because the alternative was to let the government be the final arbiter of its own flow of information. And the government has no particular interest in telling you if they're doing something that's illegal or abusive. That's why we exist."