Tuesday's front-page piece by intelligence reporters Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane was labeled a "news analysis" (though not advertised as such on the front page), aformat that allows reporters to display their insider knowledge of their beat - as well as to say what they really think without even the dubious fig leaf of "objectivity." Lichtblau and Shane used the surprise resignation of embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to unload some unflattering adjectives on Bush administration policies.
"Days after President Bush's secret eavesdropping program was publicly revealed in December 2005, a battle-weary Alberto R. Gonzales stood before a room of reporters at the White House and asserted that 'the president has the inherent authority under the Constitution, as commander in chief, to engage in this kind of activity.'"
Lichtblau is too modest. He joined reporter James Risen in revealing the classified National Security Agency anti-terrorism surveillance program on the front page of the Times in December 2005.
"Time and again, as both White House counsel and attorney general, Mr. Gonzales would return to that theme: in a time of war, the president has broad powers to protect the country. It would become Mr. Gonzales's mantra and, ultimately, by alienating lawmakers who accused the administration of overreaching, it would contribute to his undoing."
But in only the fourth paragraph, the Times shifted its focusto the ominous agenda of the vice president.
"It was Vice President Dick Cheney and his top legal adviser, David S. Addington, who, by most accounts, provided the intellectual framework for building up the power of an executive branch that they believed had been badly weakened by restrictions imposed after Vietnam and Watergate. They pushed for a radical rewriting of American policies on such critical issues as surveillance and detention of terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11 attacks, with virtually no oversight or input from Congress or the courts.
"But as a longtime loyal adviser to Mr. Bush, Mr. Gonzales was often left to carry out those policies and put his stamp on them. But his dogged and sometimes robotic defense of the president's wartime powers - in the face of Congressional pressure, adverse court rulings and public scorn - often proved ineffectual or counterproductive."
"Mr. Addington and John Yoo, a conservative legal scholar in the Office of Legal Counsel of the Justice Department, who are both forceful personalities, provided much of the legal rationale for secret detention centers, interrogation tactics bordering on torture and eavesdropping without warrants inside the United States for the first time since 1978. But the blessing of Mr. Gonzales, who represented the president, was crucial to carry out the policies....Mr. Gergen and other legal analysts and former government officials said Mr. Gonzales came to stand for the government-by-fiat approach adopted by the Bush White House after the Sept. 11 attacks."