On Dec. 16, 2005, the New York Times published an article by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, revealing that President Bush had secretly authorized the NSA to “eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States…without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying.” The blockbuster article, which exposed one of the Bush administration’s biggest secrets, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2006.
Discussing the wiretapping program on Bill Bennett’s radio show today, Vice President Cheney called the program “important,” adding that it “always aggravated” him that the Times was rewarded for its reporting:
CHENEY: What happened then was they had the information we had, they knew how we were doing it, they knew what we were producing through that process. But then when — Nancy Pelosi, for example, was part of that group. But then it became public. The New York Times broke the story I think in December of ’05, won the Pulitzer for it, which always aggravated me.
With his gripes over the New York Times’ Pulitzer, Cheney joins the list of conservatives, including Bennett, who have attacked the decision to reward those who revealed the secret program:
– “They win Pulitzer Prizes – I don’t think what they did was worthy of an award – I think what they did was worthy of jail,” — radio host Bill Bennett
“The Pulitzer Prize for treason,” — Powerline’s Scott Johnson
“After the quasi-collaborationist AP photo awards and the national security-damaging NYT awards, that’s just as well because I wouldn’t want the thing in the house,” — columnist Mark Steyn
“I don’t understand why you should pat yourself on the back for breaking the law and possibly, potentially, putting Americans at risk,” Accuracy in Media’s Cliff Kincaid
In December, former Justice Department official Thomas Tamm explained to Newsweek why he blew the whistle on the program, saying that it “was something the other branches of the government—and the public—ought to know about.” Tamm says that when a Justice superior said the program might be “illegal,” he thought, “I’m a law-enforcement officer and I’m participating in something that is illegal?”
Q: Let me ask you to step back. When you have arguments and disagreements — and I don’t want to get into the sensationalistic part of it, but the serious part of it — what is it that, whether we’re talking about senators or congressmen who criticized you, fundamentally disagreed with you, what is the disagreement about? Do you say, if you knew what I knew, you would hold my view? Do they look at the same facts as you, and just come out differently? Do they not — I’m going to throw out several options — do they not understand the nature of evil or the nature of the threat? Is it Pollyanna attitude? What is the difference? Is the difference in philosophy, a difference in a sense of reality? Or do you have a kind of privileged perspective because of what you have access to that other people don’t have? Do you see what I’m getting at?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes. I think it’s a combination of those things, Bill. We get into the whole area, for example, the Terrorist Surveillance Program —
Q Right, the perfect example.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Great example; important program, allows us to intercept communications from terrorists coming in to the United States, and a program we put in place using presidential authority. And it’s worked. It’s really given us some very, very good intelligence. Well, certain key members of Congress were briefed on that program from the very beginning. I used to preside over those briefings in my office with the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate on the intelligence committees, for example, or on one occasion the entire congressional leadership down in the Situation Room in the West Wing.
What happened then was they had the information we had, they knew how we were doing it, they knew what we were producing through that process. But then when — Nancy Pelosi, for example, was part of that group. But then it became public. The New York Times broke the story I think in December of ’05, won the Pulitzer for it, which always aggravated me.
Q Absolutely, the worst —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Not with all members. I don’t want to cast a wide net here, but you’ll end up with some specific members who knew about the program, had been briefed in the program because of their responsibilities, and who had said to proceed with the program, then suddenly are critical of it publicly because it’s controversial. They don’t want to stand up and say, well, I was briefed on that program, and it’s a good program. So it’s that kind of thing that is most frustrating of all.
Q I guess it’s not a failure of judgment or intelligence, but there’s a kind of — I won’t put words in your mouth, these are my words — but a kind of political cowardice, their failure to —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Exactly.