June 10, 2005
John Dean on the Downing Street memo
With Watergate in the news, it’s worth rereading a lengthy article John Dean wrote for Findlaw exactly two years ago—and as the guy the FBI once described as the “master manipulator of the [Watergate] cover up,” he should know about this kind of thing:
To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be “a high crime” under the Constitution’s impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony “to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose.”
And as Geov Parrish points out in Seattle Weekly:
That’s exactly what the Downing Street Memo, first reported a month ago by The Times of London, proves. The memo is an account of the report given to British leadership by Richard Dearlove, head of Britain’s MI-6 (the equivalent of the CIA), after a meeting with top White House officials. Dearlove described, fully eight months before the invasion of Iraq, an American determination to go to war and to manipulate public and congressional opinion with what Dearlove characterized as a “thin” case for the presence of weapons of mass destruction and links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.
It’s hard not to contrast the frenzy that greeted the revelation of a 30-year-old secret with the thudding indifference U.S. media have given the Downing Street Memo. The memo has scarcely been mentioned in the country’s leading newspapers and has been completely ignored by evening network news.
The reasons are numerous, but it adds up to a depressing reminder that Watergate, as reported in 1972–74, would never be reported today. The same secrecy, paranoia, and demands for absolute loyalty that were the undoing of the Nixon administration have been used, in our modern media climate, with resounding success by the Bush administration. Media outlets today are far less willing to invest the time and money in investigative journalism, far less willing to rock the boat or risk being tagged with the dreaded “liberal media” tag.
Parrish is pessimistic about the chances of impeachment:
Obviously, a Republican-controlled Congress is not about to impeach its own president. Enormous public pressure would have to be brought to bear. But that public pressure has also been missing, starting with the media coverage … We’ve lost an essential tool for accountability of our country’s highest powers. They still lie and cheat—only, today, we no longer seem to care.
At least, the mainstream media doesn’t.
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