The Times Lichtblau Is Impressive on TV

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I was surprised to see reporter Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times, who co-broke the story of the Bush Administration’s surveillance of millions of private bank records, pitted on the PBS NewsHour last night with Curt Weldon, a Republican congressman from suburban Pennsylvania. Since when does the Times, an eschewer of public Times controversy, allow a reporter to go into the thunderdome with a carnivorous congressman?

I was more surprised by the result. Lichtblau was an impressive spokesman for the view that this program should be public knowledge. Ice-cold-calm, unperturbed, he spoke the corporate mantra—that the Times had agonized over the decision to go to print—a few times, before getting to the heart of it, and saying (in essence; no transcript!) that the surveillance is unprecedented and permanent and disturbing. His timbre never changed, his voice never rose. Meanwhile Weldon flailed on about the war on terror red-faced and shrill.