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Open & Shut

From the Fall 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 48.

From the Fall 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 48.

A collection of recent funny, fascinating, nonsensical or just notable newsworthy quotations.

“Let me condition the press this way: Any sources and methods of intelligence will remain guarded in secret.”

— President Bush, telling reporters on Sept. 12, the day after the terrorist attacks, that he supports protection of classified government information and military secrets.

“It’s not what government officials are saying that’s the issue. It’s the type of questions that reporters are asking that’s the issue. The press is asking a lot of questions that I suspect the American people would prefer not to be asked, or answered. Is the White House staff going to keep sensitive or classified information. I certainly hope so.”

— White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, supporting the president’s comments by saying he would refuse to answer certain questions about classified information.

“There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do, and this is not a time for remarks like that; there never is.”

— Fleischer, responding to comments from television host Bill Maher that U.S. military strikes, not hijacked planes, show cowardice (see page 11).

“It’s now time to be extremely cautious about what we report. Please take great care to make sure that our broadcasts don’t inadvertently pass along information that could prove helpful to those who would do harm to our citizens, our officials and our military. Let’s be careful about reporting specifics of presidential travel, of security arrangements, of secret military plans, troop movements and the like. Generally it’s the rule of common sense that applies.”

— NBC News executive Bill Wheatley, telling staffers in a Sept. 18 memo how the World War II admonition “Loose lips sink ships” has new meaning.

“It’s a reflection of the fact that our nation is now at war, and the rules have changed.”

— Fleischer, discussing the president’s Oct. 5 memo on “Disclosures to the Congress,” which revealed that he would only debrief the eight highest ranking members of Congress “regarding classified or sensitive law enforcement information.”

“Secrecy is always a temptation — it minimizes controversy and undercuts political opposition.”

— Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, responding to Bush’s “Disclosures to the Congress” directive.

“When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk of adverse impact on the ability of other agencies to protect other important records.”

— Attorney General John Ashcroft, telling agency officials in an Oct. 12 memo that he would support their decisions to keep government records closed.

“If he spews off just propaganda, there’s no reason for us to air it. We’ll only report it if it is news.”

— CNN chairman Walter Isaacson, explaining the news network’s policy about airing tapes from Osama bin Laden.

“We are resolute. We will not flinch. We will not bend. We will not swerve. We will get out a first class evening news broadcast this evening.”

— CBS news anchor Dan Rather, speaking on Larry King Live on Oct. 18 about his assistant being infected with anthrax.

“You’re either with Xavier or with the Herald.”

— Former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, who is running the statement in an advertisement on Spanish radio critical of The Miami Herald. Suarez, who is seeking election again, said he would remove the ad if the newspaper ran a story showing that he has created a budget surplus and has disproven the city’s financial woes.

“The Justice Department’s secret subpoena of an Associated Press reporter’s home phone records has sent a chill through the media. But every American should feel a shiver down the spine. A free press is the cornerstone of a free nation. Any attempt to undermine it chips away at the very foundations of the republic. That’s not journalistic self-importance; it’s fact.”

— New York Daily News editorial, denouncing a government subpoena for a journalist’s telephone records as part of an investigation into a law enforcement wiretap leak.

“The public’s right of access demands that the attorney must, at the very least, be able to refer a reporter to a public document.”

— The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City (2nd Cir.) in decision overturning sanctions against New York lawyer Howard B. Sirota accused of breaching a confidentiality order in class-action cases against Cendant Corp.

Defining the Terms

An occasional collection of terms that have been pivotal to the outcome of libel cases:

implicate (im-ple-kat) vt. 1. to show to be also involved, usually in an incriminating manner. 2. to imply as a necessary circumstance, or as something to be inferred or understood. 3. to connect or relate to intimately. 4. intertwine. 5. a term that “is somewhat vague.” — Definitions used by U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis (8th Cir.) in finding that a film producer had not libeled sheriff’s officers in Campbell v. Citizens for an Honest Government (July 10, 2001).