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Open & Shut

From the Summer 2003 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 64.

From the Summer 2003 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 64.

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

“There are a lot of people who say, ‘The problem here is that the drain isn’t big enough.’ The drain is fine — the problem is that somebody left the water on and let it run too hard. Turn the water off.”

— Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), head of the House Intelligence Committee, quoted in June 24 Newhouse News Service article on to the flow of incoming classified information.

“Tinkering with scientific information, either striking it from reports or altering it, is becoming a pattern of behavior. It represents the politicizing of a scientific process, which at once manifests a disdain for professional scientists working for our government and a willingness to be less than candid with the American people.”

— Roger G. Kennedy, a former director of the National Park Service, quoted in a June 26 Los Angeles Times article.

“Increased government secrecy has become a serious concern for Americans across the nation and across the political spectrum, sparking calls for greater openness from groups as diverse as the Eagle Forum and the American Civil Liberties Union.”

— Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in a June 26 commentary in the Detroit Free Press.

“What are the true facts which this ‘bitch’ alleges?” H.

— A note from President Herbert Hoover in long-time Washington correspondent Sarah McClendon’s FBI file. McClendon died in January at age 92.

“I don’t think security through obscurity is a winning strategy.”

— Michael Vatis, founder and first director of the National Infrastructure Protection Center in the arguments over whether critical infrastructure information should be withheld for national security reasons.

Q: As it stands now, the American people do not know whether their soldiers have encroached into the territory of a nation not directly involved in the Iraq war. Will there be a formal report on this? And will you tell us at some point what happened? And if so, can you tell us when we’ll know?

Rumsfeld: Sure. When the dust settles, we may very well — I don’t know about a formal report. But when the dust settles, we’ll know more about what’s been said, and the “senior defense officials” will have drifted away with their inaccuracies, and everyone will know that which is available to be known.

— Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a Defense Department press briefing June 24 after the U.S. military attacked what the military hoped was a convoy bearing Hussein and his sons near the Syrian border.

“We need the help of the news industry, the Fourth Estate, to inform citizens about the constitutional tools and methods being used in the war against terror. We need the media’s help, for instance, in portraying accurately the USA PATRIOT Act.”

— Attorney General John Ashcroft addressing media leaders June 19 in Queenstown, Md.

“It is our view that obtaining a reporter’s home telephone records in order to identify a media source revealing protected wiretap information is completely justified in some cases.”

–Assistant Attorney General Daniel J. Bryant in a letter to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) arguing that the Justice Department believes obtaining a reporter’s home or work phone records is a legitimate way to ascertain the identity of confidential sources.

“Yet, irony of ironies, our own citizens here must now clear our own speech with CPA so that our American values and policies, according to the directive, ‘are launched in a coherent and coordinated manner’ pleasing to the Directorate of Strategic Communication of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Having ‘launched’ our bombs and won the war quickly, I do not think that this kind of control of free speech is the kind of free speech policy most Americans want us to ‘launch’ in Iraq.”

— Federal appellate judge Gilbert S. Merritt, in Iraq as an official U.S. representative to help rebuild Iraq’s judicial system, complained in a column for the Nashville Tennessean June 28 that he is now subject to a military gag order.

A June 26 White House Press Briefing by then-White House Press Secretary Ari Fleisher demonstrates just how difficult can be for reporters to get clear answers:

Q: So is he [General John Abizaid during his confirmation hearing as head of the U.S. military’s Central Command in the Middle East] when he said that it was perplexing that they had not yet found weapons of mass destruction incorrect in saying it’s perplexing? Or should he be saying it’s not surprising, based on the pattern of deception and denial?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I’m kind of perplexed by what the difference is between perplexing and surprising.

Q: Well, if you’re perplexed, you don’t understand it. If you’re not surprised, you expected it.

MR. FLEISCHER: Given the fact that they have been hiding, just as he talked about — he stated in here, how they have been — “I’m confident we’ll show there was deception” — I think it fits the same remarks the President said when he said he’s — he understands people’s skepticism.