Monday, January 03, 2011

While Bank of America chases its tail in fear of WikiLeaks, Judy Miller (yes, Judy Miller!) declares Julian Assange a bad journalist


I ventured the other day that Judy Miller still sees herself as the victim in the implosion of her career as star national-security correspondent of the NYT. Now that she's in the bosom of Fox Noise and Newsmax, it's an easier fantasy to maintain, but it's still a fantasy.

by Ken

Sometimes you learn more from what a news "report" doesn't report than what it does. Case in point: a report by the New York Times's Nelson D. Schwartz on the red-alert security lockdown instituted by Bank of America since it emerged as the rumored target of Julian Assange's documentary ace-in-the-hole, in the event that he needs to protect himself from official inquisitions. Assange has never said this, exactly, but he did once say that he had a hard drive that had belonged to a BoA executive, and more recently he has said that he has deposited these unspecified documents to be released in the event that he feels the need for protection.

If you're Bank of America, you put two and two together, and you get trouble. Now I understand that in such a situation it's mere prudence on the part of a major corporation that finds itself in such a threatened position to take whatever investigative and/or protective action it can think of. Surely we can't expect such entities to sit dumbly and wait for the safe drop on them.

Still, there's something awfully curious about the nature of the Bank of America panic-mode inquiry, at least as reported by Nelson Schwartz, from whom we get the image of an investigation that resembles nothing so much as a preemptive version of those Executive Branch inquisitions Richard Nixon used to instigate every time inconvenient truths found their way into the enemy hands of the media.
[A] team of 15 to 20 top Bank of America officials, led by the chief risk officer, Bruce R. Thompson, has been overseeing a broad internal investigation — scouring thousands of documents in the event that they become public, reviewing every case where a computer has gone missing and hunting for any sign that its systems might have been compromised.

In addition to the internal team drawn from departments like finance, technology, legal and communications, the bank has brought in Booz Allen Hamilton, the consulting firm, to help manage the review. It has also sought advice from several top law firms about legal problems that could arise from a disclosure, including the bank’s potential liability if private information was disclosed about clients.

The company’s chief executive, Brian T. Moynihan, receives regular updates on the team’s progress, according to one Bank of America executive familiar with the team’s work, who, like other bank officials, was granted anonymity to discuss the confidential inquiry.

I suppose this is reasonable enough in its way. What intrigues me is that the only question the BoA "risk" team seems to be pursuing is: Where in the company might there be security breaches? How might the dastards have gotten access to documents of ours? Or, in other words, could we have a Bradley Manning? What I don't see in the NYT account is any speculation or even curiosity about what kind of dirt about BoA WikiLeaks might be sitting on.

I mean, isn't that what we're all wondering?

I can think of four theories to explain this:

(1) The only reason BoA is so freaked is that in a company that size, there are bound to be documents that, ripped out of context, can be made to look incriminating, however innocent or explicable. Therefore the key is trying to ascertain whether there is in fact a leak and then, you know, sort of deal with it, somehow.

(2) BoA has concerns about the contents of the hypothetical documents, but the condition of the NYT reporter's access to its team was that he not talk about stuff they don't want him to talk about.

(3) The BoA high command has some pretty good ideas of what could be among the documents, and is scared shitless.

(4) If you look into the inner workings of BoA, there's so much potentially damaging crud that the high command scarcely knows where to begin being afraid.

I'm sure that most Village types gravitate to (1). I don't entertain this for a moment. It would be pretty shameful to contemplate (2), but I don't rule it out. Maybe it's my suspicious nature, especially where a behemoth like BoA is concerned (I have my petty but well-founded grievances against it, but this isn't the place to go into that), I just assume we're dealing with either (3) or (4). So I entertain the fantasy that some high-level BoA moguls are going to be doing time.


At some point you't think Judy Miller would get the message: Keep your big trap shut; everything you say is subject to catcalls. From the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" Dept. comes this story, as written up by Jack Mirkinson's for HuffPost:
Former New York Times reporter Judy Miller criticized Julian Assange on Saturday's "Fox News Watch," calling the WikiLeaks chief a "bad journalist" for not verifying the veracity of the stories he publishes.

Miller said that Assange "didn't care at all about attempting to verify the information that he was putting out or determine whether or not it could hurt anyone."

Of course, Miller is most famous (or infamous) for writing stories about Iraq's non-existent weapons program that proved to be false, and that influenced public opinion about the need to invade Iraq. As Amy Goodman of "Democracy Now" and Crooks and Liars both noted, Miller has previously said the exact opposite of what she criticized Assange for. Author Michael Massing quotes Miller as saying that it is not her job to verify the truth of the stories her government sources are giving her:
"[M]y job isn't to assess the government's information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of The New York Times what the government thought about Iraq's arsenal."
It's always unfortunate when you find yourself in need of feeling embarrassed for someone else. But our Judy seems incapable of the embarrassment she has earned. The only way she can credibly talk about journalistic propriety is by illustrating her points with reference to the many ways she got it wrong in her NYT career.

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