My short take on D.C.-related dramas on TV has always been this:
“The West Wing” is too idealistic—a bunch of self-righteous liberals fantasize about a world in which they’re the well-meaning, reasonable, moderate pragmatists they fancy themselves, and how their control over everything can only lead to good outcomes, of course. In this story, D.C. is both competent and good.
“House of Cards” has D.C.’s amount of evil about correct, but the evil is way too competent.
“Veep” is a pretty decent showing, with D.C. a mostly vain and incompetent place.
And, “Scandal” is so effed up, even I have trouble thinking D.C. is quite that bad.
But the Obama administration is determined to make “Scandal” blush. Read Erik Wemple’s entire write-up of Sharyl Attkisson’s account of the bugging of her computer at the height of her Benghazi reporting. In her telling, two independent tech consultants peg the intrusion into her personal technology as government.
“[B]y November 2012,” she writes, “there are so many disruptions on my home phone line, I often can’t use it. I call home from my mobile phone and it rings on my end, but not at the house.” More devices on the fritz at Attkisson Central: “My television is misbehaving. It spontaneously jitters, mutes, and freeze-frames,” she writes, noting that the computers, TVs and phone all use Verizon’s FiOS service. At one point, “Jeff” inspects the back of Attkisson’s house and finds a “stray cable” attached to her FiOS box. That cable, he explains, could be used to download data. (Read more: The bizarre tale of Sharyl Attkisson’s spare wire)
Next big moment: Attkisson gets her computer checked out by someone identified as “Number One,” who’s described as a “confidential source inside the government.” A climactic meeting takes place at a McDonald’s outlet at which Attkisson and “Number One” “look around” for possibly suspicious things. Finding nothing, they talk. “First just let me say again I’m shocked. Flabbergasted. All of us are. This is outrageous. Worse than anything Nixon ever did. I wouldn’t have believed something like this could happen in the United States of America.” That’s all coming from “Number One.” …
So CBS News hires an independent computer analyst whom Attkisson identifies as “Jerry Patel,” also a pseudonym. He finds a massive amount of suspicious activity in the computer, including the removal of all kinds of log messages. The author describes the scene as “Patel” does his work: “Now he’s breathing heavily. It alarms me because it alarms him and he’s not easily alarmed. His voice becomes more formal and he launches into what sounds like a speech for posterity. ‘In my professional opinion, someone has accessed this box … I see evidence that shows a deliberate and skilled attempt to clean the log files of activity.’” Intrusions of this caliber, concludes “Patel,” are “far beyond the the abilities of even the best nongovernment hackers.”
The press corps would be lauding this woman as the patron saint of all of journalism if she had been reporting on the Bush administration. Of course, the Bush adminstration didn’t pull this. The most transparent administration ever did. It also spied on James Rosen, who has notably not been lauded as the patron saint of all of journalism yet either for the slings and arrows he suffered for the profession and the truth.
USA Today Washington Bureau chief Susan Page is the latest in a series of journalists to criticize the White House on transparency.
At a White House Correspondents’ Association seminar on Saturday, Page described the Obama administration as “more restrictive” and “more dangerous” to the press than any other administration in history.
The Washington Post reports that her remarks were a “clear reference” to White House claims that Fox News’s James Rosen may be in violation of the Espionage Act.
The Post described the WHCA seminar as a means for its members “to strategize over how to open up the byways of the self-proclaimed most transparent administration in history, as well as to compare war stories on the many ways in which it is not.”
She’s right, but they sure are quiet about it.