The New York Times spying story is bearing strange fruit, all right: the latest being the suggestion by NBC’s Andrea Mitchell to “State of War”/NYT spy-story writer James Risen that the Bush Administration was eavesdropping on the conversations of CNN international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. Deep breath. I know.
Here’s the relevent portion from the interview (from AMERICAblog)
Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?
Risen: No, I don’t. It’s not clear to me. That’s one of the questions we’ll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don’t know the answer to that
Mitchell: You don’t have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?
Risen: No, no I hadn’t heard that.
NBC published the interview – including the excerpt above – on Tuesday. On Wednesday afternoon, they excised the bolded portion above, and told TVNewser that they removed it pending further reporting: “We removed that section of the transcript so that we may further continue our inquiry.”
NBC uses the language of an ongoing investigation; and indeed, one has to assume that Andrea Mitchell wasn’t just speaking out of her hat when she asked Risen that specific, pointed question (she certainly has more knowledge than Amanpour; she and CNN profess to be are clueless regarding any possible eavesdropping and are “looking into it”).
The implications of the NYT spying story are serious enough, but eavesdropping on the press during the course of an election? Well, that elevates the Bush Administration’s, er, less-than-friendly relationship with the press to an entirely new level. That’s nothing when you consider who Amanpour is married to: former State Department spokesman and Clinton advisor James Rubin…who was also an advisor to the Kerry campaign.
Bottom line: It’s incredibly strange, and incredily suspect. But without further proof from NBC or anyone else, it remains nothing more than speculation, and a raised eyebrow.