Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Let’s start today’s gaggle coverage with a question apparently posed by Yoda:

Q The Ayatollah’s comments — a snub, do you consider them? I mean, a month ago the President offers direct talks.

Which Pony Blow completely flubs.</p

MR. SNOW: No. No. The President has never offered direct talks. Again, keep in mind what I’ve said many times, which is you’re going to get a number of voices from Iran, as the Iranian government and factions within the Iranian government try to figure out how they are going to proceed with not only the United States offer, but also the EU3, a package of incentives if the Iranians agree to renounce uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.

[snip]

Q Tony, this is not just another faction. I mean, Ayatollah Khamenei is the final arbiter of state issues. He can’t be sort of dismissed as one in the chorus.

Obsession continues, Read More…

From Holden:

Pony also fails the Froomkin test.</p

Q Tony, regarding the disclosure last week of the SWIFT monitoring program, I understand the theoretical argument that this impedes the ability to conduct intelligence, but does the White House know for a fact that it’s demonstrably changed and lessened the ability —

MR. SNOW: We took this up yesterday, which is, you’re not going to be able to assess definitively within a day. But I think what you’re likely to have is negative confirmation in the sense people change their behavior.

How come the wingers don’t want to charge the president with treason?</p

Q One quick follow-up. Two weeks after 9/11, or approximately two weeks after 9/11, the President announced that the U.S., through the Treasury Department, was going to be reaching out to banks all over the world and trying to freeze terrorist assets, and also get all information they can. And if the banks did not comply, the U.S. would stop doing business with those banks. So is it not — I mean, wasn’t the message sent right then and there that —

MR. SNOW: No, there’s a difference — there’s a difference between the theoretical constrict, which is we’re going to choke off financing, and talking about sources and methods, or ways in which you do it. There’s a real difference, because the terrorists —

Q This wasn’t just talking about financing, this was —

MR. SNOW: Well, but, again, I’m simply — you’re raising the question. I’m telling you that when you make a general construct about how you try to choke off financing, do all those things, you don’t tell how you’re doing it.

[snip]

Q I guess what I’m asking is — and I’m sorry for not being specific enough — but is there the belief that even though terrorists had clearly been tipped off from the very beginning by the President that there was going to be an aggressive attempt to get as much financial information as possible, that they did not know about the SWIFT Bank?

MR. SNOW: I am absolutely sure they didn’t know about SWIFT. There are — when you have key government officials around the world saying, we didn’t know about it — there may have been a lot of activity, but it is a program that was not well-known, including among people who have pretty high positions in the banking industry. So, yes, this is not the sort of thing that everybody knew.

No equivalency with the Assministration’s warrantless eavesdropping.</p

Q I talked yesterday with somebody from the NSC about the telephone records being handed over — by the telephone companies to the NSA. And they wouldn’t confirm or deny the existence of the program.

MR. SNOW: Right.

Q Now, as far as the SWIFT financial records issue that was reported in The New York Times, you seem to have confirmed the existence of that program by the way that you’ve been talking from the podium.

MR. SNOW: That is correct.

Q So if that’s the case, and the telephone records program was written about also in The New York Times and in USA Today, why not just go ahead and either confirm or deny the existence of this program and just lay the whole thing to rest?

MR. SNOW: Because we are neither going to confirm, nor deny. We are going to be perfectly circular with you here. But having neither confirmed, nor denied before, we’re not going to do it. In the particular case with The New York Times, there was a concerted effort to lay before the newspaper the full facts and to try to make the argument that while it might make a good story, it’s bad in terms of national security. As far as the other program, we just have never confirmed or denied the details.

And finally, in Your Daily Les, Kinsolving hates on the First Amendment.</p

Q Heather Mac Donald of [the Manhattan] Institute’s City Journal writes the following: “Al Qaeda has long worked to manipulate the media in its favor. It can disband that operation now knowing that unbidden, America’s most powerful newspaper is looking out for its interest,” while Gabriel Schoenfeld of Commentary writes of, “The case for prosecuting The New York Times.” My question: The President doesn’t disagree with either Mac Donald or Schoenfeld, does he?

MR. SNOW: First, since you’re flacking both think tanks and publications, both of these appeared in the Weekly Standard. So we’ll get it all out.

Q I know, but —

MR. SNOW: But the fact is — no.

Q — I have no connection with either.

MR. SNOW: No, but I have had — the President has no comment on these. These are privately expressed — or they’re the views of Heather Mac Donald and Mr. Schoenfeld, and we’ll leave it at that.

Q But they’re one — they’re two among a great many that are speaking out very strongly on this issue, aren’t they?

MR. SNOW: Exactly, yes. There are a lot of people speaking out strongly on the issue.