President Bush has been summoning newspaper editors lately in an effort to prevent publication of stories he considers damaging to national security.
The efforts have failed, but the rare White House sessions with the executive editors of The Washington Post and New York Times are an indication of how seriously the president takes the recent reporting that has raised questions about the administration’s anti-terror tactics.
Leonard Downie Jr., The Post’s executive editor, would not confirm the meeting with Bush before publishing reporter Dana Priest’s Nov. 2 article disclosing the existence of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe used to interrogate terror suspects. Bill Keller, executive editor of the Times, would not confirm that he, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Washington bureau chief Philip Taubman had an Oval Office sit-down with the president on Dec. 5, 11 days before reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau revealed that Bush had authorized eavesdropping on Americans and others within the United States without court orders.
But the meetings were confirmed by sources who have been briefed on them but are not authorized to comment because both sides had agreed to keep the sessions off the record. The White House had no comment.
Of course, what W calls “damaging to national security” is in reality just “damaging to his policical career”.