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Kindergarten Cops

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I would agree that "nonpartisan" doesn't quite do it.

With all the mentions of the JFK religion speech before Mitt Romney holds forth on Mormonism today, I thought people might want to see a bit of the video. I confess to having utterly missed its significance. I was 7 at the time.

The liberal blogosphere continues to express outrage at Time's Joe Klein over an error that he made. And there is no disagreement that he made an error.

The controversy began when Klein was writing about the domestic surveillance legislation, or FISA. When Democrats objected to his take, Klein wrote on Time's Swampland blog:

"I have neither the time nor legal background to figure out who's right (ADD: about this minor detail of a bill that will never find its way out of the Congress)."

Salon's Glenn Greenwald, a Klein critic and leader of the charge against him on this issue, said the so-called minor detail "was the entire basis of his smear against House Democrats."

Soon afterward, Joe beat a partial retreat:

"I may have made a mistake in my column this week about the FISA legislation passed by the House, although it's difficult to tell for sure given the technical nature of the bill's language and fierce disagreements between even moderate Republicans and Democrats on the Committee about what the bill actually does contain. Democrats say that I was wrong to report that the bill includes a FISA court review of individual foreign terrorist targets who might communicate with U.S. persons, although it does include an annual 'basket' review of procedures used by U.S. intelligence agencies to target foreign suspects. The Republican Committee staff disagrees and says my reporting is correct.

"I have to side with the Democrats. I reported as fact a provision of the bill that seems to be disputable, to say the least. Clearly, I didn't do sufficient vetting of the facts."

The following appeared in his next magazine column:

"Correction: I was wrong to write last week that the House Democratic version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would require a court approval of individual foreign surveillance targets. The bill does not explicitly say that. Republicans believe it can be interpreted that way, but Democrats don't."

Not a shining moment in journalism, but at least he owned up to it.

When I called Klein to ask about this, he said: "I made a mistake, I corrected it and it's over."

But Greenwald reported this week that Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, a member of the intelligence committee, submitted a letter to Time disputing Klein's account, and that Time would not run it.

I had a hard time understanding Time's stance. Shouldn't people who feel they have been wronged be given space to respond?

A Time spokeswoman told me the magazine hadn't received the letter--even though Feingold's office insisted that it was sent--and contacted the senator to get a copy after the controversy heated up. The letter will run in the next issue, saying in part:

"Klein called the Democrats 'tone-deaf' for acting on the demands of the American people that we bring the Iraq war to a close. And he says we are 'well beyond stupid,' but he got most of the facts wrong about the debate over changing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)."


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