In late June, Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times breathlessly reported on the front page, above the fold and under a big headline, that in the just-announced case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court "shredded each of the administration's arguments." The decision--which held that, as organized, the military tribunals the Bush administration had created to try unlawful combatants seized on the battlefield in Afghanistan, were contrary to federal law and a provision of the Geneva Conventions--was, Greenhouse gushed, "a sweeping and categorical defeat for the Bush administration."
Never mind that the Court had not questioned the government's right to detain Salim Ahmed Hamdan, allegedly Osama bin Laden's driver and bodyguard, without charge or trial, as an unlawful combatant, until such time as the conflict between the United States and al Qaeda comes to an end. Never mind that, in a paragraph-long concurring opinion, Justice Breyer emphasized that much, if not all, of the military tribunal procedures designed by the Bush administration would pass legal muster if explicitly authorized by Congress. Never mind that the Court's opinion commanded only a narrow five-justice majority.
What was truly remarkable about Greenhouse's performance--her lengthy article was not an op-ed column or piece of "news analysis" but a news story of the sort customarily intended to provide a dispassionate and well-rounded account of the facts--was the omission of a single reference to the features of America's national security situation that motivated the Bush administration to turn to the use of military tribunals.