"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."

Last week, when the Patriot Act came up for renewal, two stories burst forward that cast a whole new light on the debate.

First, the New York Times came out with its story on the secret wiretaps by the NSA on suspected terrorists. The Times had apparently sat on this story for over a year at the Bush administration’s request, but for some reason that no one has adequately managed to explain, those reasons became — to use a rather time-honored phrase — “no longer operative” last week, and the Times blew the lid off of it.

Secondly, a Massachusetts college student announced that he had been visited by the FBI after he had done the unthinkable — he had asked for a copy of The Quotations of Chairman Mao (“Mao’s Little Red Book”) from his school’s library. This smacked of heavy-handed Big Brotherism, and had a lot of people in a tizzy.

Only one problem with the student’s story, though: it just doesn’t check out.

The student, after his initial interview with the New Bedford Standard-Times, has refused all further contact. The Boston FBI office says it has absolutely no records and no information of any agents going to UMass-Dartmouth (not to be confused with the ivy-league Dartmouth College, located in Hanover, New Hampshire) on that pretext, or any other. And the school itself says it has had no contact with the FBI, and Mao’s Book isn’t on any “watch list” that it knows of.

Would it be paranoid of me to “question the timing” of these accounts?

Correction — strike “FBI” from above and replace “Department of Homeland Security.” My apologies for the brain fart.

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