Brave Journalist Loses Spleen, Keeps Sense of Humor


By addiestan, The Media Consortium.

Funny thing about being a journalist: your job is to write about people and mayhem and trauma, but let any of those touch you directly, and it becomes a different game. With that caveat, allow me to recount my brief visit today with my colleague, Brian Beutler, whose sign-off is a familiar one on this site, and has come to define the reporting of The Media Consortium’s
syndicated reporting project.

I was just about to leave the house this morning to meet with Brian when I got word through a mutual colleague of ours, that he had been shot in Washington, D.C., in an aborted mugging.

I found him at Washington Hospital Center, where his good friend Matt Franklin, sat vigil through the night, as Brian underwent major surgery. By the time I got there, Brian was in recovery, and Matt and I were shown to his bedside.

Perhaps foremost among the topics about which Brian writes in his coverage of national security and civil liberties issues is FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Bush administration’s circumvention of the original 1978 legislation, and subsequent legislative attempts to widen the powers of the executive branch to spy on U.S. citizens. The entity of choice for such spying by the Bush administration has been the National Security Agency.

This morning, Brian and I had planned to go over the story he had just delivered about efforts by Sen. Russell Feingold to stop the latest version of FISA legislation from getting through the Senate. As his editor, I had promised our members that we would deliver the piece today.

When I stepped up to Brian’s hospital bed, he smiled through the clear, plastic mask covering his mouth, and said in a quiet, hoarse voice, “Sorry. I left you high and dry.”

What could I do but laugh?

After some housekeeping conversation about his level of comfort (not great, as you might imagine), he piped up, “I have a theory about the shooting.” He smiled, impishly.

“Oh, yeah?” I said.

“It was the NSA,” he said, with a deadpan look.

(Actually, it was two teenage boys who thought they wanted Brian’s cell phone.)

Matt laughed.

The good word is that Brian is expected to make a full recovery. Please be patient as we await his return to his beat. Nobody covers FISA and the rest of his
beat quite like Brian Beutler. I know that his passion for his work will bring him back to the Hill in good time.

[Picture of Brian via Ezra Klein.]

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