Friday, December 16, 2005

Daily Kos: NY Times Self-Censorship, AKA "the President's Press"

A month or so ago, when I was heaping scorn on those pathetic incompetents at the NYT, loyal reader esoder repeatedly voiced his hope/expectation that the Judy Miller mess would be the turning point, and that a renaissance would soon begin.

I guess the jury just came in on that idea, and it doesn't look good.

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.
Let's get this straight. The NY Times has this story which, as it reports, has been confirmed by a dozen officials. It possibly had this information prior to the election. And when the White House asks pretty please can you not let the American people know we're destroying their civil rights, the NY Times says "sure"? Because, you know, Americans don't need to be informed as they go to the polls. Better to keep them ignorant and scared--and Republican.
...
In a failed attempt to excuse its actions, the NY Times has released a statement:

Officials also assured senior editors of The Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed that satisfied everyone involved that the program raised no legal questions.
Well, if the Bush Administration says it's legal, it must be! When did the Fourth Estate adopt the policy of accepting government statements as gospel? Since when did the press decide that it would forfeit its duty to hold the government independently accountable? Oh yeah, back in 2001.

What the Times did here was outrageous, and constitutes a dereliction of duty at least as heinous as its handling of the Miller episode. Put the two together, and what you get is the utterly inappropriate attempt by the Times to use one essential part of the Bill of Rights as a fig leaf even as it looked the other way while another was obliterated -- for more than a year, and perhaps even while the perpetrator had his "accountability moment."

Forgive my pessimistic view of the chances of better things from this Tony Blair of the newspaper world, esoder.

We must demand that they tell us exactly when they got this story.

Update: My letter to the NYT public editor:

Sitting on a story exposing the defacto repeal of the 4th Amendment at the same time the paper was claiming the mantle of the guardian of the Bill of Rights in the Judith Miller snafu is the height of hypocrisy. The excuses given so far all ring hollow.

The article reporting this outrage states that "After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting." This vague language certainly creates the impression that the Times knew the Administration had repealed the 4th Amendment by executive fiat before the 2004 election. Is that true? We need to know: exactly what did the NYT know, and when did it know it?
Please add your voice.

Update: Emptywheel.

2 Comments:

Blogger <-<--esoder<---<----<----- said...

They still have the best crossword.

And I still think the Miller business was a turning point. Like you said, they had the story over a year ago. The fact that they are releasing the story now is an indication (to me, anyway)that they are in ascension.

I agree that what they did was awful, but if we heap scorn on them for fessing up (even though they weaseled quite a bit), it will only discourage them from being forthright in the future. Now if the Post broke this story, I would be more upset.

It's like my kid telling the truth about breaking a lamp or something. While I am upset (because Mom always says, "Don't play ball in the house), he is in less trouble because he was honest about it.

There is hope - there has to be.

Also, I saw Syriana with my wife tonight. I can't wait for that DVD so I can pause, rewind, grab a beer, etc. in the comfort of my own home. Think it'll have a gag reel?

3:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.consortiumnews.com/2005/121605.html

Spying & the Public's Right to Know

The New York Times has disclosed that George W. Bush secretly waived rules restricting electronic surveillance inside the United States, allowing spying on hundreds of Americans without a court warrant. But almost as stunning was the Times admission that it had held the story for a year.

Indeed, it appears the information about Bush’s secret spy order was leaked before Election 2004, but was kept from the American people because the Bush administration warned Times executives that the story’s publication might endanger national security.

In finally publishing the story on Dec. 16, more than 13 months after President Bush won a second term, the Times gave few details about specifically why it withheld the story in 2004 and then decided to print it now.

The article stated that “the White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting.”

In the final weeks before Election 2004, Bush administration officials might have been nervous, too, that the revelation that Bush had asserted broad presidential authority in overriding legal constraints on domestic spying could have played into the hands of Democrat John Kerry. But there is no indication that political concerns were raised with New York Times executives.

Still, there is an unwritten rule in elite U.S. journalism that sensitive stories should not be published in the days before an election so as not to skew the outcome. A countervailing view holds that newsworthy information should be reported to the American people whenever a story is ready, regardless of the political calendar.

4:04 AM  

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