The Moral Bankruptcy of Bill Keller And Pinch Sulzberger
The New York Times does not get a free pass here. As I mentioned in the post below, the Times held off publication of the NSA spying story for more than a year, against the wishes of the reporters who wrote it. The original article contains this gem:
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.The technical term in epistemology for the White House's claim is "bullshit." Julian Sanchez aptly notes:
The supposed reason for the request is that the revelation would threaten national security by tipping off terrorists. But... about what? About the fact that the government is seeking to wiretap suspected terrorist? To whom does this come as news? We all know law enforcement can get secret wiretap warrants through a FISA court; the only reason to expect terrorists to change their behavior now that they know wiretaps are happening without warrants is if we think they've somehow broached the secrecy of the FISA courts.In other words, unless al Qaeda has cracked our national security apparatus's safeguards to such an extent that they have knowledge of who is and who isn't subject to FISA-warranted surveillance, the disclosure that the administration conducted unwarranted surveillance changes the national security calculus not at all. (And if al Qaeda had such access to FISA intelligence, we'd be in direr straits than any newspaper disclosure could ever put us in.) This is not a difficult point to comprehend. Unless you're Bill Keller:
As we have done before in rare instances when faced with a convincing national security argument, we agreed not to publish at that time.Keller and Sulzberger spent the summer posing as free-press absolutists and the Times devoted a score of editorials to the defense 1st Amendment martyr Judith Miller. Now it turns out that the broadsheet that once published the Pentagon Papers and met and resisted and succesfully turned back an administration hell-bent on suppressing the truth is now led by men who are gulled by the mere pronunciation of the words "national security." Howell Raines' conduct unbecoming an NYT executive editor, if you remember, was that he coddled Jayson Blair and allowed liberal bias to seep into the Times' reporting. That was bad. What Keller has done is worse. As for Sulzberger, we can only hope that he is overthrown by a revolt of the Times Co.'s shareholders.