The Corner

How Do Journalistic Ethics Work Here?

I am confused.

On November 2, 2005, Dana Priest and the Washington Post published the first of several stories about the so-called CIA black-site prisons. It would seem obvious that they know who their sources were – including, of course, their government sources. At the very least, Priest knows personally and, being that she is an agent of the Post for these purposes, the newspaper knows derivatively and corporately.

On Saturday, the Post published a story by Katherine Shrader of the Associated Press regarding the CIA’s firing of intelligence officer Mary O. McCarthy. That story contained the following assertions, which certainly grabbed my attention (italics are mine):

… A law enforcement official confirmed there was a criminal leaks investigation under way, but it did not involve the fired CIA officer.

The official said the CIA officer had provided information that contributed to a Washington Post story last year disclosing secret U.S. prisons in Eastern Europe. The law enforcement official spoke only on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter.

Now today, as Jonah has noted here on the Corner, the Post has published an aggressive account strongly suggesting that Mary McCarthy is not a black-sites source. Clearly, if she’s not, and especially if she’s claiming innocence and the government is not really accusing her of this impropriety, she should not be tarred with it.

BUT, how in the world does the Post explain publishing the AP story on Saturday?

If McCarthy is not a black-sites source, the Post, better than anyone else, knows that. How in good conscience do they run a story so strongly identifying her as the source (in addition to other stories that transparently connected McCarthy’s termination to the black-sites reporting even if they didn’t directly cite McCarthy as the source)?

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