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Trust Us

We can keep a secret, writes former U.N. correspondent Michael Berlin:

On Nov. 4 of [1979], Islamic militants stormed and occupied the U.S. Embassy compound in Tehran and took hostage the more than 70 Americans there.
But six American officials happened to be outside the compound, elsewhere in the Iranian capital, at the time of the takeover. The militants never realized that some Americans were missing; they were being sheltered by Canadian diplomats in Tehran, who were risking their own safety to protect them.
At that time, I was a reporter covering the United Nations for the New York Post and The Washington Post. On the second day after the takeover, I got hold of a published diplomatic list of Americans attached to the embassy in Iran, just to try to put names to the hostages. So did journalists all over Washington, and in newsrooms across America.
I noticed a discrepancy in the numbers: People on the list outnumbered hostages announced by the militants.

Tom Maguire cuts to the chase: “With easily identifiable potential victims and villains, the press sat on the story.”
This is what we refer to in the industry as a “no-brainer.” The connection between this incident and more recent leak controversies — in which consequences of exposing classified terrorist-tracking programs have not been as intuitive – is tenuous at best. Yet according to the author, “The Canada-hostage story proves that reporters and news organizations can be trusted, en masse, to make the right call on security information they uncover.”
No. It proves that the press usually makes the right call when the right call is mind-numbingly obvious. Interesting story, but wrong conclusion. 


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