Media Blog

Why the NYT?

Today on CNN, correspondent Ed Henry accused the administration of focusing its criticism on the New York Times in an attempt to score political points with conservatives:

The story was also reported by the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, but the attacks have focused on the New York Times — the chance to beat up on a newspaper with a liberal reputation is too good to resist for an administration struggling to keep its conservative base happy.

For the benefit of Henry and others who continue to misstate the reasons why the NYT is bearing the brunt of the criticism, let me spell it out for you:

  1. The NYT broke the story. As Howard Kurtz reports today, the editors of the LA Times had not even had a chance to hear the administration’s arguments against publishing the details of the program. And according to Kurtz, the editors at the WSJ assume they weren’t contacted because by the time the NYT had posted its story online, ”the officials were resigned to the fact that the details were coming out.”
  2. The NYT’s publication of the details of this classified program fits into a pattern of stories in which the NYT has demonstrated a complete disregard for the need for secrecy in how the government gathers intelligence on terrorist threats.

That is why government officials are singling out the NYT for especially harsh criticism. Why is that so hard for some people to understand?
P.S. I chose this screenshot because it inadvertently highlights the absurdity of NYT editor Bill Keller’s response to this criticism. Henry displays the following quote from Keller:

I think it would be arrogant of us to pre-empt the work of Congress and the courts by deciding these programs are perfectly legal and abuse-proof, based entirely on the word of the government.

First, it’s arrogant of Keller to think he has the right to decide which classified intelligence-gathering operations stay classified and which don’t. Second, members of Congress from both parties were briefed on the program. Third, no government program is “abuse-proof” — if that was the standard we’d have no government at all. Fourth, doesn’t the “government” include Congress and the courts? Didn’t “government officials” participate in leaking this program to the NYT?
Keller’s use of the word “government” is meant to imply that this is a struggle between the government and the NYT. Such a portrayal disguises the true nature of the struggle, which is happening among government officials. The plain fact of the matter is that the NYT has picked sides in that struggle, but Keller would rather have a debate about the First Amendment than admit that.
Video here.

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