Patterico's Pontifications


Keller and Baquet Issue Joint Pronouncement from on High

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Media Bias,Scum,Terrorism — Patterico @ 11:55 am

Bill Keller and Dean Baquet issue a joint pronouncement today defending their decision to publish classified details of a safe, legal, and effective counterterror program.

There’s little new here. The editors don’t try to argue that the program was illegal, that it had inadequate safeguards, that Congress was not briefed, or that the program was ineffective.

In the absence of any such argument, their decision cannot be defended, and they make no serious effort to try. Instead we get the same platitudes and arguments we have seen from each of them individually: they hate terrorism too; they took the decision seriously; the public has a right to know. I refer readers to my earlier response to Dean Baquet’s previous defense.

I agree generally with the idea that some classified information must be exposed by newspapers. I would draw the line in a different place from the newspapers, but a government program to assassinate political opponents of the President would be the proper subject of a news story, whether the program were classified or not.

But when a program is legal, effective, and has proper controls and oversight — and the editors here make no serious effort to argue otherwise — the argument doesn’t fly. And the editors make these decisions with incomplete information; witness the fact that the Los Angeles Times didn’t even know any of the specific successes of the program when they ran their story.

While the piece offers nothing new in the way of a defense, it nevertheless has a couple of interesting aspects.

First, the obvious: the editor of the Wall Street Journal did not contribute. It’s a joint piece by the editors of the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Alone.

In legal circles, that’s known as an admission. If you’re looking for the responsible papers, look no further: The East and West Coast Timeses are the newspapers responsible for blowing this program.

These are the papers which did a lengthy investigation with anonymous sources; which made a decision to publish after learning that the program was legal, effective, and had proper safeguards and oversight; and which stuck to that decision in the face of intense government opposition to publication.

And these are the papers which made that decision based largely on information fed them by sources who might have an agenda. Keller and Baquet admit as much in this interesting passage:

Reporters operate without security clearances, without subpoena powers, without spy technology. They work, rather, with sources who may be scared, who may know only part of the story, who may have their own agendas that need to be discovered and taken into account.

This appears to be quite true of this story. The sources who tipped off the Los Angeles Times either knew only part of the story, or they had their own agenda. Because they apparently didn’t mention any specific information about the critical question of whether the program has been successful. The Los Angeles Times didn’t tell us any specifics about the successes — like the capture of Hambali, or of an Al Qaeda money launderer, or the identification of a major Iraqi terror facilitator, or the obtaining of information on the London terror bombings.

Apparently the L.A. Times sources didn’t tell The Times about these successes. Maybe they didn’t know about them. But maybe the sources did know — but didn’t tell the L.A. Times, because maybe they had an agenda.

If these sources have an ulterior motive, the papers haven’t told us what it was. What were the agendas of the people who disclosed this story, Messrs. Keller and Baquet?

From what you’ve told us in your articles, the agenda appears to be nothing more than the noble impulse of patriotic Americans to inform the citizenry of a violation of their privacy (i.e. their supposed privacy rights in conducting international banking transactions with terrorists).

Is that really all there is to it??

If there’s more to it, you haven’t said so.

And you know what? We don’t trust you to learn it in the first place, and we further don’t trust you to tell us if you do know.

Remember Mary McCarthy? She blabbed to the Washington Post‘s Dana Priest about alleged secret prisons abroad (never found). She turned out to be a major Democrat partisan and financial contributor, but the L.A. Times didn’t ever tell us about that. Instead, the paper told us that she is not an ideologue.

And this is part of what bothers us about these stories: classified information is released by anonymous sources who may have an axe to grind against the Bush Administration — and thus, they might not have an interest in telling the full story, like what the specific successes of the program have been. Yet the paper won’t tell us of these possible secret agendas, so that we can evaluate their credibility.

But not telling readers important information has become a way of life at the L.A. Times. Unlike the New York Times the L.A. Times hasn’t reported the specific successes of the program yet — despite the fact that they have been known and publicized by other papers for over a week.

And so here is my advice to you, readers of the L.A. Times and New York Times. What the editors say about their sources is true of their own newspapers. You are dealing with papers who “may know only part of the story, who may have their own agendas that need to be discovered and taken into account.” It is the mission of this blog to discover the rest of the story, and expose the newspapers’ agendas, so you can take them into account.

That’s more than the papers do with their anonymous sources.

P.S. I think it’s high time that Dean Baquet and Bill Keller stop issuing repetitive and unhelpful pronouncements from on high. It’s time to answer some questions from your readers.

What do you say, Dean Baquet? Will you sit for an interview? My commenters and I are working on some questions for you.

UPDATE: The American people aren’t buying it, Messrs. Baquet and Keller. Allah reports that a new Fox poll shows that 60% of them think your stories helped the terrorists more than it helped the American public. Only 27% of them think you helped the public more.

And 66% think you should be prosecuted.

Pleasant dreams.

UPDATE x2: Messrs. Baquet and Keller, how does your analysis today apply to the publication of “maps and specific street names and photographs of the private (not anymore) homes where the Vice President and Defense Secretary and their families spend their vacations”?

UPDATE x3: Jim Treacher has these excellent observations about the publication of information on Cheney and Rumsfeld’s vacation homes.

12 Responses to “Keller and Baquet Issue Joint Pronouncement from on High”

  1. Forgive if you have already posted this from Editor & Publisher. I am kind of diving (like a seagull) in and out lately. It basically helps WSJ rip Mr. Sulzberger a new anal orifice.

    From Drudge.

    nk (5e5670)

  2. […] UPDATE: Armed Liberal at Winds Of Change is not impresed, either. Lori Byrd at Wizbang isn't. Mac's Mind is also detecting a whiff of panic. RantingProfs on credibility gaps. Decision '08 says it's all about cake. Hot Air running the numbers. Just One Minute calls it unintentionally funny. Patterico weighs in and slaps the Times Two silly. Flap also detects the smell of fear. […]

    Blue Crab Boulevard » Blog Archive » Althouse Versus The Times Two (a177fd)

  3. “…emotional national debate, featuring angry calls of “treason” and proposals that journalists be jailed along with much genuine concern and confusion about the role of the press in times like these.”

    Like how accusations of treason and legitimate cases being made for the possibility of prosecution are contrasted with “genuine” concern and, especially, confusion? Because anybody who is concerned, aside from the crazies who want prosecution, MUST be confused as to the proper role of the press. Well here then, let us, the press, enlighten you.

    The arrogance knows no bounds.

    Anwyn (01a5cc)

  4. In my own kind of arrogance or self esteem, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to at least hear out people that I disagree with; I’ll at least listen to what they have to say. Baquet and Keller achieved something unusual in that regard this morning: I saw their joint commentary in this morning’s Dead Tree edition of the Los Angeles Times and refused to read it; I’ve never done that before. But when I saw on Real Clear Politics that the same joint piece had appeared in both the NYT and the LAT, I went ahead and read it. Not much new there; we have the right to publish anything we believe you ignorant fools need to know, whether you like it or not.

    Just as they achieved a (fortunately temporary) unintended or unusual result from me, i.e. refusal to even consider an opponent’s argument, I think these Press Lords may have achieved another unintended consequence–strengthening the political hands of their avowed enemies, Messrs. Bush and Rove in the November elections. If so, these self inflicted shots in the foot couldn’t have happened to a more deserving pair of journalists.

    Mike Myers (290636)

  5. Just because…. there are more important things to work on with secret service now.

    Camera With Pitt-Jolie Photos Is Seized
    Jul 01 5:41 PM US/Eastern
    Email this story

    WESTFIELD, Mass.

    Police in this western Massachusetts town say they have seized a digital camera with images of celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Africa for an investigation by Los Angeles authorities.

    Local police, accompanied by state police and Secret Service officers, went to the Westfield home of William Keys on Tuesday to recover a digital camera’s memory stick after three photos that appeared on the Internet were tracked to Keys, police said Friday.

    Officers then went to Precision Camera and Video Repair in Enfield, Conn., where Keys works, and recovered the camera. It remains in custody of Westfield police.

    No one has been arrested or charged in the case. It was unclear who took the photos.

    Keys did not return telephone calls Friday.

    “It’s an ongoing investigation, and we cannot comment,” said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County prosecutor’s office.

    Ali (c3e71e)

  6. Hey P — You manage to post on a column buried on the Op-Ed pages, but I guess since you no longer get the paper at home you missed the lead article on the front page: State Tracked Protesters in the Name of Security.

    Yep, no need to comment about these kind of abuses, since they come as no surprise.

    nosh (d8da01)

  7. I don’t comment on every story, or even every lead story. I made us late out the door today posting what I did. I get people saying they have no idea how I post as much as I do (some of them falsely assuming I must do it at work), and others saying I am a hypocrite for not posting more. You can’t win. So I don’t try.

    Patterico (2586cd)

  8. Hey nosh:

    1) What do you think of Stephen Yagman suing someone for writing him a letter? Waaaaah!

    2) I don’t think I ever heard a response to my inquiry as to who you are. As you’ll recall, you implied that I was a coward for supporting the war but not enlisting. I responded that you were a coward for criticizing me under a pseudonym. Since enlisting takes far more courage than spouting some opinions under your own name, your failure to do the latter, less courageous act certainly seems wimpier than my failure to enlist. What say you?

    Patterico (2586cd)

  9. Hey Nosh – you managed not to blog on anything at all! Damned hypocrite.

    Xrlq (5938d1)

  10. Editors Defend themselves, Patterico provides analysis…

    The editors of the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, Bill Keller and Dean Baquet, issued a joint pronouncement yesterday, in the Opinion sections of their respective papers, and I was not impressed in the least. Seems I…

    Sneakeasy's Joint (72c8fd)

  11. […] UPDATE: The sharp-eyed Cori Dauber notices that the Hewitt/Lichtblau clip (at 7:08) flashes at the bottom: “GOP vs. N.Y. Times.” In other words, it’s a purely partisan issue — as the program further evidences by putting three journalists against a partisan (Hewitt) who is introduced as the author of “Painting the Map Red.” There is no mention of the fact that Americans overwhelmingly agree with Hewitt, 60% to 27%, that the publication of the story helped the terrorists more than the public. Nope, it’s just the GOP vs. those responsible newspapers. I think we know where Howie Kurtz and CNN come down on this. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Keller on Face the Nation (421107)

  12. Ali, Comment #5: I wondered what the Secret Service was doing there too, so I did a little internet research. It seems that the Secret Service now has primary jurisdiction over internet and computer crimes. Additionally, it has been providing sprecialized technical support to local law enforcement for quite a long time as well.

    nk (d5dd10)

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