Yesterday I wrote this letter to L.A. Times editor Dean Baquet, requesting an interview about the paper’s disclosure of classified details of the legal and effective Swift counterterror program. I said, among other things:
Publishing op-eds defending your decision is all well and good, but you have yet to face the truly tough questions. I think you should be willing to do that. In your op-eds, you and Mr. Keller have alluded to the quasi-governmental role of the press in our system as a watchdog. Indeed, many refer to newspapers as the Fourth Estate the fourth branch of government. Further, you and Mr. Keller appear willing to arrogate to yourselves some of the powers of duly elected officials, such as choosing what classified information will be disclosed to our citizens (and our enemies). If you are going to exercise such awesome and quasi-governmental powers, you should face the same kind of scrutiny that you would expect members of the actual government to face in similar circumstances.
In sum, you have a responsibility to defend your decisions to the public not simply in antiseptic op-ed pieces ringing with platitudes, but also by facing difficult questions posed by someone who disagrees with your decision.
Mr. Baquet has declined my invitation.
He gave me a reason, which I have asked him to allow me to publish. It’s . . . unconvincing. But hopefully he’ll allow you to read it for yourself.