Patterico's Pontifications

6/24/2006

New York Times Prints More Classified Information Helpful to the Terrorists

Filed under: Media Bias,Scum,Terrorism — Patterico @ 10:55 pm



The New York Times continues its proud legacy of printing classified information helpful to the terrorist enemy, with this story detailing a secret U.S. plan to sharply reduce our military presence in Iraq by the end of 2007.

The top American commander in Iraq has drafted a plan that projects sharp reductions in the United States military presence there by the end of 2007, with the first cuts coming this September, American officials say.

According to a classified briefing at the Pentagon this week by the commander, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the number of American combat brigades in Iraq is projected to decrease to 5 or 6 from the current level of 14 by December 2007.

. . . .

General Casey’s briefing has remained a closely held secret, and it was described by American officials who agreed to discuss the details only on condition of anonymity.

I guess it’s not a “closely held secret” any more!

Got that, Al Qaeda? Just hold out another year and a half or so, and you’re home free! No, don’t thank me. Thank your pals at the New York Times.

Every time I think I can’t get angrier, I look at the New York Times web site — and I get angrier. These people are addicted to printing classified information that harms our country’s vital national security interests. What do we have to do to make them stop?

FLASHBACK: From the July 7, 2005 New York Times:

Responsible journalists recognize that press freedoms are not absolute and must be exercised responsibly. This newspaper will not, for example, print the details of American troop movements in advance of a battle, because publication would endanger lives and national security.

The linked story doesn’t provide “the details of American troop movements in advance of a battle,” but it does provide details about anticipated troop levels in the middle of a war. There is no question that Al Qaeda takes comfort in knowing that there are official plans to slash troop levels in Iraq by the end of 2007. The folks at the New York Times think they’re staying on the right side of the line, but in reality, they have crossed it.

There has to be some sort of consequence for this pattern of behavior.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey appears to suspect that this may have been a deliberate leak by the Pentagon. If the President authorized the declassification of the information, then obviously there is no issue of releasing classified information — but then the story is inaccurate, because it terms the information “classified.” If the information was indeed classified, as the story says, then I don’t care whether the leaker’s motive was to help Bush or harm him. Nor does the law.

P.S. If Bush declassified information for a crassly political purpose, the voters have a remedy: they can vote for Democrats next time around. But if the information was properly classified, and was published by a newspaper without authorization, the voters have no recourse. This is why classification is left up to the government and not the newspapers.

16 Responses to “New York Times Prints More Classified Information Helpful to the Terrorists”

  1. They should be prosecuted, Patterico.

    What cowardice is their among [federal] prosecutors that prevents this?

    Chris from Victoria, BC (9824e6)

  2. Okay I’m going out on a limb here, I think the administration is deliberately playing possum in the face of the NYT’s provocations in order to tar the entire leftist MSM as traitors. This is political gold, the sheer rage being generated at the leftist media elite by this behavior is worth much more domestically than the counter-terrorism advantages the programs themselves conferred.

    History has shown smart people in elite bubbles can make unbelievably stupid decisions based on what they erroneously believe to be their interests. The NYT poobahs think they’re advancing liberalism by sticking it to Dubya, what they don’t realize is how criminally bad it looks to those who aren’t millionaire Manhattan liberal media apparatchiks. What they don’t get is that the next time they scream “Fascism! Censorship!” at Bush, people will remember them spewing national war secrets on their front page and Bush doing nothing. Some fascism.

    The NYT is being played. They are sealing themselves in their own coffin and nailing it up and Rove is handing them the hammer. The last thing the Bushies want to do is indict the Times and let them play free speech martyr.

    Oh, and if a few dozens or hundreds of Americans get killed in another domestic attack? No need to worry, none of them are likely to be liberal media barons or Bush administration officials, so relax, it’s a risk worth taking.

    And so the game goes.

    Amos (234a43)

  3. The folks at PowerLine offer up an explanation, via Ace of Spades:

    The implicit message is, if you want the leaks to stop, elect Democrats.

    Mike Lief (e9d57e)

  4. You mean, the blackmail option. I tend to be with Allah on this: it’s not deliberate blackmail. It’s the product of a distorted world view.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  5. Until I read about this I was still more concerned about setting a none-too-desirable precedent than making the NYT play by the rules, but this story shows nothing more than that Keller, Sulzberger, Risen, Lichtblau and the rest think that the First Amendment somehow puts them above all the rules.

    I wouldn’t advocate jailtime… but a plea-bargain involving a fine would be nice. After, say, putting those four in particular and the NYT in general through a wonderful six months or so of intimate contact with the criminal justice system.

    Chaos (27ce18)

  6. I think the Times is hawking a trumped-up exclusive. About 10 media analysts and writers met with Gen. Casey Thursday before his press conference accompanied by the SECDEF. It was not off-the-record. Note-taking was allowed.

    He disclosed things like Muqtada al-Sadr may have lost control of his militia, the resistance against U.S. occupation is weakening, the Sunni insurgency is beginning to seek an honorable way out and methods to ensure relevancy and participation. 80% of the serious violence is within 30 miles of Baghdad. 14 of 18 provinces have less than 9 major incidents a month.

    It’s all reportable and the Times ordained a single aspect and fashioned a scoop. They’re shameless. But not for the reasons Patterico cites.

    steve (817857)

  7. Tell us more. The supposedly classified information was passed along by Casey in this off-the-record meeting? Who attended? Do you have links to prove this? Please provide them.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  8. Patterico, you are so naive, there is a good chance this was a deliberate Bush administration trial balloon. Happens all the time in Washington. As Kissinger allegedly said “I never leak, I declassify”.

    James B. Shearer (78c3e7)

  9. James,

    I saw Captain Ed’s post making the same point and updated the post to reflect the possibility. There are two choices: 1) the story is wrong and the information was not classified or declassified, or 2) classified information was leaked. If it’s choice #2, I don’t care what the leaker’s motive was, and neither, apparently, does the law.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  10. Patterico, doesn’t the law say something about “knowingly and willfully”?

    James B. Shearer (78c3e7)

  11. That’s not the same as motive.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  12. My apologies to all for temporarily causing this post to vanish. I checked after steve and James B. Shearer both asked about it. Somehow it got marked “Private” — I have no idea how. What that means is, as long as I’m logged in (and I always am), the post appears as normal — but to everyone else, it’s gone.

    I can’t figure out what happened. But anyway, it’s back. Nothing sinister, just a technical glitch somewhere. Feel free to make the points you were going to make.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  13. Patterico, regarding the glitch, it must have happened around the time I made comment 10 since I got an error message rather than a confirmation and when I tried to figure out if the comment had been posted the entire post had disappeared.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  14. Patterico, regarding motive and prosecuting a pro-Bush leak, I think this is effectively impossible for the following reasons.

    If the relevant law is the same as for the communications security law you mentioned earlier it requires knowing and willful disclosure of classified information to someone not authorized to receive it. Knowing means knowledge of the facts that constitute the crime, willful means knowledge that the conduct is unlawful.

    I find it hard to believe that a Bush adminstration official could be held criminally liable for disclosing information if that official reasonably believed that is what Bush wanted him to do. After all Bush has the power to declassify any information or authorize anyone to receive it, if Bush feels this is in the national interest. Presumedly Bush can also delegate this power as he chooses. So how are you going to prove that an official who thought he was carrying out Bush’s wishes knew he was acting unlawfully?

    Regarding classified briefings, just because a briefing is classified does not mean all or even any of the information in the briefing is classified. It is often difficult to determine whether a particular fact is classified or not since much information labeled classified is in fact not classified. If an official discloses classified information which he mistakenly believes to be unclassified he would not meet the “knowing” requirement.

    Going by some of your earlier comments you believe it is lawful to disclose classified information which was improperly classified. An official who believed this would not meet the “willful” requirement. Nor would a reporter who believed, as many reporters do, that he can legally publish any information that he has obtained lawfully. You have reported that government officials urged that some of these stories not be published. This is implicit confirmation that publication is legal. Otherwise government officials would not ask that the stories not be published, they would demand that the stories not be published and state that publication would result in prosecution.

    James B. Shearer (fc887e)

  15. You have reported that government officials urged that some of these stories not be published. This is implicit confirmation that publication is legal. Otherwise government officials would not ask that the stories not be published, they would demand that the stories not be published and state that publication would result in prosecution.

    No, it is 1) a recognition that prior restraint doctrine would probably not allow the government to send in soldiers with guns to stop the printing presses, and 2) a desire to avoid heavy-handed tactics and use instead persuasion.

    Keep in mind that it was Treasury, not Justice, who talked to the papers. They don’t have the power to prosecute.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  16. The linked story doesn’t provide “the details of American troop movements in advance of a battle,” but it does provide details about anticipated troop levels in the middle of a war.

    One. Wars are different than battles. Two. these aren’t very much anticipated — the plan hasn’t gone into place. And three, the plan was to guide the winding down by local activity. If al-qaeda survives this, then there won’t be a winding down. One thinks.

    But if the information was properly classified, and was published by a newspaper without authorization, the voters have no recourse.

    You mean we can laugh at the ones that cancel their subscriptions? I dont think so.

    actus (6234ee)


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