Patterico's Pontifications

7/3/2006

My Letter to Dean Baquet

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Terrorism — Patterico @ 10:26 am



I have written this letter to Dean Baquet:

Dear Mr. Baquet,

As I believe you are aware, I run a blog called “Patterico’s Pontifications” that is frequently critical of your newspaper. I am appalled by your decision and that of New York Times editor Bill Keller to publish classified details of a legal and effective counterterror program with appropriate safeguards.

I have read both your personal defense of the publication decision, as well as the one that you have written jointly with Mr. Keller. Many questions remain unanswered.

I would like to ask you those questions.

I am asking you to do an interview with me, in any format you choose — via e-mail, on the phone, in person, or on the radio. (I am quite sure we could find a radio venue if that’s what you’d prefer.)

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.

I look forward to your response.

Patrick Frey
Patterico’s Pontifications
https://patterico.com

I’ll let you know if I hear anything back.

UPDATE: I have received an autoreply to my e-mail stating:

Dean Baquet is out of the office until Tuesday, July 11.
If you need immediate assistance with a news story please contact Managing Editor Doug Frantz @ doug.frantz@latimes.com.
Thank you.

Hopefully all this Swift nonsense will have blown over by then, eh?

45 Responses to “My Letter to Dean Baquet”

  1. 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).

    That would be a shame if they’re doing that. The power belongs to all of us.

    actus (ebc508)

  2. No, it doesn’t. The power to elect the officials who have the legal right to decide what should be classifed and what should not for the efficient operation of the government, for purposes including but not limited to national security, belongs to us.

    Anwyn (01a5cc)

  3. The power belongs to all of us.

    Yes, collectively it does — as does all government power. And We the People exercise that power by electing government officials who decide what will remain classified and what doesn’t.

    Your obvious response is that this is not an absolute, and I agree, as you well know. As I have said many times, there is a time and place for newspapers to overrule classification decisions in cases of clear government wrongdoing — e.g., if the President had a classified program of assassinating his political enemies. As the example illustrates, it should not be commonplace.

    This situation, where newspapers revealed classified details of a legal and effective program with strict safeguards, is not that time and place.

    Patterico (2586cd)

  4. Anwyn says it differently, and probably more accurately, than I do.

    Patterico (2586cd)

  5. As I have said many times, there is a time and place for newspapers to overrule classification decisions in cases of clear government wrongdoing — e.g., if the President had a classified program of assassinating his political enemies.

    And I think you’re wrong. I don’t think this is just for newspapers.

    The power to elect the officials who have the legal right to decide what should be classifed and what should not for the efficient operation of the government, for purposes including but not limited to national security, belongs to us.

    Wait, you think our elected officials can ban us from knowing things because of the concern of efficiency of their exercise of power beyond national security? Damn.

    actus (ebc508)

  6. Anwyn says it differently, and probably more accurately, than I do.

    Please tell me you don’t believe the bit about efficiency needs beyond national security. You’re not that much of a tyrant are you?

    actus (ebc508)

  7. Actually, I had focused more on the structure of her explanation of where the power lies. It’s held by us, but we have to delegate it to elected officials for it to make any sense.

    Ultimately, since all governmental authority rests with the people, we can take that power back. But the fact that the power ultimately resides in the people doesn’t mean that any member of the public can legally make this decision whenever he feels like it.

    As for the need to have classified secrets for reasons unrelated to national security: no, I can’t think of any. I don’t endorse that part of Anwyn’s statement.

    Patterico (2586cd)

  8. As for the need to have classified secrets for reasons unrelated to national security: no, I can’t think of any. I don’t endorse that part of Anwyn’s statement.

    In the five minutes I thought about it after being challenged, I couldn’t think of any either. I retract that part.

    Anwyn (01a5cc)

  9. But the fact that the power ultimately resides in the people doesn’t mean that any member of the public can legally make this decision whenever he feels like it.

    We obviously disagree on the scope of the right of the press to publish in a free, dynamic and contentuous society where truth is found via the marketplace of ideas rather than government fiat.

    My further point is that whatever right the press has, we all have it too. It’s not limited to established media corporations.

    actus (ebc508)

  10. Now that we have removed that effective little distraction, actus, what about the main point? There is a time and place to reveal classified information. This wasn’t it.

    Patterico (2586cd)

  11. Will you please try to be more smart and less smart-aleck, actus? Witness protection program? Shelters for battered women? Jurors’ names and addresses? Children’s identities whether they are victims or accused? Juvenile court records? Adoption records? Mental health or addiction treatment records? Your social security number? (I just know that you’re going to come back with a parsing of “efficiency” so I preempt that all the foregoing secrecies are designed for the efficient functioning of society even though compassion may also be a large component.)

    nk (ca8012)

  12. We obviously disagree on the scope of the right of the press to publish in a free, dynamic and contentuous society where truth is found via the marketplace of ideas rather than government fiat.

    Oh, we don’t disagree on the scope of the right to publish. We disagree on whether it was a responsible exercise of that right.

    My further point is that whatever right the press has, we all have it too. It’s not limited to established media corporations.

    True enough. Why, a blogger sympathetic to Al Qaeda could obtain classified details of counterterror programs and publish them rather than secretly passing them along. What’s the dif?

    Patterico (2586cd)

  13. There is a time and place to reveal classified information. This wasn’t it.

    Like I said. We obviously disagree about it. My earlier point is related, of course. Because its not an arrogation of power, its a power we all have. Its part of the dynamism of our society. Its why I discount these arguments that ‘nobody elected’ and whatnot. Because nobody elected me or you either. And we have the same legal rights as the NYT.

    actus (ebc508)

  14. nk,

    Is that secret information considered “classified”? I understand it’s secret, and should be.

    I just don’t know enough about government procedures and classifications of information.

    Patterico (2586cd)

  15. Because I’m leaving on a trip and may not be around much, I’d just like to leave the revised version of my statement to stand without the inaccuracy.

    The power [to choose what classified information will be disclosed to our citizens (and our enemies)] belongs to all of us.

    No, it doesn’t. The power to elect the officials who have the legal right to decide what should be classifed and what should not for the efficient operation of national security belongs to us.

    Anwyn (01a5cc)

  16. Because nobody elected me or you either. And we have the same legal rights as the NYT.

    Yes, but those rights do not include the right to publish classified information whenever we feel like it. There are limits. Pre-publication limits probably don’t apply here, and almost never do. But they do sometimes.

    Also, we don’t have the right to be free of consequences if our actions prove to be illegal.

    Patterico (2586cd)

  17. I just know that you’re going to come back with a parsing of “efficiency” so I preempt that all the foregoing secrecies are designed for the efficient functioning of society even though compassion may also be a large component.

    Sorry. Those things aren’t for the sake of efficiency. They’re mostly for the sake of privacy: personal security. Sort of like national security.

    True enough. Why, a blogger sympathetic to Al Qaeda could obtain classified details of counterterror programs and publish them rather than secretly passing them along. What’s the dif?

    I would say that the sympathy to al qaeda would be the “dif.” Now you’re in the territory of adherence, of treason.

    actus (ebc508)

  18. actus,

    Make a non-one-line argument why this publication of material was responsible.

    Patterico (2586cd)

  19. Ladbrooks has the following odds posted
    Hell Freezes over 1:100,000,000,000,000
    Baquet give Patterico interview 1:100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

    Not a Yank (a47dbe)

  20. I have to ask actus these questions, I guess, because it doesn’t look like Baquet will be answering them any time soon (I could be wrong, I suppose, but I don’t think so). See the update.

    Patterico (2586cd)

  21. The power belongs to all of us.

    Like hell it does. If classified information could be disclosed by any individual who decided it should no longer be classified, there would be no such thing as classified information.

    Xrlq (924f21)

  22. I was basically attacking actus’s sophistry. There is a continuum of what we as a society, through our elected officials, with varying degrees of consensus, choose to keep out of public knowledge. National security secrets fall within that continuum. If we are interested in the survival and propagation of our society, we should not allow even newspapers to cherrry-pick what should be kept secret and what should be revealed because “it is of public interest”.

    nk (ca8012)

  23. Patterico,

    Here’s another example of the lengths the New York Times will go to undermine this administration and this country…

    The New York Times published pictures of Rumsfeld’s house along with its location and also pointed out where the camera which protects the entrance to his property is hidden. They also published the location of Cheney’s home.

    Link: http://travel2.nytimes.com/2006/06/30/travel/escapes/30michaels.html?ex=1309320000&en=538a0c0e85134892&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

    I don’t remember the Times pointing out Madeline Albright’s security cameras….

    John Ekdahl (1fe18c)

  24. Make a non-one-line argument why this publication of material was responsible.

    I don’t have one. It’s just generic open government stuff for me. Part of what happens in a dynamic society with a free press. We’re going to keep on working to catch terrorists, banks will keep on having privacy policies on their websites that say how they cooperate with law enforcement, Robert Block of the WSJ will write about how FedEx cooperates with law enforcement more than the postal service, etc…

    And our public will be informed that its possible to do this in a safe, legal, effective manner with privacy protections.

    But maybe the government wants to declassify how much our efforts HAVE been hampered by this publication. Or maybe some enterprising blogger or newspaper will responsibly publish that.

    Like hell it does. If classified information could be disclosed by any individual who decided it should no longer be classified, there would be no such thing as classified information.

    Well, there’s a difference between being a member of the public and one who has received the information in confidence as part of one’s sworn duties. I don’t think the right to discuss things extends to those people.

    actus (ebc508)

  25. Jeff Jarvis lays out the journalistic ethics:

    I will reveal a secret government program when I can show that it violates the law or abuses the power given under that law. I will reveal such a program when I can demonstrate that it is dangerously ineffective or incompetent in its design or execution. And I will not reveal such secrets unless I can show a compelling need to know and newsworthiness, and unless I can show that doing so will not put innocent lives and welfare at risk. If revealing secrets puts the nation, its agents, or soldiers at risk, I will not reveal them.

    Jane (5a66ce)

  26. Well, there’s a difference between being a member of the public and one who has received the information in confidence as part of one’s sworn duties. I don’t think the right to discuss things extends to those people.

    Then do you think the members of the U.S. government who gave classified information to the New York Times should be prosecuted?

    Anwyn (01a5cc)

  27. Then do you think the members of the U.S. government who gave classified information to the New York Times should be prosecuted?

    I don’t think they have a first amendment defense, no.

    actus (ebc508)

  28. We agree on something, then.

    But here:

    “True enough. Why, a blogger sympathetic to Al Qaeda could obtain classified details of counterterror programs and publish them rather than secretly passing them along. What’s the dif?”

    I would say that the sympathy to al qaeda would be the “dif.” Now you’re in the territory of adherence, of treason.

    Actus, how in the green earth would you establish intent or “sympathy?” If a blogger publishes classified information he got from a leaker on a public blog where anybody can read it but a lot of people probably don’t because he hopes Al Qaeda will read it, you think his “intent” makes him different from the NYT that splattered it all over the front page of one of the biggest newspapers in the world?

    Be practical. The classifed information is more available to al Qaeda and everybody else on the front page of the Times than it is on a blog, no matter how “sympathetic” the blogger is. The only way to establish “intent”, or try to, is to get the publisher under oath, which you say shouldn’t be done in this case. So on that basis alone your position falls into the lake without a plank.

    Anwyn (01a5cc)

  29. The only way to establish “intent”, or try to, is to get the publisher under oath, which you say shouldn’t be done in this case. So on that basis alone your position falls into the lake without a plank.

    Ask our host, the prosecutor, how one proves intent.

    actus (ebc508)

  30. *splash*

    Also, why do you say the publisher should not be under oath according to me? i’m not the one who came up with the 5th amendment.

    actus (ebc508)

  31. I would not pick the publisher, I would pick one reporter. I would grant him immunity from everything except perjury and then “Judy Miller” him if he did not turn over everyone, sources and co-workers. He could even win a Pulitzer for writing about jail conditions. As far as intent goes, it can be inferred from actions. If I throw a hand grenade into a crowd no jury needs my confession that I intended to cause death or great bodily harm.

    nk (4cd0c2)

  32. I hope that Dean Baquet is “out of the offfice” and that he is running away from someone who is chasing him with a blunt instrument. The term “knock some sense into his head” has a certain appeal.

    [Well, for what it’s worth, I have been officially turned down. I’ll post details later. — P]

    Harry Taft (adf2c0)

  33. Loose Lips, Sinking Ships, and the Fourth Estate…

    I can’t seem to write short posts anymore like normal bloggers. What’s going on? Once I get started…
    The man on the left is Thomas Paine, an American Revolution-era political philosopher, journalist, and pamphleteer who openly ad…

    La Shawn Barber's Corner (1b383c)

  34. Hopefully all this Swift nonsense will have blown over by then, eh? – Patterico

    Be vewy, vewy careful.

    Blogs crave pageviews and as such require all this be flogged and belabored for at least a few more more days.

    “Patterico’s Pontifications – Reach a growing, mostly conservative, always thoughtful audience. Patterico’s Pontifications deals with media bias and other current topics, and is linked regularly by Instapundit, Mickey Kaus, and other high-traffic blogs. Price: $30; Pageviews: 80,086”

    http://www.blogads.com/order

    I assume extant figures are vastly greater.

    steve (db6ba8)

  35. First Keller goes on vacation, then Baquet? I assume both LAT and NYT will tell us where Dean is staying—after all, it’s in the public interest to know these details, since Dean and Bill think they are Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s equals in governance.
    Maybe someone should forward Katherine Graham’s comments to Baquet. He might learn something.

    Kyle (dca2a1)

  36. re: the original letter…

    …uh, correct me if I’m wrong, but the three “estates” don’t refer to branches of
    government. the first two are the Nobility and the Clergy. Not quite branches of government.

    …uh, correct me if I’m wrong …

    [OK. You’re wrong. — Patterico]

    dalton ames (ecc362)

  37. re: the original letteruh, correct me if Im wrong, but the three estates dont refer to branches of government. the first two are the Nobility and the Clergy. Not quite branches of government.” – dalton ames

    Oh, stop splitting hairs.

    He also insists Congressional “Ranking Member” is the committee chairman, not its lead minority-party member.

    And that SWIFT program? It was “eviscerated” last week.

    “Was it over when the German’s bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! And it ain’t over now! … Who’s with me?” – J. Belushi

    [steve endorses the theory that the Fourth Estate has nothing to do with the fourth branch of government. steve thus shows his utter ignorance. Thanks for playing, steve! — P]

    steve (db6ba8)

  38. I endorsed nothing.

    You may choose to look up “Fourth Estate,” however.

    In today’s parlance, it probably equates to a branch of government.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Estate

    [Right. I used the phrase in its common meaning. Some other guy came on and left a comment referring to a less common meaning, suggesting (incorrectly) that I had used it all wrong. You sarcastically told him to stop splitting hairs — i.e. he was right and I was wrong, but pay no attention to that, oh ignorant Patterico. You damn well did endorse the idea that I was wrong. But I wasn’t. You were. Love and kisses, — Me]

    steve (db6ba8)

  39. He was being pedantic. That’s “splitting hairs.”

    Happy Fourth.

    steve (db6ba8)

  40. Maybe you were all thinking Fifth Column?

    nk (bfc26a)

  41. […] 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. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Dean Baquet Declines My Request for an Interview (421107)

  42. […] As you probably recall, I sent him an e-mail (reproduced here) asking for him to answer some tough questions about the disclosures. I forthrightly told him I am opposed to the decision –indeed, that I am appalled by it — and challenged him to face questions posed by somebody from that perspective. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Still No Word from Baquet (421107)

  43. […] If I ever got Mr. Baquet to sit for an interview (an invitation I recently extended, but which was declined), this would be part of it. […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Baquet on Using the L.A. Times to “Push Back” Against Blogger Critics (421107)


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