NYTimes Would Rather Ask for Forgiveness than Permission

23 10 2006

Filed under: TSP, NYTimes, Politics, Liberal

All year, I, along with other conservatives, have been calling for the NYTimes to be investigated for leaking top-secret intel about the Terrorist Spying Program. But the sad part is that it was buried deep in the paper when, truly, it deserved the same front-page news that the TSP received when it was leaked.

This isn’t exactly an investigation, but it sure makes them look fishy. Editor, Byron Calame, admits he was wrong in publishing the intel.

Since the job of public editor requires me to probe and question the published work and wisdom of Times journalists, there’s a special responsibility for me to acknowledge my own flawed assessments.

My July 2 column strongly supported The Times’s decision to publish its June 23 article on a once-secret banking-data surveillance program. After pondering for several months, I have decided I was off base. There were reasons to publish the controversial article, but they were slightly outweighed by two factors to which I gave too little emphasis. While it’s a close call now, as it was then, I don’t think the article should have been published.

Three months to decide if treason is wrong. Duh! As the saying goes, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

The source of the data, as my column noted, was the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift. That Belgium-based consortium said it had honored administrative subpoenas from the American government because it has a subsidiary in this country.

I haven’t found any evidence in the intervening months that the surveillance program was illegal under United States laws. Although data-protection authorities in Europe have complained that the formerly secret program violated their rules on privacy, there have been no Times reports of legal action being taken.

…The lack of appropriate oversight — to catch any abuses in the absence of media attention — was a key reason I originally supported publication. I think, however, that I gave it too much weight.

Michelle Malkin responds: “You and every other Chicken Little, anti-Bush editor at the Times who put lives at risk and undermined counterterrorism operations by giving your bogus justifications “too much weight.”

In addition, I became embarrassed by the how-secret-is-it issue, although that isn’t a cause of my altered conclusion. My original support for the article rested heavily on the fact that so many people already knew about the program that serious terrorists also must have been aware of it. But critical, and clever, readers were quick to point to a contradiction: the Times article and headline had both emphasized that a “secret” program was being exposed. (If one sentence down in the article had acknowledged that a number of people were probably aware of the program, both the newsroom and I would have been better able to address that wave of criticism.)

Ed Morrissey also challenges Calame’s characterization of criticism of the paper as “vicious”:

Calame says that his intial support came from an impulse to protect journalism from the “vicious criticism” of the Bush administration. “Vicious”? I’d like Calame to define that. The administration rightly condemned the Times for risking their ability to track terrorist financing, but I don’t recall the administration calling anyone “traitorous”, for instance, although plenty of bloggers did. And what kind of ombudsman decides to defend his paper simply because all the right people got angry? That’s a mighty thin line of argument, and Calame should be embarrassed to make that admission on the pages of his own paper…

…Calame dislikes the administration as much as the rest of the people at the New York Times, and in the guise of detached analysis endorsed the publication of a non-story in his zeal to undermine the White House using any means at their disposal. Everyone else knew that this story had no merit; it took the Times and its public editor four months to figure it out.

That should tell you everything you need to know about the New York Times.

Excuses, excuses, excuses. This is a pathetic attempt to ask for forgiveness since the Times didn’t ask for permission, but Mr. Calame should be aware of one thing: Be forgiven, but there are still concequences for your actions. Forgiveness on our part does not excuse you from having to pay for your wrongs.

Wizbang: “This is so typical of the way the left operates — page one stories about all the evils of the Bush administration, then when facts prove otherwise, if we are lucky, we get a buried admission months later.”

La Shawn Barber: “As defiant as you are, you probably won’t resign. But conservative bloggers are on the case.”

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