Threads of major
news topic are
neatly tied together
Edward Snowden is wanted on charges of treason for leaking information about government spying. Click image to enlarge.
THE NEW YORK TIMES proved again that it provides “indispensible journalism” with its Page One story Sunday that tied together the various threads in the Obama administration’s crackdown on whistleblowers.
The multifaceted story, Math Behind Leak Crackdown: 153 cases, 4 years, 0 Indictments, by Sharon LaFraniere was second lead story in the National Edition.
It is comprehensive, thoughtful and includes mention of Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks and other major threads dominating the news about leakers and their persecution.
Ironically, this story also relies on leaks: Near the end, two sources are granted anonymity for arguably dubious reasons.
THE CASE OF FUGITIVE Edward Snowden – perhaps the most wanted man not in America – has dominated headlines for weeks.
The web version of the Sunday story in The New York Times on Obama’s crackdown on leakers.
A Google search of his name this morning returned 387 million hits.
The New York Times has done an admirable job of covering this case, but it has been MIA in the equally important – but less reported – trial of Bradley Manning, who face life in prison without parole for leaking thousands of secret government documents to WikiLeaks.
Both cases and the others being pursued by the Obama administration, pose a direct threat to press freedom in this country and the public’s ability to know what our government is doing to us and for us.
In her story LaFraniere reports: “An unprecedented cascade of disclosures, including hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks, according to [government] officials, gave the search for leakers a growing sense of urgency, while technological advances made the job of finding them easier.
“…present and former government officials said the focus on leaks began at the administration’s highest levels and was driven by pressure from the intelligence agencies and members of Congress.”
IN A DELICIOUS IRONY near the end of the story, significant information is revealed by two sources granted anonymity: are they “government leakers?”
First: “There was a lot of pressure to use every possible investigative tool,” said one senior former prosecutor who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak for the Justice Department.
Bradley Manning faces life in prison for leaking documents to WikiLeaks.
Second: “A tipping point was reached in 2009,” said one knowledgeable Senate aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not an official spokesman. “There was an official change of policy.”
As long-time readers of The New York Times will know, it is the paper’s policy is to explain to readers why sources are granted anonymity.
In addition that policy states that anonymity will be granted only for vital information that cannot be obtained by any other method.
Do you think the policy has been followed here? Make your opinions known in the comments.
Anonymous sources are inherently risky for readers and reporters. If there is no name attached, there is no motivation for the source to be honest. He or she can lie, and suffer no consequences.
For the reporter, it is risky too. In effect, the writer is telling the reader, “Trust me! I believe this source, and that should be good enough for you.”
Anybody remember I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby? A senior official in the Office of the Vice President? He and others fed The New York Times reporter Judy Miller highly dubious information in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Miller granted him (and others, like Iraqi defector Ahmed Chalabi) anonymity and her stories were published on the front page of the New York Times.
Partially as a result, by the time United States invaded Iraq, millions of Americans believed all sorts of false information. More than one year later, the paper was forced to publish a 2,000 word “correction” for many of Miller’s stories.
The damage to its credibility was enormous and enduring.
However, the treatment of the leak crackdown story on Sunday does demonstrate that The New York Times is vital. It is surviving the existential threat to print media everywhere by offering its readers indispensable journalism like this story.
We should all appreciate being In the (K)now. I certainly do: as of this morning, my stock in NYT is up up over 37 percent since I purchased it.
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