Friday, June 30, 2006

The New York Times' Culpability

When The New York Times chose to reveal the U.S. government's secret program to track terrorist finances, they were not alone. Several other major American papers also ran the story. So why is the Times receiving the bulk of the criticism?

The Wall Street Journal has the answer in a fascinating editorial that reveals how this story came about. It's an interesting look into editorial decision making as well as the government's attempts at information management.

In short, the Times discovered the story and, despite multiple requests by many government officials not to print it, had decided to go ahead and publish the story. At that point, the Treasury Department decided to declassify details of the program and release them to other media outlets. The Treasury's concern was that the Times had only part of the story right--enough to destroy the program's secrecy but not enough to paint an accurate picture of its utility.

If the WSJ has the facts right, it does appear the Times deserves the vast share of blame (or, if you prefer, credit) for this story.

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