DEFENDING THE NYT

I think I should second Shafer on the NYT NSA story. Here too. Calame’s Public Editor column today seemed weak to me. The only place the NYT obviously scrwed up was in not disclosing Risen’s forthcoming book. But taking a year to verify an important story, and getting the right sources to firm it up, is good journalism. I find the notion that this somehow undermines national security a little odd. Do we really think al Qaeda members previousloy believed all their calls to the U.S. were free from any surveillance? Now that we know it for sure, will this change much? I doubt it. Instapundit’s case that the only people to blame here are the Times’ editors is underwhelming:

Since the Pentagon Papers, at least, the rule has been that papers could publish classified information in a whistleblowing mode, but that they would be sensitive to national security concerns. In return, the federal government would tread lightly in investigating where the leaks came from. But the politicization of the coverage, and the outright partisanship of the Times, has put paid to that arrangement.

I don’t get it. This is a real story, highlighting arguably illegal activity by the president, breaking with precedent and creating a warrant-free license to listen to American’s phone conversations, with no independent vetting at all. The NYT waits a year to get its facts right and its sources firm. The editors confer with the president himself, adjust the story to remove anything that might seriously jeopardize sources or intelligence, and then publish. What the hell is wrong with any of that? It seems just the right balance. One big issue for the coming year is whether we have an executive that is out of control, pushing beyond legal and constitutional limits in ways that beg pushback. This new information informs that important debate. Good for Keller and Sulzberger for exposing it.

– posted by Andrew.

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