Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Hypocrisy and the NYT

When it comes to pure, unadulterated hypocrisy, The New York Times has few equals. For more than a year, the paper was positively atwitter over the Valerie Plame affair. According to the Times, Ms. Plame's identity as a CIA operative was likely leaked by the Bush Administration, in retaliation for criticism of its Iraq WMD claims by former Ambassador Joe Wilson, Ms. Plame's husband.

As the NYT dutifully noted, it is against the law to knowingly reveal the identity of a CIA operative, putting the agent's life in jeopardy. But from the Times' perspective, that appears to be the only secret worth keeping. In today's editions, the paper printed excerpts from a classified Pentagon report, assessing the impact of our deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan on potential operations elsewhere. According to the report, the strain of on-going ops in the Middle East limits our ability to respond to crises in other locations, such as the Korean peninsula.

Revealing that sort of information is equally damaging to national security, but that is of little concern to the Times. Since the report supports the paper's anti-administration position, printing the report was a no-brainer. I'm sure Kim Jong-Il and his generals are delighted.

Funny, I don't recall seeing similar reports during the Clinton Foreign Policy World Tour of the mid-1990s. True, most of our ground forces weren't tied up in those operations, but a large chunk of our airpower was. Those efforts, coupled with no-fly zone enforcement over Iraq, would have made it difficult for Air Force, Navy and Marine aviation units to respond to a sudden crises in Korea or elsewhere. It was a concern that was stated many times during that era, in various Pentagon reports and analyses. I suppose those memos weren't released by the NYT, or (more likely) they never got around to publishing them. By the editorial standards of the Times, that was a secret that apparently required protection.

A full decade later, secret reports that support the paper's agenda are fair game. But such hypocrisy, of course, is part and parcel of the Times' worldview.

There's also a larger issue at work here. Too many media outlets are getting a free pass on publishing secrets that could potentially harm national security. Since the mid-1990s, there have been more than 600 major media leaks of classified information, resulting in lost information and blown intelligence sources. To date, there have been no indictments, and no convictions.

All Americans support a free press, but they also want a news media that is fair and responsible. What we don't know can kill us, and we're losing too much valuable information because reporters, editors and producers print and broadcast any classified report they get their hands on, with no regard for the consequences.

Once again, it's time to consider an American version of Britain's Official Secrets Act. If the media is unable to police itself (and clearly, it cannot), then maybe its time for the government to step in.

Hat Tip: http://wordunheard.com/

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