The New York Times: A Curious Case of Change of Heart?

Thursday, 16. December 2010

Seeing the Light, Sanctioned Illusionary Game, or …I am going to stay true to my pledged position on Wikileaks related topics, and stick with questions rather than hasty analyses and interpretations. I’ve been highly puzzled by the recent position of and statements by the New York Times on Wikileaks Gate. I don’t know whether to view this puzzling change of heart and position in light of appropriately seasonal concepts of miracles, seeing the light, and the eighth wonder of the world, or, more realistically cynical interpretations based on their reputation, history and track record. How does a mindset dictating governmentally correct and approved reportage suddenly change into one that sides with transparency and positive journalistic ethics? This is when it is good to have media outlets and investigative journalists who investigate, analyze, and report on other media channels, editors and reporters. Alas, we ain’t got one; at least not one I’ve been able to find, thus, here I am with my list of questions asking you to hop on board and help me come up with possible explanations.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Times’ infamous editor, along with his superiors in the government and inferiors beneath him on the committee, decided to hold the explosive exposé on NSA’s Warrantless Spying Program. The Times held the story not for one day, not for one week, not for one month, but for over a year. It sat on it, and whether easily or with great difficulty, it sealed its every single reporter’s lips. Together, in a unified fashion, they all sat on this earth-shattering revelation. They served their masters, and threw their weight into highly critical elections. When, after it was way too late, their governmentally sanctioned deed, this journalistically unethical scam, was exposed, they didn’t have much if anything to offer as defense:

“After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns,” James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote, “the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting.”

Troubled by what seemed to be shifting language about the delay — the initial story and a statement issued over Keller’s name said the paper had held the story for “a year,” but Keller later seemed to acknowledge implicitly that the delay had been longer — Calame kept asking for details, and Keller has now provided them: Drafts of the article were written weeks before the presidential election, Keller says, and “the climactic discussion about whether to publish was right on the eve of the election.”

Why was the story held? That’s a little hard to decipher. Keller has said that he can’t get into too much detail without exposing anonymous sources — and that the administration had assured the Times initially that everyone thought the program was legal…Keller also says that there was a matter of fairness involved — a point with which Calame agrees. “Candidates affected by a negative article deserve to have time — several days to a week — to get their response disseminated before voters head to the polls,” Calame says.

Okay, as I said it wasn’t that long ago and I’m sure many of you remember the entire saga, one that made very clear the position of the Times, their modus operandi and their true masters. And this is exactly why I was left confused and highly puzzled with the Times’ recent change of heart and 180 degree change in position:

But the more important reason to publish these articles is that the cables tell the unvarnished story of how the government makes its biggest decisions, the decisions that cost the country most heavily in lives and money. ..As daunting as it is to publish such material over official objections, it would be presumptuous to conclude that Americans have no right to know what is being done in their name.

The same Bill Keller, who obeyed the government on censoring the illegal wiretapping of all Americans for over a year, and without any hesitation, had this to say on publishing Wikileaks’ cables:

Look, I absolutely believe that governments have an obligation to keep certain things secret, you know, not just diplomacy — military operations, the codes to the nuclear weapons. I mean, there are lots of things that governments have the right to keep secret. It’s their job to keep it secret. It’s not the press’s job to do that.

Granted, the Times has already admitted to having their to-be-published cables and to-be-covered WikiLeaks issues vetted and blessed by their mighty governmental masters:

U.S. officials submitted suggestions to The Times, which asked government officials to weigh in on some of the documents the newspaper and its partners wanted to publish.


But we were concerned at the Times, and it’s one of the reasons that we went through so carefully to try to redact material that we thought could be damaging to individuals or undercut ongoing operations. And we even took the very unusual step of showing the 100 cables or so that we were writing from to the U.S. government and asking them if they had additional redactions to suggest.

Yet, the questions, remain; at least for me. To what can we attribute this curious and sudden change of heart? After all we are talking about the NY Times of Judith Miller, the cover up of the Downing Street Memo, the year-long burial of NSA wiretapping, and much more. Let’s start with the most innocent possibilities and work our way up from there:

-Is it simply due to the competitive market and nature of the news business? Unlike the NSA illegal wiretapping disclosure, this cache of leaks was given to more than one news outlet in more than one country. Did NY Times find the option of censoring it while international competitors did otherwise too big a pill to swallow?

-Is it because they secured the US government’s ‘vetted, sanctioned and blessed’ stamp? Releasing documents that have been vetted and redacted by the US government can serve several purposes: information management – where people get to read and know what the government wants them to read and know, strategic information warfare – where the government counters and neutralizes the damage caused by the leak by placing their own spin and maintaining direction control…

-Is it brought about by some supernatural or spiritual experience on the part of NY Times decision makers? Maybe some supernatural or mythical power decided to make an appearance before them? Maybe it is a case of a terminal illness bringing the editor (or editors) closer to death, thus, more fearful of potential consequences of their past and present evil deeds (think purgatory and think hell)? Maybe there is such a thing as seeing the light – that it is not limited to some serial killer waiting on death row?

-Is the entire thing an illusion created by the same illusion-makers who have been at work for a long time? The media plays the most important role in the game of illusion-making; think a magician and his set of props, then think the shadow government and its delivery vehicle…and then, think US media.

I’m sure I’m missing several other equally or even more significant questions, but then again that’s one of the purposes of posting it on this blog and getting your input. Please chime in, add your questions, and help plug in as many answers as we can.

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Sibel Edmonds is the founder and publisher of Boiling Frogs Post, an online news, analysis, and weekly Podcast interview site covering select but significant blacked out stories and issues. Ms. Edmonds is also the founder and director of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, NSWBC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding national security whistleblowers. PEN American Center awarded Ms. Edmonds the 2006 PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award for her "commitment to preserving the free flow of information in the United States in a time of growing international isolation and increasing government secrecy". She is also the recipient of the 2004 Sam Adams Foundation Award. Ms. Edmonds has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, and a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University. She is certified as a Court Appointed Special Advocate and as an instructor for the Women's Domestic Violence Program. She is fluent in Turkish, Farsi and Azerbaijani. She has appeared on national radio and TV as a commentator on matters related to whistleblowers, national security, and excessive secrecy & classification, and has been featured on CBS 60 Minutes, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and in the New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The American Conservative, and others.