The New York Times, Crossing the Damn Line

The New York Times is officially out of control.

Many on the right have been outraged over the New York Times (and other media) leaking of our classified counter terrorism plans. While that argument has merit, it is obviously easier for them to make with a Republican in office. If Clinton were still in office many of those same people would be supporting the Times on some of these stories.

As for myself, I am willing to give me media a wide berth when it comes to protecting our civil liberties. Back when we thought the call data story was completely accurate I publically disagreed with just about everyone on the right over that issue and backed the media on that leak. (Of course later we found that story to be flawed.)

So I come to this issue with a clear history not of a partisan but as a supporter of both the war on terror AND our civil liberties.

That’s why I consider myself well qualified to make the case the Times is out of control when they published classified information about troop deployments in Iraq.

U.S. General in Iraq Outlines Troop Cuts
By MICHAEL R. GORDON

WASHINGTON, June 24 — The top American commander in Iraq has drafted a plan that projects sharp reductions in the United States military presence there by the end of 2007, with the first cuts coming this September, American officials say.

According to a classified briefing at the Pentagon this week by the commander, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the number of American combat brigades in Iraq is projected to decrease to 5 or 6 from the current level of 14 by December 2007.

Under the plan, the first reductions would involve two combat brigades that would rotate out of Iraq in September without being replaced. Military officials do not typically characterize reductions by total troop numbers, but rather by brigades. Combat brigades, which generally have about 3,500 troops, do not make up the bulk of the 127,000-member American force in Iraq, and other kinds of units would not be pulled out as quickly.

American officials emphasized that any withdrawals would depend on continued progress, including the development of competent Iraqi security forces, a reduction in Sunni Arab hostility toward the new Iraqi government and the assumption that the insurgency will not expand beyond Iraq’s six central provinces. Even so, the projected troop withdrawals in 2007 are more significant than many experts had expected.

General Casey’s briefing has remained a closely held secret, and it was described by American officials who agreed to discuss the details only on condition of anonymity.

There are so many things to say about this story it is hard to know where to start. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that the Times never again needs to run another story on Valerie Plame. If you want to compare that story to leaking classified troop strength numbers in a war zone; there simply is no comparison to be made. Michael Gordon should be frog-marched out of the newsroom.

The second thing to note is that the media and the left can now dispense with the whining about not having an “exit plan.” We clearly have one and the NY Times put it on the front page.

But let’s get to the meat of the story. The Times knowingly and willingly received classified information and the purposely published it. They’ve done that before but this story is critically different than past times. There is no vested national interest in this information being leaked. In the past, the Times could hide behind the public’s “right to know.” The public has no “right to know” our war plans. They can’t hide behind the skirt of “protecting civil liberties” in this story as they have in past stories.

They published classified information not to inform the public but only because they could.

Ed Morrisey makes the compelling case that this is a controlled leak. That doesn’t let the Times off the hook… In fact, if true, it damns them more.

It shows the Pentagon understands and accepts as reality that the New York Times will knowingly print classified information it receives. Further, it shows the Pentagon knows that the most effective way to get their story out thru the media is to package it as a classified leak. A damning reality to be sure.

Though I should also note if Ed is correct and the Pentagon planted this leak, the timing must also mean we really have demolished the insurgency in the last few weeks.

It is true the information released is sketchy but that is more a function of the Pentagon’s plan being based on reality on the ground in Iraq and not the Times selectively withholding sensitive material.

The case against the Times grows stronger when you consider the argument against releasing an “exit plan” was that it automatically tips our hand to the insurgency. Clearly the Times is well versed in this argument but ran the story anyway.

I don’t understand what makes the Times think they can print classified troop strength numbers.

If I had bugged that briefing room and I published classified Pentagon war plans on Wizbang, the FBI would have me in custody in hours. Why is that not the case with the New York Times?

Mystery Man
Why did the turtle cross the road?

57 Comments

  1. Rob c June 26, 2006
  2. sean nyc/aa June 26, 2006
  3. Martin A. Knight June 26, 2006
  4. MikeSC June 26, 2006
  5. Lee June 26, 2006
  6. Martin A. Knight June 27, 2006
  7. Armyguy June 28, 2006