Dr. Dawg

NYT: "The optics aren't what they look like"

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With Glenn Greenwald, I found myself laughing at the “hilariously incoherent utterance” cited in the hed—from New York Times Managing Editor Dean Baquet, trying to explain documented collusion between the NYT’s “national security and intelligence reporter,” Mark Mazzetti, and the CIA.

It’s like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, saying to his parent, “I can explain!” Except that Baquet doesn’t. He just tells us not to believe our lying eyes.

“Much ado about nothing,” he croaks, three times, in what appears to have been a short conversation with Dylan Byers of POLITICO. Then, mysteriously, he said (I paraphrase), “If you only knew what I knew you’d see there was nothing to it, but I can’t tell you.”

Greenwald notes that the NYT has allowed itself to be used as a CIA pawn before, printing malicious accusations from unnamed sources to discredit reporters digging into drone warfare casualties in Pakistan.

Faced with the obvious, the NYT has now backed down. It was wrong, they admit, for Mazzetti to have sent a CIA contact an unpublished column by liberal journalist Maureen Dowd. Gosh—you think?

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

The CIA had evidently heard that Maureen Dowd was planning to write a column on the CIA’s role in pumping [Hollywood] film-makers with information about the Bin Laden raid in order to boost Obama’s re-election chances, and was apparently worried about how Dowd’s column would reflect on them. On 5 August 2011 (a Friday night), [CIA spokeswoman Marie] Harf wrote an email to Mazzetti with the subject line: “Any word??”, suggesting, obviously, that she and Mazzetti had already discussed Dowd’s impending column and she was expecting an update from the NYT reporter.

A mere two minutes after the CIA spokeswoman sent this Friday night inquiry, Mazzetti responded. He promised her that he was “going to see a version before it gets filed”, and assured her that there was likely nothing to worry about:

“My sense is there a very brief mention at bottom of column about CIA ceremony, but that [screenwriter Mark] Boal also got high level access at Pentagon.”

She then replied with this instruction to Mazzetti: “keep me posted”, adding that she “really appreciate[d] it”.

Moments later, Mazzetti forwarded the draft of Dowd’s unpublished column to the CIA spokeswoman (it was published the following night online by the Times, and two days later in the print edition). At the top of that email, Mazzetti wrote: “this didn’t come from me … and please delete after you read.” He then proudly told her that his assurances turned out to be true:

“See, nothing to worry about.”

How cozy.

As Greenwald notes, serious questions ought to be raised, including the stubborn refusal of the managing editor to come clean:

…[L]ook at how the New York Times mimics the CIA even in terms of how the newspaper’s employees speak: Baquet “provided little clarity, saying he could not go into detail on the issue because it was an intelligence matter”. In what conceivable way is Mazzetti’s collusion with the CIA an “intelligence matter” that prevents the NYT’s managing editor from explaining what happened here?

So much for journalistic ethics at the newspaper that once published the revelations of Daniel Ellsberg. Meanwhile, Fox News, at whom we are accustomed to laugh, is now doing serious journalism. Through the looking glass we go.


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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on August 30, 2012 11:17 AM.

The Speech Warriors™ will be all over this one was the previous entry in this blog.

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