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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Holy Shittokki Pass The Popcorn...

Internal scuffle at the Times as editor, publisher refuse questions on withholding NSA story

An internal faceoff at the New York Times is set to go public in Sunday editions when the public editor accuses his bosses of 'stonewalling' him in his attempts to understand the decision to report on NSA eavesdropping after at least a year's delay, RAW STORY has learned.

In his bi-weekly column slated for Sunday's edition, Byron Calame says the paper's response has been "woefully inadequate" and reveals that he e-mailed a list of 28 questions to the executive editor and publisher who declined to answer, the first time that's happened since he became the paper's ombudsman.

Executive editor Bill Keller's only response was one line: "There is really no way to have a full discussion of the back story without talking about when and how we knew what we knew, and we can't do that."

To Calame, the "most obvious and troublesome omission" is the failure to adequately address whether the story was ready to publish before the Nov. 2, 2004 election. The few public explanations given by Keller haven't been clear about the exact timing and leaves the public editor with "uncomfortable doubts."

Many critics on the right and left have speculated that a forthcoming book, "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," written by James Risen, one of the article's writers, may have sparked the Times' decision to finally publish. Calame reveals that the Times' Washington bureau chief talked to the book's publisher at least twice in the last month. The book is set to hit shelves on Tuesday.

On Friday, officials anounced that the Justice Department had opened up a criminal investigation into who may have disclosed secret information to the paper for the article published two weeks ago. White House deputy press secretary Trenty Duffy denied on Friday that President Bush had any foreknowledge of the investigation. Newsweek reported that Bush summoned Keller and Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger to the Oval Office on December 6 in a "futile attempt" to get the paper to kill the story.

Excerpts from Calame's column:

At the outset, it's essential to acknowledge the far-reaching importance of the eavesdropping article's content to Times readers and to the rest of the nation. Whatever its path to publication, Sulzberger and Keller deserve credit for its eventual appearance in the face of strong White House pressure to kill it. And the basic accuracy of the account of the eavesdropping stands unchallenged -- a testament to the talent in the trenches.

But the explanation of the timing and editing of the front-page article by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau caused major concern for scores of Times readers... "After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting," it said. "Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted."

If Times editors hoped the brief mention of the one-year delay and the omitted sensitive information would assure readers that great caution had been exercised in publishing the article, I think they miscalculated...

The rest of Calame's column can be read at the New York Times Website.


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