Imagine If The NY Times Had Ignored Wikileaks Cables

from the how-would-that-have-looked dept

Yesterday, Senator Joe Lieberman said that the NY Times should be "investigated" for publishing articles with some content from the State Department's leaked cables. In response,one of the reporters, who worked on the articles about the Wikileaks release, David Sanger, points out the obvious: how would it have looked if the NY Times ignored the story:
"The Times knew that this material was going to be out there anyway. We didn't get the initial leak," he says. "If we had done nothing if we had ignored it -- I think it would have looked strange. I think that also would have been irresponsible. It is the responsibility of American journalism, back to the founding of this country, to get out and try to grapple with the hardest issues of the day and to do it independently of the government."
Sanger also notes that the role of reporting in such cases is to try to put that information in context:
"We had to explain how this changed America's position in the world," he says. "Just as in the publication of the Pentagon Papers decades ago, when we had to explain how those documents, which also leaked, enabled us to understand very differently a war that America was in very deeply."
This is an important point, though I think he overplays how much people actually relied on the NY Times reporting for such info. There are some folks out there who say that "Wikileaks isn't journalism" but I agree with Mathew Ingram that Wikileaks is absolutely a media entity. It's just that, as with other areas of other industries, the roles may be shifting. Wikileaks gets data out there and then anyone can help add the context. That seems a lot more valuable than the traditional gatekeeper system where we only get to hear what the gatekeepers want us to hear.

Either way, having the NY Times ignore the story because Senator Lieberman doesn't like it would have looked a hell of a lot more questionable than it doing its job as a part of the press and actually reporting on the info that's out there.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Darryl, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 6:11pm

    Wikileaks redacts and censors, and withholds information..

    Wikileaks gets data out there and then anyone can help add the context. That seems a lot more valuable than the traditional gatekeeper system where we only get to hear what the gatekeepers want us to hear.

    Yea right, that would be a true statement if wikileaks, had all the information they have available to the public, but on the 250,000 documents he has he is up to about 350 I think.

    He also 'redacts' or censors his content, he does not release it all.

    He is also holding content, for his own gain, holding it incase something happens to him, he has that information as a blackmail tool..

    So its nice for you to hold wikileaks up as something grand, but do you not realise that they are doing to you exactly what everyone else does to you.,.,

    They have information that you may want to see, but they are not releasing that information to you, until such time as it is of value to wikileaks to release it.. if at all.

    So wikileaks is censoring you, it is redacting information in what it does release.

    It is also holding information for its own gains, how is that different to anyone else..

    (why dont you comment on the frictions within wikileaks, and the possibility of a coup)...

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 6:19pm

    This shows the clear difference between journalism and being a data dump. It is clear that the wiki people are not journalists, they add nothing, the correlate nothing. They are but a data dump, filling with illegally obtained data.

    The journalist shield laws just don't apply to wikileaks.

    and:

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/12/manning-defens/

     

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  3.  
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    abc gum, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 6:22pm

    What would we do without Senator Joe Lieberman protecting us from the truth. Ignorance is bliss - no?

     

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  4.  
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    Musical Missionary, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 6:34pm

    I am not asking this as a Wikileaks-hater, but simply as a soon to be law student curious about legal issues:

    What is the difference between this Wikileaks situation and one where someone steals all of Steve Jobs's emails for the last 5 years straight from his personal computer and then hands them over to the NYT which then publishes them? Would the NYT be breaking any laws in this case? Is the only thing protecting the NYT in the Wikileaks case the notion it all qualifies as "whistleblowing"?

    By the way, I love this blog!

     

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  5.  
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    Louis, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 6:44pm

    Re:

    Because most of Wikileaks information is from US government entities, information that belongs to the government's citizens.

    Steve Jobs is a private entity.

    Please do not go into law if you have to ask this question.

     

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  6.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 6:48pm

    Re:

    Steve Jobs does not work for we the people....

     

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  7.  
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    Esahc (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 6:50pm

    Anyone want to place bets that one of the unreleased documents contains dirt on Lieberman?

     

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  8.  
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    Chrysoprase, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 6:58pm

    Re: Musical Missionary

    a) Steve Jobs e-mails are private, diplomatic cables are classified produced with tax payer money. Totally different ball game. Nobody owns the cables and they will be released as a matter of course in some 30 years, when the confidentiality wears off.

    b) Wikileaks claims whistle blower status (you can discuss whether rightly so). You may remember the e-mails stolen from climate scientists. Everybody seemed to accept that that was a case of legitimate whistle blowing, even though this was proprietary information and it turned out that the e-mails did not contain any incriminating information.

    c) It is pretty obvious that there is a public interest for the publication of a lot of these documents (e.g. security firm pays for raped boys in Afghanistan).

    Amongst the people discussing this seriously, the only reasonable objections I have seen so far are the ones against dumping the entire file (which has not happened yet) and against protection of US sources in some of the earlier releases (Wikileaks has made a credible effort to fix that). The rest is hot air.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 7:00pm

    Wikileaks is making journalism a better place, they get the data and people report on it, add context, add their opinions and views and don't need to be to play nice with the powers that hold something, the government can't do the "price for access" thing anymore like it used to do. This is a game changer.

    Mostly people complaining are the ones who can't say "you are crazy" people have proof now, it can't be discarded as a "tin foil" thingy anymore.

    Transparency is worth every sacrifice, because a government that is not accountable to its people is more dangerous then any media outlet out there or even Wikileaks.

    If people knew more about their own governments maybe they can pressure them to do the responsible thing instead of delaying, lying and cheating, maybe people don't want economic interests to override moral standards.

     

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  10.  
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    Musical Missionary, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 7:09pm

    Fair enough... all sounds reasonable. I find myself agreeing with most of that reasoning. The only thing that really bugs me is the supposed cable leak that contained a list of sites that would directly impact US national security. I say supposed because I have not been able to find details about it and decide whether the information was framed within some sort of legitimate context. But if it really did just contain a list of sites, and those sites, if attacked, would affect the US in extraordinary ways, the Wikileaks fucked up (in my opinion). If anyone can point me to a detailed report of that particular cable, I'd appreciate it.

    Thanks!

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 7:09pm

    I think we should have a shadow government too.

    I was thinking about a website with:

    - Proposed draft laws we want to see, where people can vote for what they want, each individual would receive a encrypted key and that would give him the right for one vote, for the place he lives, this way we see what people can agree on and what they don't, this part would also have a point and counter-point and proposed modifications where each and every individual would be able to express what he or she expects from that law.

    - The site would have a list of candidates, what they are for and what they are not, collections of quotes, votes and actions they did take while in office.

    - The site also needs to look at carrier public people of interest and see what they did, how they did it and what their alignments are.

    - The site also needs a law-watchdog, to see what is useful, what is not, making a list and letting people see and decide in what things those laws should be changed.

    The thing would work like we vote for president, our vote has no real meaning it is just for show but it gives a clear indication of what people want and something we can measure and point to.

    The whist-blower thing we can forward to Wikileaks :)

     

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  12.  
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    BruceLD, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 7:18pm

    Subject

    But I'll bet you anything that Visa, Mastercard and whatever other merchant system is not going to take away their payment methods and no one is going to freeze the assets of the NY Times for breaking their "agreement" with them.

    What's the diff? The NY Times released confidential information exactly the way wikileaks did. The difference is, Wikileaks can not afford big expensive lawyers, and the NY Times can.

    I will also bet that the lawyers and politicians and those that enjoy abusing their powers to bully others are not going to let the NY Times go so easily. They will have to pay in some way...and I'm quite sure key people will lose their jobs, and the executives will get legal threats AND have their knuckles badly rapped.

     

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  13.  
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    Jay (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 7:46pm

    Re: Wikileaks redacts and censors, and withholds information..

    He already did that when some of the volunteers left to make their own site.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 7:57pm

    Re: Wikileaks redacts and censors, and withholds information..

    Cool, Darryl managed to squeeze both a complete ignorance of the definition of journalism *and* the definition of censorship into one stream of dribble.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 7:58pm

    follow this path, soon the government will 'accidentally' release information to journalist so they can be 'investigated'

     

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  16.  
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    Nicolasp (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 8:29pm

    Sorry to state the obvious, but if so-called "American Journalism" was doing its job there would be no Wikileaks at all. There would not be explosive release of hundreds of thousands of documents at one time but ongoing, persistent and documented investigation and monitoring of the administration.
    So, yeah, that makes complete sense to blame Wikileaks that grows in the dirt that is so conveniently left unturned.
    Where was the NYT when the WMD manipulation and the shining path of war was pushed down this nation's throat by the previous administration? It was obedient and very silent. It was "grappling with the hardest issues of the day" by bending over.

     

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  17.  
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    Freak, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 8:36pm

    Re: Re: Musical Missionary

    Turns out that no one was actually harmed, so far as we know yet, by any of the documents released by wikileaks.

    When whatsisname said that informants had been compromised in Afghanistan, well, turns out he was lying, and even had to quietly admit to that a few months later.

    All the informants names or information had been redacted, or identifying documents had not been published.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 8:42pm

    Flying Lead

    Without Wikileaks, I would never have seen the vid of the helo gunning the van full of kids. "Oh well, you shouldn't bring your kids to war, hahaha.."
    Very chilling.

     

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  19.  
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    molecule (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 8:42pm

    Re:

    Exactly. NY Times was not only negligent, but was also complicit in spreading the lies of Iraq's supposed WMD.

    Imagine where the US would be now if NYT had followed this sentiment in 2002/3:

    "It is the responsibility of American journalism, back to the founding of this country, to get out and try to grapple with the hardest issues of the day and to do it independently of the government."

    What a load...

     

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  20.  
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    RobertH (profile), Dec 8th, 2010 @ 9:16pm

    joe lieberman should be investigated, or better yet institutionalized.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 8th, 2010 @ 9:36pm

    Re:

    On Senator Lieberman himself, I'm not sure about that. His campaign contributors would be a better place. Consider what OpenSecrets calls the "Securities & Investment" industry.

    Looking back, we see that Forbes published the interview where Assange announced the oncoming "megaleak" about "a big U.S. bank" on 11/29. The announcement from Senator Lieberman that Amazon has "ceased to host the WikiLeaks website" occurred on 12/2.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2010 @ 1:56am

    Re:

    Did you ever go to Wikileak's cablegate page? It has an "Articles" section on its sidebar. It is more than a mere data dump.

     

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  23.  
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    okwhen (profile), Dec 9th, 2010 @ 3:46am

    Re:

    I will withhold my animosity toward your ignorance in hopes you are speaking out of pure innocence. The difference is, we the people the citizens of the US own everything our government produces. One cannot steal their own property. Government and state secret acts have been use to hide corruption since our government was formed. The people understand certain secrets are in the countries best interest however, the strongholds our government and others are enacting is nothing less than tyranny.

     

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  24.  
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    Richard Kulawiec, Dec 9th, 2010 @ 4:10am

    Re:

    The only thing that really bugs me is the supposed cable leak that contained a list of sites that would directly impact US national security.

    I read that cable. Then I went to dhs.gov and downloaded the full plans for identifying and securing CI (critical infrastructure).

    Really, you need to stop presuming that adversaries are deaf, dumb, blind, and stupid. Anyone who could reason their way out of a paper bag could compile most of that list off-the-cuff in a couple of hours. And anyone with even rudimentary research skills could come up with most of the rest in a day or two.

    So when you hear the spokesliars prattling on about "...risk to national security", ask yourself: really? REALLY? Chances are nearly 100% that they're making it up (they are paid to lie convincingly, you know) and that whatever sooper-sekrit they're ranting about it has long since been known by everyone who could trouble themselves to know it.

     

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  25.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Dec 9th, 2010 @ 5:22am

    Re: Wikileaks redacts and censors, and withholds information..

    Yea right, that would be a true statement if wikileaks, had all the information they have available to the public, but on the 250,000 documents he has he is up to about 350 I think.

    He also 'redacts' or censors his content, he does not release it all.


    Damned if you do, damned if you don't, Darryl?
    If he didn't redact the files, you'd be complaining that Wikileaks endangers lives by releasing names of informants.
    They are steadily going through the stack of the 250000 documents and have news agencies and newspapers help them scan those documents to see which data could be very harmful and endangers lives.

    That's why the rhetoric from your precious politicians is so disingenuous. Firstly, Wikileaks asked the DoD to help them go through the documents to redact the names that should remain hidden. The DoD said "no". And now they complain that Wikileaks endangers lives, despite the fact that they don't.

     

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  26.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Dec 9th, 2010 @ 5:23am

    Re: Re:

    He's probably not allowed, he probably works for the government.

     

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  27.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Dec 9th, 2010 @ 5:50am

    Re:

    "Sorry to state the obvious, but if so-called "American Journalism" was doing its job there would be no Wikileaks at all"

    That was my exact first thought. My second thought was "at least they know they're lying out their asses". My third thought was "is that truly better then being ignorant of their civic duty?"

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2010 @ 6:37am

    Lieberman is a Wazoo and is only in power to support the Jewish coalition. He supports paying each and every Israeli citizen $14,000.00 a year plus, while the average Social Security payments in the United States are around $8,000.00. You want to cut the budget. Stop paying foreign governments with money. Declare a 2 year emergency moratorium on all foreign payments. Let them take care of themselves for awhile. Vote Lieberman out and that could happen.

     

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  29.  
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    Punmaster (profile), Dec 9th, 2010 @ 6:43am

    Re:

    He already has been - he's in the Senate. :)

     

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  30.  
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    Freak, Dec 9th, 2010 @ 7:12am

    Re: Re:

    On the close timeline we're talking about here, though, 3 days is a lot, so I think that's more anti-evidence.

    I mean heck, every day I logon to the internet and bam, something new and horrifying is up.

     

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  31.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Dec 9th, 2010 @ 7:18am

    Re: Re:

    "Steve Jobs does not work for we the people...."

    Hmmm, he does if you own any apple shares ...

     

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  32.  
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    James 0r10n, Dec 9th, 2010 @ 7:54am

    Public vs. Private entities

    I can agree with the argument that the "cables belong to the people" and that the people have the right to transparency in this case. However keep in mind that there are mixed (private/public) entities - what do we do in these cases? Do we have the right to full transparency or should we only have access to the "public" parts? Is it, perhaps, not a matter of public vs. private entities, but rather a matter of scale. i.e if you're big enough to affect citizens' lives, you should be on the spotlight will be subject to the wikileaks treatment?

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2010 @ 8:36am

    Re:

    Because I am lazy, you mind getting some citations on those statements. Not that I support Lieberman (I really, really don't) and I am trying to derail your post, I just want some references. Need the ammo.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 9th, 2010 @ 9:33am

    Couple of points- why didn't the NYTimes publish the climategate leaks, and why haven't they mentioned that the wikileaks shows that Iraq had a WMD program going when they were invaded?

     

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  35.  
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    Bruce Ediger (profile), Dec 9th, 2010 @ 9:40am

    NYT would like like they did on the NSA wiretaps

    If the NYT had ignored WikiLeaks Cables, they would look exactly like they did when they sat on the NSA wiretapping story (apparently at the behest of the NSA, http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/4/21/722691/-Rep.-Harman-lobbied-NYT-to-spike-wiretapping-story-a t-Bushs-behest).

    They would look like servile lapdogs of authority.

     

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  36.  
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    TeleTips Network (profile), Dec 9th, 2010 @ 10:38am

    Follow the money

    I support @Anonymous Coward (comment 21), best look to the campaign contributors for Lieberman's motivation in attacking WikiLeaks.

    It is not mere cynicism to suppose that the heightened concern for "national security" exhibited by American politicians is a thin disguise for a morbid fear of being exposed as having accepted cash or other favors in return for supporting unethical, immoral or even illegal activities in the powerful and privileged positions they occupy.

    We as readers really must insist that the press treat this as the First Amendment issue that it is. The cowardice of the NYT and other mainstream media; reporting this story without taking a principaled stand, is understandable given the pressures to which Amazon, PayPal, EveryDNS et al have been subjected. But that understanding is not acceptance. "Grappling with the hardest issues of the day" must be more than a byline, it needs to be a core value.

    Matthew Ingraham is right!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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