Some of the most interesting commentary I’ve seen in the wake of the latest Wikileaks release has been about the US news media’s habit of cravenly pandering to the government.
From the Guardian, Simon Jenkins, US embassy cables: The job of the media is not to protect the powerful from embarrassment:
The state department knew of the leak several months ago and had ample time to alert staff in sensitive locations. Its pre-emptive scaremongering over the weekend stupidly contrived to hint at material not in fact being published. Nor is the material classified top secret, being at a level that more than 3 million US government employees are cleared to see, and available on the defence department’s internal Siprnet. Such dissemination of “secrets” might be thought reckless, suggesting a diplomatic outreach that makes the British empire seem minuscule. …Glenn Greenwald is strongly recommending this startling BBC interview with Bill Keller, Executive Editor of the New York Times, and Carne Ross, consummate diplomat and former British Ambassador to the U.N. As transcribed in Greenwald’s column:
These disclosures are largely of analysis and high-grade gossip. Insofar as they are sensational, it is in showing the corruption and mendacity of those in power, and the mismatch between what they claim and what they do. …
Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets. Were there some overriding national jeopardy in revealing them, greater restraint might be in order. There is no such overriding jeopardy, except from the policies themselves as revealed.
KELLER: The charge the administration has made is directed at WikiLeaks: they’ve very carefully refrained from criticizing the press for the way we’ve handled this material. … We’ve redacted them to remove the names of confidential informants … and remove other material at the recommendation of the U.S. Government we were convinced could harm National Security …The essential piece is Glenn Greenwald’s WikiLeaks reveals more than just government secrets. It’s a shame Salon couldn’t come up with a better title for a flaming and spectacular piece of political analysis that uses phrases like “morally deranged barbarians” to discuss ways in which the WikiLeaks flap reflects the degradation of American political culture.
HOST (incredulously): Just to be clear, Bill Keller, are you saying that you sort of go to the Government in advance and say: “What about this, that and the other, is it all right to do this and all right to do that,” and you get clearance, then?
KELLER: We are serially taking all of the cables we intend to post on our website to the administration, asking for their advice. We haven’t agreed with everything they suggested to us, but some of their recommendations we have agreed to: they convinced us that redacting certain information would be wise.
ROSS: One thing that Bill Keller just said makes me think that one shouldn’t go to The New York Times for these telegrams—one should go straight to the WikiLeaks site. It’s extraordinary that the New York Times is clearing what it says about this with the U.S. Government, but that says a lot about the politics here, where Left and Right have lined up to attack WikiLeaks—some have called it a “terrorist organization.”
Note: Greenwald isn’t talking about WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange. He’s skewering the likes of Wolf Blitzer, Sarah Palin, the aforementioned Bill Keller, and CNN’s journalistic standards in general.
And something to look forward to in 2011: Assange has announced that early next year, “a major American bank will suddenly find itself turned inside out.” Should be interesting.