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November 20, 2007

NYTimes Held a Story at White House Request

On Sunday, the New York Times carried this story about a classified program to help Pakistan secure its nuclear weapons. Here are the eleventh and thirteenth paragraphs:

The New York Times has known details of the secret program for more than three years, based on interviews with a range of American officials and nuclear experts, some of whom were concerned that Pakistan’s arsenal remained vulnerable. The newspaper agreed to delay publication of the article after considering a request from the Bush administration, which argued that premature disclosure could hurt the effort to secure the weapons.

[...]

The Times told the administration last week that it was reopening its examination of the program in light of those disclosures and the current instability in Pakistan. Early this week, the White House withdrew its request that publication be withheld, though it was unwilling to discuss details of the program.

So the NYTimes managed to keep itself from reporting on a classified program for three years. That's impressive.

Today, the Politico tries to discover why the story was released now. Their answer: "We got bubkis."

Gordon Johndroe, White House National Security Council spokesman, told the Politico that “it was determined in 2004 that publication of the information would be harmful.”

But subsequently, Johndroe said, details of the secret program have “slowly, over time, become more public.” For that reason, he added, “there was no point in still maintaining our objection to publication.”

The Politico article leaves one wondering what the difference was between this program and the other classified programs that were disclosed by the NYTimes. The NSA wiretap program and the SWIFT tracking program, revealed in December 2005 and June 2006 were aimed squarely at hurting President Bush and the Republicans in an election year.

On the other hand, a story about how the Administration was conducting a program to secure nuclear weapons abroad would come disastrously close to sounding like the president was making progress curtailing nuclear proliferation and nuclear threats. Of course the NYTimes was willing to sit on it.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 02:48 PM

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