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October 24, 2006
A really (Ca)lame excuse
There has been much buzz about the admission of New York Times 'public editor' Byron Calame that the paper should not have published information on the SWIFT program that tracked financial transactions of terrorists.
The new information food chain was in display. First off the mark, bloggers like Michelle Malkin, Ed Morrisey, Don Surber, Patterico, and others commented. Noting that Clame's mea culpa was buried in an article with an unrelated (and somewhat trivial) item on the new perfume editor and the role of magazine advertising in supporting the hard news operation as its title, and that all of the reasons he cited were evident at the time of the article's publication, and Calame's initial approval.
Many people also pointed out that Calame's excuse for initially justifying publication was pathetic. Blogger (and newspaper columnist) Don Sureber wrote:
Ed Morrisey pointed out the underlying agenda.
Yesterday, talk radio picked up the ball and ran with it. And Fox News, during the 'Grapevine' segment of Brit Hume's show, also noted the reversal.
But today, a fellow newspaper editor, Jules Crittenden, city editor of the Boston Herald, took the story to a new level. Addressing Calame, he wrote,
Many are puzzled by the timing of Calame's admission, coming only two weeks before an election. The simplest and most likely explanation is that he re—thought the matter and came to a different conclusion. Honesty compelled him to write what he did.
Others see a different agenda at work. Tom Riehl, whose work I respect, sees a Hillary plot.
I am afraid I am not convinced by this reasoning. I just do not see Congressional elections being swung by a buried mea culpa in the New York Times about one of its stories.
If there is anything hidden here, I have to wonder if the Times has been notified by the Department of Justice that it is under investigation for possible criminal violations in publishing classified information. Pure uninformed speculation on my part. But the Times is already under court order in a civil suit to release the names of some anonymous sources, and may end up forced to pay millions of dollars to Steven Hatfill if it does not comply. With earnings down (again) can the Times really afford to disobey a court order and face unknown liability? How about a criminal prosecution, say, for espionage?
Having taken the position that the 'outer' of Valeire Plame should be revealed, the Times is now in weak position to resist revealing its sources in the SWIFT program story.
If the possibility of a criminal prosecution looms, perhaps Calame is buying himself some insurance.
Thomas Lifson 10 24 06