Would you feel safer if the secrets stayed secret?

Justifying their publication of the so called WikiLeaks, and assuming these are really top secret documents, the public editor of the New York Times asked "What if the Secrets Stayed Secret?"

In a rather self congratulatory way, they smugly answer


The Times, like other serious news organizations in democracies, exists to ferret out and publish information - most especially information that government, business and other power centers prefer to conceal. Arming readers with knowledge is what it's about, and journalists are motivated to pursue that end.The impulse to obtain and publish inaccessible information is greatly strengthened in an age in which, if anything, government secrecy is growing. As The Washington Post reported earlier this year in its illuminating series "Top Secret America," the government has expanded secrecy so much that 854,000 people now hold top-secret security clearances.

For editors, the opportunity to arm readers with hard-to-get information takes on great urgency. Once an editor assesses the merits of a subject like this one, the reporting goes forward and the story is published, albeit sometimes with redactions to avoid putting individuals in peril. The process, and the logic, are evident in the answer that Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times, gave me when I asked whether he had misgivings about publishing this material.

"No question this exercise has had its challenges," he said. "But from the time we got a good look at the material, there was no doubt that we wanted to publish. Of course, we considered potential legal risks and anticipated criticism, whatever we decided to do. The business of sorting and selecting from such a vast archive was daunting. We spent a great deal of effort on the labor of redacting potentially damaging material. Coordinating a publication schedule with other news organizations was complicated. But none of that ever overcame the excitement of a great story."

Hmmm, so "the excitement of a great story" trumped "potential legal risks and anticipated criticism." All well and good coming from a paper that excitingly spent untold sums trying to track down non existent scandals about 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin. This, while remaining  totally ignorant of the excitement of a great story about serial liar and Democratic presidential wannabe, John Edwards, who blatantly carried on an affair with a woman who subsequently bore his child while lying about it to one and all including his very ill, and now, sad to report, dying wife.

Concluding with supposed rhetorical questions in reference to Vietnam and the Iraq war, the public editor concludes

These questions, which need only be posed rhetorically, supply an answer to the larger question: Would you as a reader rather have the information yourself or trust someone else to hang on to it for you?

"The excitement of a great story" coupled with their sudden artificial concern for reader preferences also trumped any ethical considerations; will enabling the publication of these documents lead to any innocent deaths? How does the publication of supposedly secret documents negatively affect our relations with other countries? Endanger our country? These thoughts and similar others apparently never entered their excited little brains.

Personally, there are some things that should remain secret. Or not disclosed for 100 years. This is one of them.


Justifying their publication of the so called WikiLeaks, and assuming these are really top secret documents, the public editor of the New York Times asked "What if the Secrets Stayed Secret?"

In a rather self congratulatory way, they smugly answer


The Times, like other serious news organizations in democracies, exists to ferret out and publish information - most especially information that government, business and other power centers prefer to conceal. Arming readers with knowledge is what it's about, and journalists are motivated to pursue that end.

The impulse to obtain and publish inaccessible information is greatly strengthened in an age in which, if anything, government secrecy is growing. As The Washington Post reported earlier this year in its illuminating series "Top Secret America," the government has expanded secrecy so much that 854,000 people now hold top-secret security clearances.

For editors, the opportunity to arm readers with hard-to-get information takes on great urgency. Once an editor assesses the merits of a subject like this one, the reporting goes forward and the story is published, albeit sometimes with redactions to avoid putting individuals in peril. The process, and the logic, are evident in the answer that Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times, gave me when I asked whether he had misgivings about publishing this material.

"No question this exercise has had its challenges," he said. "But from the time we got a good look at the material, there was no doubt that we wanted to publish. Of course, we considered potential legal risks and anticipated criticism, whatever we decided to do. The business of sorting and selecting from such a vast archive was daunting. We spent a great deal of effort on the labor of redacting potentially damaging material. Coordinating a publication schedule with other news organizations was complicated. But none of that ever overcame the excitement of a great story."

Hmmm, so "the excitement of a great story" trumped "potential legal risks and anticipated criticism." All well and good coming from a paper that excitingly spent untold sums trying to track down non existent scandals about 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin. This, while remaining  totally ignorant of the excitement of a great story about serial liar and Democratic presidential wannabe, John Edwards, who blatantly carried on an affair with a woman who subsequently bore his child while lying about it to one and all including his very ill, and now, sad to report, dying wife.

Concluding with supposed rhetorical questions in reference to Vietnam and the Iraq war, the public editor concludes

These questions, which need only be posed rhetorically, supply an answer to the larger question: Would you as a reader rather have the information yourself or trust someone else to hang on to it for you?

"The excitement of a great story" coupled with their sudden artificial concern for reader preferences also trumped any ethical considerations; will enabling the publication of these documents lead to any innocent deaths? How does the publication of supposedly secret documents negatively affect our relations with other countries? Endanger our country? These thoughts and similar others apparently never entered their excited little brains.

Personally, there are some things that should remain secret. Or not disclosed for 100 years. This is one of them.


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