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Washington Post Reveals 'Secret' Drone Base in Saudi Arabia That Was No Secret At All

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NBC News’ scoop on the Obama administration’s memo that summarizes their legal reasoning as to why they can kill American citizens has unleashed a torrent of stories about the U.S. drone program. One of those stories was the Washington Post’s “revelation” that exposed “the existence of a previously secret drone base in Saudi Arabia.” But there’s a few important things to know about that “secret”: it was, in fact, reported on by other outlets in 2011, and the Washington Post knew about the drone base for more than a year but held onto that information at the request of the Obama administration. Other news outlets like the New York Times also appear to have not published that information at the Obama administration's request.

The Washington Post also reported that “the only strike intentionally targeting a U.S. citizen, a 2011 attack that killed al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki, was carried out in part by CIA drones flown from a secret base in Saudi Arabia.” So the “secret” drone base that others reported on, based in the repressive state of Saudi Arabia, was used to kill an American citizen. One wonders whether that’s the base that also flew the drone that killed 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, another American citizen.

But let’s get back to the problems with the WaPo story. In 2011, as reporter Ryan Deveraux noted on Twitter, the British newspaper The Times revealed that “sources in the Gulf say that the agency is now massed along Yemen’s borders, launching daily missions with unmanned Predator aircraft from bases in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates.” Fox News also reported on the base.

What’s this say about the Post, and other news outlets that also knew about the not-so-secret base but held off on publishing it at the request of the Obama administration? It’s a window into our obsequious corporate press, apparently more concerned about access to the Obama administration than reporting important news. How many other pieces about the drone program does our corporate media know? The Post has come under a lot of justified criticism. Here’s Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s Peter Hart on the matter:

Their rationale for withholding this information was simple: The government didn't want them to. And from what the Post is telling us today, they weren't the only ones...

So there was an "informal arrangement among several news organizations" not to report important news because the government felt that it could make things difficult for them...

it's possible that Saudi Arabia will stop allowing the CIA to use its territory to conduct a secret drone war against a third country now that the secret is out. But the possibility that news might affect the world is not a reason to stop doing journalism. Indeed, it's the best reason to do journalism.

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