Why the Times published the spy story now

The disappointment continues, one after another after another at the New York Times. You have this incredible institution filled with bottomless talent, connections, history, and dedication, yet due to what looks suspiciously similar to institutional cowardice the paper insists on letting its reputation just hang in the breeze.

Not only did the paper of record cave in and neglect to record Bush's illegal spying (before the election no less) but its explanations are looking increasingly unconvincing.

Here's Times editor Bill Keller's explanation:


"the administration argued strongly that writing about this eavesdropping program would give terrorists clues about the vulnerability of their communications... Officials also assured senior editors of the Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed..."
Gabriel Sherman disagrees, noting that the Times' own James Risen was due to release his book on the subject next month:
"Mr. Risen returned from his book leave in June of 2005. He soon began agitating to revive the wiretapping piece and get it into the paper, according to bureau sources."
"According to multiple Times sources, the decision to move forward with the story was accelerated by the forthcoming publication of Mr. Risen’s book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration."
Worried about getting scooped (again; see Judith Miller's incarceration and subsequent song singing), the paper decided to let Risen write the story for the paper. How generous.

Risen, Sherman reports, has been badgering the eds to abandon their ninny status on a number of issues over the years including, coincidentally enough, Judith Miller's wish-fulfillment reporting on WMD. If there's an award for fixing the system from the inside out, I nominate James Risen.

Call it the Microwaver? (OffTheRecord)

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