Here is smoking gun evidence of Annie Machon's conclusions from her own
experience: the intel services have moles in the editorial process at the
major western media outlets.
It's pretty obvious who these are most of the time: the Guardian's David
Leigh is a prime candidate IMO - Ian Henshall
Correspondence and collusion between the New York Times and the
Mark Mazzetti's emails with the CIA expose the degradation of
journalism that has lost the imperative to be a check to power
The rightwing transparency group, Judicial Watch, released Tuesday
a new batch of documents
showing how eagerly the
shoveled information to Hollywood film-makers about
the Bin Laden raid. Obama officials did so to enable the production of a
politically beneficial pre-election film about that "heroic"
killing, even as administration lawyers
insisted to federal courts
that no disclosure was permissible because the raid was
from Judicial Watch of documents it obtained under
the Freedom of Information Act, this is old news. That's what the Obama
: it manipulates secrecy powers to prevent
accountability in a court of law, while leaking at will about the same
programs in order to glorify the president.
But what is news in this disclosure are the
newly released emails
between Mark Mazzetti, the
's national security and intelligence reporter, and
Harf. The CIA had evidently heard that Maureen Dowd was planning to write
a column on the CIA's role in pumping the film-makers with information
about the Bin Laden raid in order to boost Obama's re-election chances,
and was apparently worried about how Dowd's column would reflect on them.
On 5 August 2011 (a Friday night), Harf wrote an email to Mazzetti with
the subject line: "Any word??", suggesting, obviously, that she
and Mazzetti had already discussed Dowd's impending column and she was
expecting an update from the NYT reporter.
A mere two minutes after the CIA spokeswoman sent this Friday night
inquiry, Mazzetti responded. He promised her that he was "going to
see a version before it gets filed", and assured her that there was
likely nothing to worry about:
- "My sense is there a very brief mention at bottom of column
about CIA ceremony, but that [screenwriter Mark] Boal also got high level
access at Pentagon."
She then replied with this instruction to Mazzetti: "keep me
posted", adding that she "really appreciate[d] it".
Moments later, Mazzetti forwarded the draft of Dowd's unpublished column
to the CIA spokeswoman (it was
published the following night online
by the Times, and two days later
in the print edition). At the top of that email, Mazzetti wrote:
"this didn't come from me … and please delete after you read."
He then proudly told her that his assurances turned out to be
- "See, nothing to worry about."
This exchange, by itself, is remarkably revealing: of the standard role
played by establishment journalists and the corruption that pervades it.
Here we have a New York Times reporter who covers the CIA colluding with
its spokesperson to plan for the fallout from the reporting by his own
newspaper ("nothing to worry about"). Beyond this, that a New
York Times journalist – ostensibly devoted to bringing transparency to
government institutions – is pleading with the CIA spokesperson, of all
people, to conceal his actions and to delete the evidence of collusion is
so richly symbolic.
The relationship between the New York Times and the US government is, as
usual, anything but adversarial. Indeed, these emails read like the
interactions between a PR representative and his client as they plan in
anticipation of a possible crisis.
Even more amazing is the reaction of the newspaper's managing editor,
Dean Baquet, to these revelations, as
reported by Politico's Dylan Byers
There is so much to say
- "New York Times Managing Editor Dean Baquet called POLITICO to
explain the situation, but provided little clarity, saying he could not
go into detail on the issue because it was an intelligence matter.
- "'I know the circumstances, and if you knew everything that's
going on, you'd know it's much ado about nothing,' Baquet said. 'I can't
go into in detail. But I'm confident after talking to Mark that it's much
ado about nothing.'
- "'The optics aren't what they look like,' he went on. 'I've
talked to Mark, I know the circumstance, and given what I know, it's much
ado about nothing.'"
about that passage.
First, try though I did, I'm unable to avoid noting that this statement
from Baquet – "the optics aren't what they look like" – is one
of the most hilariously incoherent utterances seen in some time. It's the
meaningless, illiterate corporatese
that comes spewing forth from
bumbling executives defending the indefensible. I've read that sentence
roughly a dozen times over the last 24 hours and each time, it provides
me with greater amounts of dark amusement.
Second, look at how the New York Times mimics the CIA even in terms of
how the newspaper's employees speak: Baquet "provided little
clarity, saying he could not go into detail on the issue because it was
an intelligence matter". In what conceivable way is Mazzetti's
collusion with the CIA an "intelligence matter" that prevents
the NYT's managing editor from explaining what happened here?
This is what the CIA
: insists that, even when it comes to allegations
that they have engaged in serious wrongdoing, you (and even courts)
cannot know what the agency is doing because it is an "intelligence
matter". Now, here we have the managing editor of the Newspaper of
Record reciting this same secrecy-loving phrase verbatim – as though the
New York Times is some sort of an intelligence agency whose inner
workings must be concealed for our own safety – all in order to avoid any
sort of public disclosure about the wrongdoing in which it got caught
engaging. One notices this frequently: media figures come to identify so
closely with the government officials on whom they report that they start
adopting not only their way of thinking, but even their lingo.
Third, note how Baquet proudly touts the fact that he knows facts to
which you are not and will not be privvy:
- "I know the circumstances, if you knew everything that's going
on, you'd know it's much ado about nothing."
Isn't the function of a newspaper supposed to be to tell us
"everything that's going on", not to boast that it knows the
circumstances and you do not?
Baquet's claim that this was all "much ado about nothing" did
not, apparently, sit well with at least some people at the New York
Times, who seem not to appreciate it when their national security
reporter secretly gives advanced copies of columns to the CIA
spokesperson. Shortly after Baquet issued his ringing defense of
Mazzetti's behavior, a spokesperson for the paper not only provided the
details Baquet insisted could not be given, but also made clear that
Mazzetti's conduct was inappropriate:
- "Last August, Maureen Dowd asked Mark Mazzetti to help check a
fact for her column. In the course of doing so, he sent the entire column
to a CIA spokeswoman shortly before her deadline. He did this without the
knowledge of Ms Dowd. This action was a mistake that is not consistent
with New York Times standards."
It may be "inconsistent with the New York Times standards"
for one of its reporters to secretly send advanced copy to the CIA and
then ask that the agency delete all record that he did so: one certainly
hopes it is. But it is not, unfortunately, inconsistent with the paper's
behavior in general, when it comes to reporting on public officials.
Serving as obedient lapdogs and message-carriers for political power,
rather than adversarial watchdogs over power, is par for the
The most obvious example of this is the
paper's complicity with propagating war-fueling falsehoods
the attack on Iraq – though, in that instance, it was
. Just last month, it
that the NYT routinely gives veto power to Obama
campaign officials over the quotes from those officials the paper is
allowed to publish – a practice
barred by other outlets
(but not the NYT) both
that revelation and
subsequent to it
Worse, the paper frequently conceals vital information of public interest
at the direction of the government, as it did when it learned of George
Bush's illegal eavesdropping program in mid 2004 but
concealed it for more than a year
at the direction of the White
House, until Bush was safely re-elected; as it did when it complied with
government directives to
conceal the CIA
of Raymond Davis, captured by Pakistan, even as President
Obama falsely described him as "our diplomat in Pakistan" and
as the NYT reported the president's statement without noting that it was
false; and as it did with its disclosure of numerous WikiLeaks releases,
for which the paper, as former executive editor Bill Keller
, took direction from the government regarding what
should and should not be published.
And that's all independent of the
of the NYT to permit government officials to
hide behind anonymity
in order to
disseminate government propaganda
– or even to
smear journalists as al-Qaida sympathizers
for reporting critically
on government actions – even when granting such anonymity
its own publicly announced policies
What all of this behavior from the NYT has in common is clear: it
demonstrates the extent to which it institutionally collaborates with and
serves the interests of the nation's most powerful factions, rather than
act as an adversarial check on them. When he talks to the CIA
spokesperson, Mazzetti sounds as if he's talking to a close colleague
working together on a joint project.
It sounds that way because that's what it is.
One can, if one wishes, cynically justify Mazzetti's helpful co-operation
with the CIA as nothing more than a common means which journalists use to
curry favor with their sources. Leave aside the fact that the CIA
spokesperson with whom Mazzetti is co-operating is hardly some valuable
leaker deep within the bowels of the agency but, in theory, should be the
supreme adversary of real journalists: her job is to shape public
perception as favorably as possible to the CIA, even at the expense of
The more important objection is that the fact that a certain behavior is
common does not negate its being corrupt. Indeed, as is true for
government abuses generally, those in power rely on the willingness of
citizens to be trained to view corrupt acts as so common that they become
inured, numb, to its wrongfulness. Once a corrupt practice is
sufficiently perceived as commonplace, then it is transformed in people's
minds from something objectionable into something acceptable. Indeed,
many people believe it demonstrates their worldly sophistication to
express indifference toward bad behavior by powerful actors on the ground
that it is so prevalent. This cynicism – oh, don't be naive: this is done
all the time – is precisely what enables such destructive behavior to
It is true that Mazzetti's emails with the CIA do not shock or surprise
in the slightest. But that's the point. With some noble journalistic
exceptions (at the NYT and elsewhere), these emails reflect the standard
full-scale cooperation – a virtual merger – between our the government
and the establishment media outlets that claim to act as
"watchdogs" over them.
From "All the news that's fit to print" to "please delete
after you read" and cannot "go into detail because it is an
intelligence matter": that's the gap between the New York Times's
marketed brand and its reality.
* * * * *
UPDATE: The Times' Public Editor
on this matter today, noting his clear disapproval for
what Mazzetti did:
- "Whatever Mr. Mazzetti's motivation, it is a clear boundary
violation to disclose a potentially sensitive article pre-publication
under such circumstances. This goes well beyond the normal give-and-take
that characterizes the handling of sources and suggests the absence of an
arm's-length relationship between a reporter and those he is dealing
While Mazzetti himself expresses regret for his behavior -- "It
was definitely a mistake to do. I have never done it before and I will
never do it again" -- both he and Executive Editor Jill Abramson
insist that he had no bad intent, but was simply trying to help out a
colleague (Dowd) by having her claims fact-checked. Like Baquet, Abramson
invokes secrecy to conceal the key facts: "I can't provide further
detail on why the entire column was sent."
The question raised by these excuses is obvious: if Mazzetti were acting
with such pure and benign motives, why did he ask the CIA to delete the
email he sent? This appears to be a classic case of expressing sorrow not
over what one did, but over having been caught.
On a different note, Politico's Byers, in response to my inquiry, advises
me that Baquet did indeed say what Byers attributed to him -- "he
could not go into detail on the issue because it was an intelligence
matter" -- and that his exact quote was: it "has to with