Monday, February 28, 2011

The CIA guy in Pakistan

The NYT public editor on Sunday came to the defense of the paper for not reporting, at the request of the US, that the guy in Pakistan who shot two people (Raymond Davis) was in fact CIA. Glenn Greenwald, among others, previously laid out the case against the Times, Post, and AP for having concealed his CIA job.

One part of the problem with those American outlets withholding the information was that in the meantime, they printed some very, very misleading stuff. Are they going to go back and now append a note to each of those articles? No. So what are we left with? We were misled. Not good.

The other option, disclosing Davis's identity, may indeed have upped the risk of him being hurt or killed in detention. It's hard for the public to know, perhaps hard for the papers to know, and hard to know if they should trust the US. With Wikileaks, the Administration had asked the Times not to publish, but had presented an unimpressive case. Sort of hurts the US's credibility for next time.

The bigger picture problem has nothing to do with the media angle that's gotten all this attention in the last week. The problem is that the State Department and the White House -- including the president himself -- have claimed Davis was a "diplomat" when he was in fact CIA. That potentially puts real US diplomats at further risk.

Next time, the US really isn't going to be believed, even if it's telling the truth.


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