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Category Archives: Media Criticism

Intelligence Officials’ Unpersuasive Response To the NYT’s Identification of Three Undercover CIA Officers

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Thursday, May 14, 2015 at 11:02 AM

The New York Times identified three undercover senior CIA officials in an April 25 story by Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo about oversight of the CIA’s lethal drone operations. (Background here and here.)  ODNI General Counsel Bob Litt and twenty former CIA officials, all of whom I admire, argue that the Times was wrong to do so. Their arguments taken together are that (1) . . .
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Hersh’s Account of the Bin Laden Raid is Journalistic Malpractice

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Monday, May 11, 2015 at 10:10 PM

When a journalist writes a tell-all story about a classified operation, and he suspects the story will catalyze anti-American anger, provide fuel for terrorist groups, and cause severe friction with foreign governments, the act of publication is morally fraught. When the story is based on obscenely thin sourcing and careens into conspiracy theories, the decision . . .
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20 Senior Former CIA Officials Criticize NYT For Publishing Names of Covert Operatives

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Monday, May 11, 2015 at 5:24 PM

Twenty senior former CIA officials—including every CIA Director (including DCIs) dating back to William Webster (1987-91)—wrote a letter to the NYT to take issue with NYT Executive Editor Dean Baquet’s defense (in this interview on Lawfare) of his decision to publish the names of the three covert CIA operatives in a story a few weeks . . .
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Another Response to the New York Times Flap

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 7:03 PM

An intelligence community reader writes in with the following response to my post this morning on Dean Baquet’s interview with Jack: The issue is not [only] whether the true name and affiliation [of the covert officer] are known to the editors and reporters of the New York Times, and to the persons in their professional and social . . .
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Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times Weighs In

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 2:34 PM

The estimable Mark Mazzetti—the New York Times national security reporter who wrote the story over the weekend that prompted the outing-CIA-officers flap—writes in with the following note in response to my post this morning reflecting on Jack’s interview with Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet: You summarized Dean’s points pretty well, but I would strongly emphasize another point. These . . .
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A Thought on Dean Baquet’s Comments to Jack

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 11:47 AM

This morning, Jack published an interview he conducted yesterday with New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet about the paper’s decision the other day to publish the names of three covert CIA officers. Earlier this week, DNI General Counsel Robert Litt blasted this decision, and—among other things—Baquet in the interview defends it. Baquet offers a . . .
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Interview With Dean Baquet, Executive Editor of New York Times, on Publication Decisions About Intelligence Secrets, and More

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015 at 9:10 AM

On April 25, two days after President Obama announced that a U.S. drone strike accidentally killed two innocent hostages, Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo published a story in the New York Times about congressional and White House support for the CIA’s “targeted killing program.” A major point in the story was that some of the . . .
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DNI General Counsel Robert Litt: “The New York Times Disgraced Itself”

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Monday, April 27, 2015 at 9:57 PM

Over the weekend, the New York Times published an article on congressional support for the C.I.A.’s drone program. In describing the program’s leadership, the Times saw fit to reveal the identity of three people it claims are covert C.I.A. operatives. The publication of these names did not sit well, apparently, with Robert Litt, General Counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. . . .
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The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film and Television

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Friday, April 17, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Though everyone would surely prefer otherwise, public relations crises are part of the CIA’s ordinary business. The fact that so much of its work is classified puts the Agency in one of those tricky, plumber-like governmental roles: when it does its job right, no one should notice. But when it screws up, there’s a mess, . . .
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In Case You Needed Another Reason to Look Askance at WikiLeaks

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Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 10:27 PM

Here is one. The organization today posted online what it describes as “an analysis and search system for The Sony Archives: 30,287 documents from Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) and 173,132 emails, to and from more than 2,200 SPE email addresses.” That’s right. North Korea hacks Sony and steals lots of innocent people’s communications, and WikiLeaks . . .
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“A Necessary, If Still Unpalatable, Potential Ally in Combating the Islamic State”

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Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 9:07 AM

Remember these words the next time the New York Times runs a pious editorial decrying—with a spurious combination of selective facts and distorted law—some morally complicated aspect of U.S. counterterrorism policy. Remember them the next time the New York Times runs an editorial invoking the great moral authority of the paper of record on, well, just about anything. Remember them because . . .
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No Need to Prosecute Bowe Bergdahl?

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Friday, March 27, 2015 at 8:30 AM

I normally make a point of not arguing with New York Times editorials, contenting myself with my role as their unofficial fact-checker on national security legal matters. (Don’t thank me.) I find myself called, however, to say a substantive word about today’s editorial, “No Need to Prosecute Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.” There’s no specific factual error . . .
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The Washington Post Fingers the Person Behind the Snowden Disclosures!

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015 at 2:15 PM

In what is surely a typographical error, the Washington Post has named NSA General Counsel Raj De as the man behind the Snowden disclosures: De’s last day was Friday, and he plans to start at Mayer Brown in June as head of the firm’s privacy and security practice in Washington. He had been NSA’s general counsel . . .
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Did the New York Times Editorial Page Accuse General Petraeus of a Crime Spree?

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 11:44 AM

I’m not sure, but I think so. From today’s editorial, entitled, “Gen. Petraeus’s Light Punishment“: Mr. Petraeus, who charmed and provided extraordinary access to handpicked journalists and national security experts during his tours running the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was all too familiar with the currency of classified information in the battleground of public . . .
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The Real Story Behind Citizenfour’s Oscar

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Monday, February 23, 2015 at 4:21 PM

Like a lot of Lawfare readers, we were pretty surprised by Citizenfour‘s triumph at the Oscars last night. It wasn’t just that there was Glenn Greenwald, foe of all things mainstream, holding—of all things—that picture of establishment respectability, the Oscar. It was, more importantly, the question of who the heck decided to honor this paranoid and self-congratulatory film? . . .
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The New York Times Public Editor Backs James Risen’s “Truth-Telling”

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Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 5:09 PM

Soon after Jack posted this piece on James Risen’s attacks on Eric Holder, which Ben had criticized earlier, the New York Times’s Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, wrote a post in support of Risen’s tweets. Reasonable people will differ over the right norms for journalists on Twitter—an issue Ben’s original post and Sullivan’s both engage. But there is one . . .
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Risen, Holder, and Journalists’ Sensitivity to Accountability

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Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 2:24 PM

I largely agree with Ben’s critique of James Risen’s sharp twitter criticisms of Attorney General Holder, but want to add (or reiterate) several points. First, to underscore what Ben says, the absence of a First Amendment reporter’s privilege long preceded Eric Holder and cannot plausibly be said to be part of his “legacy,” as Risen . . .
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James Risen’s Twitter Tirade Against Eric Holder

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at 10:19 PM

Yesterday, speaking at the National Press Club, Attorney General Eric Holder was asked a question about the Obama administration’s prosecution of leakers, and he offered the following thoughts: Question: The Obama administration has prosecuted eight alleged whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, more than all previous presidential administrations combined. What justifies this more aggressive posture towards leakers? . . .
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Pew Poll on Investigative Journalists and Digital Security

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Monday, February 9, 2015 at 7:51 AM

This is interesting. From the Pew Research Center: About two-thirds of investigative journalists surveyed (64%) believe that the U.S. government has probably collected data about their phone calls, emails or online communications, and eight-in-ten believe that being a journalist increases the likelihood that their data will be collected. Those who report on national security, foreign . . .
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The Intercept, SecureDrop, and Foreign Intelligence Services: A Response

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Thursday, February 5, 2015 at 2:30 PM

Those readers who do not spend a lot of time on Twitter may have missed the beating Ben has been taking there for this post last week suggesting that the folks at The Intercept may be overestimating their security capabilities relative to the offensive capabilities of nation state intelligence services. The claim in the original article was . . .
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