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All The News That Is ‘significant or surprising’: NYT editor defends ignoring NSA-Israel collaboration (Updated)

Israel/PalestineUS Politics

Update (Ahmed Moor):

There’s more to the story. It turns out that Baquet has a history of burying important stories related to the NSA. This is a 2007 ABC News article on how Baquet killed a report about AT&T technician Mark Klein discovered the NSA was collecting customer data:

[A]fter working for two months with LA Times reporter Joe Menn, Klein says he was told the story had been killed at the request of then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and then-director of the NSA Gen. Michael Hayden. The Los Angeles Times’ decision was made by the paper’s editor at the time, Dean Baquet, now the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times. Baquet confirmed to he talked with Negroponte and Hayden but says “government pressure played no role in my decision not to run the story.” Baquet says he and managing editor Doug Frantz decided “we did not have a story, that we could not figure out what was going on” based on Klein’s highly technical documents. The reporter, Menn, declined to comment, but Baquet says he knows “Joe disagreed and was very disappointed.”

So what’s happening here? Did Baquet speak to government officials before burying the Israel/NSA story? Who did he speak to? What’s his relationship to the spy apparatus? And how can he justify undermining journalism on two separate occasions at a six-year interval? Maybe Ms. Sullivan can help answer some of these questions.

Interestingly, this earlier story also contained an Israeli angle, as Klein discovered the NSA was using Israeli-linked technology to surveil the AT&T network.

Original Post (Adam Horowitz):

The New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan has an interesting post on the paper’s decision to ignore last week’s Guardian scoop that the National Security Agency was sharing raw intelligence (including that on U.S. citizens) with Israel. Sullivan queried Times Managing Editor Dean Baquet about the oversight and he stands by it:

After a weekend in which no mention was made in The Times of the article, I asked the managing editor, Dean Baquet, about it on Monday morning.

He told me that The Times had chosen not to follow the story because its level of significance did not demand it.

“I didn’t think it was a significant or surprising story,” he said. “I think the more energy we put into chasing the small ones, the less time we have to break our own. Not to mention cover the turmoil in Syria.”

So, I asked him, by e-mail, was this essentially a question of reporting resources? After all, The Times could have published an article written by a wire service, like Reuters or The Associated Press.

“I’d say resources and news judgment,” he responded.

In a world with many news outlets, he said: “We can spend all our time matching stories, and not actually covering the news. This one was modest and didn’t feel worth taking someone off greater enterprise.”

Sullivan shares that she was moved to raise the question after “dozens” of readers pressed her on it. Sullivan disagrees with Baquet’s decision, and it seems many readers do as well. From the comments on Sullivan’s post:

Mark Pepp, Chicago –

“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” ― Voltaire.

Too true; Mr Baquet’s explanation somehow seems to perpetuate the sense that the NYTimes DOES filter out news on some sensitive subjects that its readers might find disturbing. NOT publishing news of the NSA handing to Israel’s spy agencies all this unfiltered, uncensored NSA spy data concerning US citizens’ calls, emails, etc, just feel like a news blackout. . . .

As Ms Sullivan noted, the Times has been working many news stories originating with the Guardian and the leaked Snowden/NSA documents. To somehow deem this huge data dump by the NSA to Israel as a non-story just reeks of over-caution and self-censorship by the Times.

Nancy, Great Neck –

That the NSA is spying on ordinary American citizens is bad enough but that the NSA is giving raw spying data to Israel is astounding. The New York Times should have covered this thoroughly, of course.

Technic Ally, Toronto –

Not all the news that’s fit to print.

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12 Responses

  1. annie
    September 16, 2013, 6:26 pm

    does anyone remember the history of the NYT burying the NSA warrentless wiretaping story at the request of checney&co for months before the ’04 election?

  2. Les
    September 16, 2013, 6:30 pm

    Far and away the most important US institution that is overwhelmingly Jewish owned and managed is our big print and broadcast media. It is no secret many American Jews oppose Israel’s ethnic cleansing and occupation of the Palestinians, but those numbers do not include even one of our Jewish owned or managed media outlets. How did they become so out of step?

  3. lysias
    September 16, 2013, 6:46 pm

    “I didn’t think it was a significant or surprising story,” he said. “I think the more energy we put into chasing the small ones, the less time we have to break our own. Not to mention cover the turmoil in Syria.”

    Lends support to the theory that one of the reasons for the war talk about Syria (a sudden change in Obama administration policy) was to divert attention from the NSA scandals.

    By the way, this NSA-Israel story also has yet to appear in print editions of the Washington Post (unless I missed it, and I page through the paper every day).

  4. David Doppler
    David Doppler
    September 16, 2013, 7:41 pm

    It’s been clear since the early Bush years that there is a “story graveyard,” to which big stories are sent to die, apparently because someone with power and influence does not want them pursued. Baquet’s service here and there, and track record of killing stories for the NSA invites real journalistic attention: is he just a journalist with a weird sense of what’s important, or prone to giving undue deference to secret government agencies and sources, or is he part of a propaganda system, for the US intelligence community, Israel’s or both? Here’s a list of stories that I do not believe died a natural death:

    1. The whistleblowers at DOJ who were invited to send their stories of Bush Administration illegal activity to Congress, and then had their covers blown to each other and to Dick Cheney’s office by an unidentified Hill staffer sending out emails to the group offering a last chance to withdraw before anyone read their stuff. As I recall, there were over a hundred such whistleblowers, and I do not recall ever seeing a single story come out of a DOJ whistleblower since then. Why the staffer deserved anonymity, and no one other than The Hill and a couple bloggers ever reported it cannot be explained in terms of normal journalism principles, but makes perfect sense in terms of an effective news control program.

    2. The missing White House emails. The White House, including Karl Rove, claimed to have deleted vast archives of email from the same time period. Despite the fact that it is very difficult if not impossible to completely eradicate the evidence of an email after its been sent, with records of it multiple places, and with no initial indications that the delete effort had been anything more than cleaning up the old in and out boxes by individuals, no one ever looked hard at the credibility of this “loss” argument, nor the likelihood, instead, that sophisticated arms of government went to considerable effort to cover all traces, as opposed to uncover them.

    3. The “false flag” possibility in every terrorist event. Most recenlty, the President, Secretary Kerry, and the news media generally showed the repulsive videos, then pointed their finger, but never seriously considered the question whether it was Assad and not a false flag designed to cause the US to intervene against Assad. As the UN report nears, its lack of evidence that Assad was guilty is also relegated to non-story status. The lack of enthusiasm to explore the who, what, when & where of false flag possibilities reminds of the Niger Uranium forgery and the Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame episode, when she became fair game because her husband sought to blow the whistle on the same sort of effort.

    4. The fact that staff in Cheney’s office got Cipro from the WH pharmacy on the evening of September 11, and Maureen Dowd was reporting in late September 2001 that everyone in Manhattan was taking gas masks to dinner, as if it was part of some protocol to respond to airplane hijacks to expect Anthrax in the mail, Neocons promptly blamed Iraq for supposedly unique signatures in the Anthrax that was eventually sent, but no one considered that the eventual false flagger could be anyone other than a lone rogue who conveniently committed suicide, before his lawyer could present his defense (which also never got fully reported). The possibility that he was part of a false flag effort to promote war with Iraq was never seriously considered by the MSM accounts I saw.

    5. The 10 Downing Street memo, which went unreported for weeks in the US MSM.

    The practice of journalistic discretion at the highest levels? Yeah, right, is all the skeptic can muster.

    • lysias
      September 17, 2013, 10:43 am

      There was the front-page story in the Sunday Times (of London) detailing Sibel Edmonds’s explosive charges. Despite that story’s appearance in a very prominent place, I have never seen it reported in U.S. newspapers, only on Web sites.

  5. DICKERSON3870
    September 16, 2013, 7:55 pm

    RE: “Mr Baquet’s explanation somehow seems to perpetuate the sense that the NYTimes DOES filter out news on some sensitive subjects that its readers might find disturbing.” ~ Nancy, Great Neck

    MY COMMENT: To be more specific, I would say it probably has to do with two particular filters identified by Herman and Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent:
    1) The Advertising License to Do Business; and especially,
    2) Flak and the Enforcers. (see below)

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media]:

    [EXCERPTS] “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” (1988), by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, is an analysis of the news media, arguing that the mass media of the United States “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion”.*[1] . . .

    Editorial bias: five filters

    Herman and Chomsky’s “propaganda model” describes five editorially distorting filters applied to news reporting in mass media:
    Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation: The dominant mass-media outlets are large firms which are run for profit. Therefore they must cater to the financial interest of their owners – often corporations or particular controlling investors. The size of the firms is a necessary consequence of the capital requirements for the technology to reach a mass audience.
    The Advertising License to Do Business: Since the majority of the revenue of major media outlets derives from advertising (not from sales or subscriptions), advertisers have acquired a “de-facto licensing authority”.[4] Media outlets are not commercially viable without the support of advertisers. News media must therefore cater to the political prejudices and economic desires of their advertisers. This has weakened the working-class press, for example, and also helps explain the attrition in the number of newspapers.
    Sourcing Mass Media News: Herman and Chomsky argue that “the large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access . . . acquiring […] and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become ‘routine’ news sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers.”[5]
    Flak and the Enforcers: “Flak” refers to negative responses to a media statement or program (e.g. letters, complaints, lawsuits, or legislative actions). Flak can be expensive to the media, either due to loss of advertising revenue, or due to the costs of legal defense or defense of the media outlet’s public image. Flak can be organized by powerful, private influence groups (e.g. think tanks). The prospect of eliciting flak can be a deterrent to the reporting of certain kinds of facts or opinions.[5]
    Anti-Communism: This was included as a filter in the original 1988 edition of the book, but Chomsky argues that since the end of the Cold War (1945–91), anticommunism was replaced by the “War on Terror”, as the major social control mechanism.[6][7] . . .

    SOURCE –

  6. Clif Brown
    Clif Brown
    September 17, 2013, 2:19 am

    The New York Times has indicated by this glaring omission that its claim to responsible journalism is as phony as the “peace process” on which it devotes much space.

    This long-time subscriber is ending his subscription immediately, after submitting the reason to Ms. Sullivan.

    I’m going to see how Jeff Bezos does at the Washington Post.

    • Oscar
      September 17, 2013, 7:56 am

      Haha, good luck with WarPo. Neo-con hacks aplenty. Don’t give MSM a dime. Starve them out and give the money you save on the subscription price to,,, etc.

  7. Citizen
    September 17, 2013, 6:09 am

    Interesting to read the comments under the NYT’s piece. I read the first dozen or more on top; those who say it’s important to tell the public get a lot more “thumbs up” than the others, the latter all arguing “nothing to see here; it’s common knowledge governments spy on each other.”

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