, ,

The New York Times just published another article based on a trove of documents it received from Wikileaks. This one details diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. As usual, the Times is happy to trumpet the special access it has to Wikileaks documents as it publishes another extraordinary scoop.

How does the Times benefit so much from its special access to Wikileaks, but it doesn’t do anything to defend Julian Assange against the United States government’s threats and invective? In fact, it joins the government’s drive to discredit Assange. The Times highlights all the accusations and bad news it can find about Assange – the rape charges, the blood on his hands, the indiscriminate revelation of state secrets – as if he ought to be  thrown in jail. It publishes long pieces about Wikileaks that make Assange look like a treasonous, intemperate freak. Then it publishes another big scoop based on documents that Wikileaks has turned over to the Times.

What explains the Times‘ double dealing? I don’t have special access to the Times‘ editorial decisions, but it looks like the paper gladly benefits from Wikileaks’ disclosures, even as it avoids Washington’s displeasure by publishing every negative item it can about Assange. How craven can you get?

So far the Times has kept the government at bay, kept Assange on the suspect list, and kept itself in the limelight. It eagerly publishes articles that would be impossible without Wikileaks’ support. How could the Times help overturn the government’s compulsive dictate to keep practically every communication except its propaganda secret? What would it do if it actually wanted to break the government’s secrecy habit?

  • First, it would give Julian Assange a break. Make him a hero despite his faults and explain why his efforts are invaluable if we want to keep our democracy. It would stop its unattractive effort to make him look bad.
  • Second, it would challenge the government to make so-called secret communications available on the government’s own websites. We shouldn’t have to wait for Wikileaks to publish them. The information does not belong to the government. It belongs to us.
  • Third, it would support Bradley Manning and other brave individuals who sacrifice their freedom to release information that the government should release on its own account. We may not see them as heroes now, but we will.

Do you think the Times has courage to take these steps? I don’t.