Saturday, May 18, 2013

I'll take self-serving traffic baiting for $1000 Alex

I love Alex Pareene. I wouldn't have thought him capable of writing such a mean-spirited tirade against Media Matters for trying to break through the knee jerk defense of AP going on among the big name stars of the media insiders and inject some much needed perspective.

Let's review the facts one more time. The AP didn't break the second coming of The Pentagon Papers with their story. They exposed an important counter-terrorism operation based solely on leaked information which ultimately led to to the outing of a CIA asset who had infiltrated an active terrorist group. Jack Shafer explains why that matters:
To begin with, the perpetrators of a successful double-agent operation against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would not want to brag about their coup for years. Presumably, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula will now use the press reports to walk the dog back to determine whose misplaced trust allowed the agent to penetrate it. That will make the next operation more difficult. Other intelligence operations — and we can assume they are up and running — may also become compromised as the press reports give al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula new clues.

Likewise, the next time the CIA or foreign intelligence agency tries to recruit a double agent, the candidate will judge his handlers wretched secret keepers, regard the assignment a death mission and seek employment elsewhere.

Last, the leaks of information — including those from the lips of Brennan, Clarke and King — signal to potential allies that America can’t be trusted with secrets. “Leaks related to national security can put people at risk,” as Obama put it today in a news conference.
Alex sneers at Media Matters' question, “Is this story about a government source blowing the whistle on government misbehavior, or about a source gratuitously exposing ongoing counter-terrorism operations?” He finds it useless because no liberal wants Media Matters to be the boss of their talking points. Well they probably don't think they need Alex to be the boss of how they choose to influence the public discourse either. Better Alex should answer the question.

Kevin Drum confirms the entire undercover operation had to be shut down and the double agent was put in jeopardy. If the AP hadn't built the bandwagon with their irresponsible traffic baiting, this operation would still be delivering useful intelligence on terrorist plots. So tell me how was the public interest served by the AP story? And where do you draw the line between national security and profit seeking opportunism by the media? If AP hadn't published the leak, the government wouldn't be looking for the leaker and their records wouldn't been subpoenaed.

As I've said before, I've been fighting for First Amendment rights all my life. I worked my heart out in twenty years working for the ACLU and in private practice defending those rights. I want to protect the freedom of the press, but with that freedom comes responsibility to use it for the public good. I was outraged when Valerie Plame was outed by our government for political gain. Why shouldn't I be equally outraged when the media outs an agent in an active operation simply for their own profit? Dumping on Media Matters for trying to hold the press accountable for irresponsible reporting doesn't answer the question.

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