By Chris Spannos:
Four days after WikiLeaks' announced that it would begin publishing "The Global Intelligence Files" and as of early morning March 1st, the New York Times has still not produced any substantial reporting on this news story.
The Times' coverage indicates the complicated position the paper has placed itself within regarding its relation to WikiLeaks-who The Times previously partnered with to publish the 2010 Afghan War Diary.
WikiLeaks is releasing the files-more than five million e-mails from the "global intelligence" company Stratfor-in a slow trickle each day.
More than 25 media organizations, excluding The Times, from around the world and including Rolling Stone magazine, activists The Yes Men, L'Espresso in Italy, The Hindu in India, Al-Akhbar in Lebanon, and many others, are helping to publish and analyze the Stratfor e-mails.
Since WikiLeaks' held its press conference last Sunday, announcing their plans to leak the data, The Times has published only two articles directly related to the Stratfor e-mails.
Both articles are by Somini Sengupta. The first article appeared February 27, 2012, on page A3 of The Times' New York edition with the headline "WikiLeaks to Publish E-Mails" and was only 202 words in length. Sengupta's second article, elaborating slightly on the first, appeared online the same day, "WikiLeaks Publishes Intelligence Firm's E-Mails," and totaled 313 words.
Related coverage by The Times includes their Daily Report blog (212 words) and a lengthy article focusing on Anonymous internet activists, the alleged source of the Stratfor e-mails, but without mentioning the files, "In Attack on Vatican Web Site, a Glimpse of Hackers' Tactics" (1,370 words).
NYT eXaminer (NYTX) has written Times' Editors asking why they have not published more articles since then and relating to the content of the e-mails. As this article was published The Times had not replied to our query.
That the Times has so far chosen to report the bare minimum on the Stratfor e-mail revelations is complicated by the Times own treatment of Wikileaks and its Editor Julian Assange. As a consequence The Times forfeits its own chance to scoop and spin the story before other media outlets.
Ten days ago, February 20th, former Times Executive Editor Bill Keller wrote his Op-Ed, "WikiLeaks, A Postscript," again attacking the character of Julian Assange, condemning WikiLeaks, and further distancing The Times from the organization. (Note: Julian Assange is on the NYTX Advisory Council)
That Keller has been attacking WikiLeaks and Assange since mid-2010 would make it awkward for the paper to publish the Stratfor e-mail revelations that include claims of a sealed indictment for Assange.
For example, e-mail from Fred Burton. Burton is Stratfor's Vice-President for Counterterrorism and Corporate Security, and former Deputy Chief of the Department of State's counterterrorism division for the Diplomatic Security Service.
In January 2011, Burton sent an e-mail "Not for Pub - We have a sealed indictment on Assange. Pls protect." (Email-ID: 375123)
This survey of only seven other e-mails from Burton, and regarding Assange and WikiLeaks, reveal opinions that are uncomfortably consistent with some of Keller's attacks on WikiLeaks and which may be difficult for The Times to publish:
- Burton: "Assange is going to make a nice bride in prison. Screw the terrorist. He'll be eating cat food forever, unless George Soros hires him." (Email-ID: 1056988)
- Burton: "Just told SkyNews concerns for US extradition. More and more likely." (Email-ID: 373862)
- Burton: "Take down the money. Go after [Julian Assange's] infrastructure. The tools we are using to nail and de-construct Wiki are the same tools used to dismantle and track aQ [Al Qaeda]. Thank Cheney & 43 [former US President George W. Bush]. Big Brother owns his liberal terrorist arse." (Email-ID: 1067796)
- Burton: "...Ferreting out [Julian Assange's] confederates is also key. Find out what other disgruntled rogues inside the tent or outside. Pile on. Move him from country to country to face various charges for the next 25 years. But, seize everything he and his family own, to include every person linked to Wiki."(Email-ID: 1056763)
- Burton: "...DOJ [Office of the Attorney General Eric Holder] won't seek prosecution on their own, but look for the GOP (Congress) to press for criminal prosecution. Be easy to indict. I would pursue Conspiracy and Political Terrorism charges and declassify the death of a source someone which I could link to Wiki." (Email-ID: 1074383).
- Burton: "...Bankrupt the arsehole [Julian Assange] first, ruin his life. Give him 7-12 yrs for conspiracy." (Email-ID: 1057220)
- Burton: "We probably asked the ASIS [Australian Secret Intelligence Service] to monitor Wiki coms and email, after the soldier from Potomac was nabbed. So, it's reasonable to assume we probably already know who has done it. The delay could be figuring out how to declassify and use the Aussie intel on Wiki. Wiki holding on to other docs is to protect their sources. The owner [Julian Assange] is a peacenik. He needs his head dunked in a full toilet bowl at Gitmo." (Email-ID: 402168)
And this email regarding Assange and Bradley Manning, from Bartholomew Mongoven, vice-President of Stratfor on December 10, 2010:
Mongoven: "I'm in favor of using whatever trumped up charge is available to get this guy [Julian Assange] and his servers off the streets. And I'd feed that shit head soldier [Bradley Manning] to the first pack of wild dogs I could find. Or perhaps just do to him whatever the Iranians are doing to our sources there." (Email-ID: 389793)
Four years ago on February 21, 2008, and while Bill Keller was still Executive Editor at The Times, in an Editorial titled "Stifling Online Speech," The Times' Editorial Board argued that "The rise of Internet journalism has opened a new front in the battle to protect free speech." Responding to a federal judge order to disable Wikileaks.org at that time, Times' Editors wrote that the order "stifles important speech and violates the First Amendment."
Referring to WikiLeaks.org as a "journalistic Web site" they argued that the judge's order posed "free speech burdens" that are "just as serious as closing down a print publication..." The "courts should tread carefully," they said.
In 2010, The Times worried about losing the scoop to other media when WikiLeaks published its Collateral Murder video on YouTube. Referring to the video which showed the US military massacring Iraqis from Apache helicopter gunships Brian Stelter, Media Reporter for The Times, said then that "It felt like a possible front page story to Bruce [Headlam, Media Desk Editor] and I." (Page One, 7:00).
Comparing WikiLeaks to the Pentagon papers, then Executive Editor Keller said "The bottom line is, you know, WikiLeaks, um, doesn't need us..." (Page One, 15:24)
Subsequently, The Times then joined WikiLeaks' media consortium, with the Guardian and others, to help publish the Afghan War Diary. Just a few months later, violating their contract with WikiLeaks, the Guardian gave The Times access to the Cablegate documents-250,000 diplomatic cables.
The Times then made the cables their front page story for weeks while at the same time distancing themselves from WikiLeaks, attacking the organization, and Assange.
The Times may have reversed its attitude toward WikiLeaks since 2008 in an attempt to destroy the organization. But regarding "The Global Intellegence Files," WikiLeaks has proven what Keller said back in 2010, "The bottom line is, you know, WikiLeaks, um, doesn't need us..."
Chris Spannos is Editor of NYT eXmainer (NYTX), nytexaminer.com