D.C. Bureau Chief: 'Unimaginable' Not to Publish WikiLeaks Secret Cables

As noted here yesterday, Executive Editor Bill Keller and Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet were interviewed at the National Press Club Monday night by Marvin Kalb for "New York Times Behind the Scenes." During a discussion of the Times publishing secret diplomatic cables obtained by the anti-American group WikiLeaks, Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet said 49 minutes into the program that it would actually have been "shocking," unimaginable, and arrogant for the Times to have held off publicizing government secrets.

Put aside the debate over what WikiLeaks provided. Isn't it unimaginable to anybody that the New York Times would have had the arrogance to have this stuff and not publish it? To me whenever, whenever the question's been raised to me, was the New York Times behaving in an arrogant way or sort of, you know, flaunting its ability to publish this stuff, enabling WikiLeaks, working with WikiLeaks, or whatever - to me the most unimaginable, arrogant thing the New York Times could have done was to have this stuff, look at it, say this is interesting, let's have an ethical debate, let's put it back in the computer, and let's go have lunch. That to me is, would be shocking.

But it is indeed pretty arrogant for the Times to appoint itself arbiter of what secrets governments can keep. And it's an open question whether the Times is applying a political filter on what leaked cables it finds newsworthy.

The U.K. paper The Telegraph dug two stories from an apparently separate WikiLeaks trove recently, one involving al-Qaeda trying to build a radioactive "dirty" bomb, the other involving how the British evidently instructed Libya on how to secure the release of one of the Lockerbie bombers from a Scottish prison on "compassionate grounds." Libya's malfeasance and the global threat of al-Qaeda are not high on the list of stories the liberal Times has been interested in pushing, and the Times has yet to follow up on the Telegraph's reporting.

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