The current issue of the New York Observer includes Gabriel Sherman's report on the back-and-forth at the New York Times regarding the paper's NSA-wiretap story.
Highlights from Sherman's piece:
...Multiple Times sources said that the story had come up more than a year ago—specifically, before the 2004 election. After The Times decided not to publish it at that time, Mr. Risen went away on book leave, and his piece was shelved and regarded as dead, according to a Times source.
...Discussion of the Dec. 16 wiretap piece has been off-limits since it was published. “Someone on high told reporters not to talk about it,” a Washington bureau source said.
So The Times, after a year of being battered by scoops from competitors like The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times on national-security stories, has a blockbuster of its own—but has to discuss it sotto voce, if at all.
[James] Risen [co-writer of the wiretap story] has had difficulties in the past getting traction with Times editors on a disputed topic. In fall 2003, he unsuccessfully pressed for more skeptical coverage of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, to counterbalance the work of Judith Miller.
Mr. Risen returned from his book leave in June of 2005. He soon began agitating to revive the wiretapping piece and get it into the paper, according to bureau sources.
According to multiple Times sources, the decision to move forward with the story was accelerated by the forthcoming publication of Mr. Risen’s book, State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration…