Seattle PI Continues to Refuse to Aid FBI in Terror Probe

The Seattle Times today has published the photos of two men the FBI wants to locate and talk to in regards to their suspicious behavior aboard several Puget Sound ferries in recent weeks, while the Seattle Post-Intelligencer continues to refuse to do so - even though the photos have now been widely published in the Seattle area and nationally via other media outlets and the blogosphere. As we discussed yesterday, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer offered a haiku contest related to the case, but refused to help the FBI locate the men by publishing their photos.

Today's Seattle P-I has a second story on the investigation, but again refuses to publish the photos even though, as its own story says, "The release by the FBI on Monday of photographs of two men who had been spotted in "suspicious" behavior on state ferries comes at a time when authorities are getting increased reports of unusual activity on the nation's largest ferry system."

The paper's justification for continuing to refuse to publish the photos:

The P-I elected not to publish the photos, citing civil liberties and privacy concerns, which editors felt outweighed the newsworthiness of the images. "We have no confirmation that these men's behavior was anything but innocuous, and to forever taint them by associating them with terrorism under these circumstances is not consistent with our policy," said David McCumber, P-I managing editor.

But imagine if law enforcement asked the Post-Intelligencer to publish photos of two white males seen repeatedly hanging around a number of elementary school playgrounds, videotaping and photographing children and speaking to young girls through the fence.

Think the Post-Intelligencer might run those photos?

The "civil liberties and privacy concerns" cited by the paper don't hold water. The men were photographed in a public place, just as Post-Intelligencer photographs routinely photograph people in public in the Seattle area.

The Post-Intelligencer's story today details the great lengths to which the FBI has gone to investigate the alleged suspicious activities of these two men before it asked the media to publish the photos. The FBI didn't just rush the photos out to the media - it only released the photos after efforts to locate the men over the past three weeks have turned up nothing.

Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., as the ranking member of the House's intelligence subcommittee and a former King County sheriff, said Tuesday that the release of the photo by the FBI was an appropriate step that maintains the "fine, fine balance" between security and civil liberties.

Seattleites deserve news media that will function as their eyes and ears, not as their blindfold. Whether out of liberal political correctness or just blind bull-headedness, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has decided to be the latter.

Readers buy newspapers to get information, not to read why information has been withheld from them.

And the P-I's readers, it appears, aren't happy with the paper's decision to withhold the photos - comments posted on the paper's website are running heavily against the P-I's refusal to publish the pictures, with one reader writing, "Shame on this fishwrap for choosing to ignore strong circumstantial evidence in favor of political correctness," and another P-I reader writing, "If the FBI requests the publics' help in this, it shouldn't be ignored as alarmist ranting. So much for protecting the public, eh, PI?"

As I wrote yesterday, refusing to publish the photos is both a dumb and dangerous decision. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is not in a position anymore to act as a "gatekeeper" of news and information. (Neither, for that matter, is the Seattle Times nor any of the local broadcast media.) There are too many local and national media outlets, too many news websites, too many cable networks and too many local and national blogs for any one media outlet to effectively be a gatekeeper anymore.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's decision to try to keep its readers in the dark only spotlights its arrogance, its growing irrelevance, and its religious devotion to political correctness even above public safety.

Ah, well, at least the paper's haiku contest is giving its readers a chance to vent about the situation, in the three-lines/5-7-5 syllables construction of a haiku. Six of the best so far:

Possible danger?
Political correctness!
Paper fails duty.

How irrelevant
The Post Intelligencer
Goodbye dinosaur

Our lives endangered
Sanctimonious P-I
Editors -- BONEHEADS!

a magical place,
where 9/11 never
happened. Seattle.

PI wants Haiku
To justify its dumbness
Task Impossible


Who are these ‘masked’ men?
Michelle Malkin has pictures.
Get your news from her.

War on Terrorism Seattle Times Seattle Post-Intelligencer Government & Press Journalistic Issues

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