The media complicity in President Obama's drone strategy gets more and more astonishing with each passing day.
On Wednesday, Britain's Guardian published a piece with the incredible sub-headline "New York Times and Washington Post knew about secret drone base in Saudi Arabia but agreed not to disclose it to the public."
On Tuesday, following Monday's disclosure by NBC of a leaked Justice Department white paper on the case for its controversial targeted killing programme, the Washington Post revealed it had previously refrained from publishing the base's location at the behest of the Obama administration over national security concerns.
The New York Times followed with its own story on the drone programme on Wednesday, and an op-ed explaining why it felt the time to publish was now.
From the Post Tuesday:
The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the specific location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network’s most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.
The Post learned Tuesday night that another news organization was planning to reveal the location of the base, effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organizations that had been aware of the location for more than a year.
Keep in mind this is the same paper that in November 2005 published a piece by Dana Priest disclosing secret prisons the CIA had to interrogate captured members of al Qaeda:
The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.
The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.
Priest would win a Pulitzer Prize the following year for this story.
As for the Times, here's what it revealed Wednesday:
The media and national-security worlds, internationally, are abuzz over an important story on the front page of Wednesday’s New York Times that describes a drone strike in Yemen last August. The article reveals a great deal about the secret drone program, the architect of which is John O. Brennan, who has been nominated to head the Central Intelligence Agency.
One of its revelations is the location of a drone base in Saudi Arabia. The Times and other news organizations, including The Washington Post, had withheld the location of that base at the request of the C.I.A., but The Times decided to reveal it now because, according to the managing editor Dean Baquet, it was at the heart of this particular article and because examining Mr. Brennan’s role demanded it. [...]
The government’s rationale for asking that the location be withheld was this: Revealing it might jeopardize the existence of the base and harm counterterrorism efforts. ”The Saudis might shut it down because the citizenry would be very upset,” he said. [...]
Mr. Baquet said he had a conversation with a C.I.A. official about a month ago and, at that time, agreed to continue withholding the location, as it had done for many months. More recently, though, one of the reporters working on the story told the government that The Times would reveal the location and said officials should contact Mr. Baquet if they wanted to discuss it further.
Keep in mind that a month after Priest's black sites revelation in the Post, the Times published a massive front page story about domestic terrorist surveillance:
Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.
Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.
The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.
Like Priest, authors James Risen and Eric Lichtblau both won Pulitzer Prizes for their piece the following year.
So under Bush, Post and Times authors won Pulitzer Prizes for disclosing top secret information.
Under Obama, both papers withheld such information.
The hypocrisy is so astounding it's sick-making.