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January 20, 2006


And every article after the first is behind the NYT paywall. I guess that reinforces your thesis.

EW, I've always appreciated your fine analysis. I remain dubious about the NYT's motive here, which I think is actually quite similar to Risen's: sell papers, sell books. If we happen to further the cause of truth and justice at the same time, so be it.

I don't see anything other than plain old "drip the story" out stuff in this. Have you read Risen's book? What would be interesting is whether there's any new reporting between what was published in December and what appears in the book--whether the information about the teleco's participating in the data mining, for instance--is something that Risen and Lichtblau only found out about after the first part of the story broke.

Risen's book probably went to press in mid to late November. Pinch pretty much knew what was in the book. He didn't need to see the ms. Pinch had been paying Risen for this reporting all along. The Free Press would have been careful in its vetting of the manuscript and would have required Risen to triple check all of his sources. I think that's when he went to Pinch, who then went to the Prez to give them a heads up that they were going to print this. Pinch tells the Prez that publication of the book is inevitable, and so he's going to run the story in the paper beforehand.

Call me crazy, but some times the publisher of the NYT has more power than the president of the USA. And trust me, it would have given Pinch much pleasure to rub Bush's nose in this. Here they are, two boys of equal privilege after all. Hell, Pinch can even claim Southern heritage that goes way back further than Georgie's!

BTW, publication of the story in the NYT gives Risen's book an additional imprimatur, which never hurts sales.

I see that Risen and Lichtblau are back on the case today with their analysis of Gonzo's big document dump of yesterday. . .


I think one can very easily make the case this is a drip drip drip. And no, I haven't read Risen's book, but the language he uses in the December 24 story certainly suggests he went back to his sources to gauge how they judged the Presidential response. That is, it contains at least some new reporting.

I think the biggest argument to support my speculation (which is just that--just raising the question) is the December 24 story. It's really the big story. And I can think of only 4 other days of the year in which it would be likely to get less attention (scrap that--since both Christmas and New Years were on Sunday this year, the would both be MUCH larger circulation days).

But there's still the logic of the fight over ownership of this material. Frankly, I think NYT has a great case to make that they own the material (except precendent: when Judy was being subpoenaed, they claimed they didn't own her reporter's notes on a story that they had refused to publish--by the same logic, they also wouldn't own Risen's notes/reporting). And a reason to want to see the manuscript. But beyond learning what was in the book so they could scoop Risen, what logic would they have to fight for ownership of the material? That's the question. I think you raise a lot of important points (and you've mostly convinced me that the NDA is not that big of a story). But I still don't understand how a protracted fight over ownership makes sense with NYT's behavior on the larger story.


Two more points.

I acnknowledge that, by printing this story, NYT ended up helping the sales of Risen's book immensely. But my argument is they didn't have a choice. Risen's a distinguished enough writer (particularly on intelligence issues) that his book would have attracted a fair amount of attention anyway (albeit over time). Knowing that, the NYT HAD to publish some of the scoop, or risk being accused of spiking the story altogether.

Also, I agree that NYT can be more powerful than the President. So long as Pinch DOES publish stories like this, he can wield a lot of power.

But I'm speculating on these issues against the background of NYT launching the First Amendment campaign even when they knew Libby was trying to obstruct Judy's testimony. That is, there is already evidence that Pinch was willing to make huge ethical concessions to stay friendly and help out the Administration.

They had to publish it because otherwise one of their competitors could also have published it. If Risen had indeed submitted the book to Time and the other likely venues, someone other than the Times would have definitely published it. And THAT would have made Pinch look incredibly stupid. But think about it, what publication other than the NYT invests so much in foreign affairs and intelligence? So god bless the Sulzbergers for that.

I'm not so naive as to believe that the NYT isn't an establishment publication. Of course they are. They been around for over 100 years! The Judy stuff is terribly twisted, I agree. I wish that they had blown the whistle on Libby long ago too--before the re-election at least. They admitted that it wasn't the ideal case for the first amendment. But let's direct our anger at the real villains of this story: the Bush administration. Otherwise we might as well just work for Rove himself.

EW (OT) - i have another post up about wilson and grossman that i thought you might be interested in (it's largely based on your 'Digging through Old Articles')

This comment is probably too late to be seen, but the WaPo managed to deal with the New Year falling on a Sunday this year by publishing on the preceding Friday Dana Priest's major article on "the largest CIA covert action program since the height of the Cold War" that includes capturing AQ suspects, maintaining secret prisons abroad, enhanced interrogation techniques, mainatance of the rendition aircraft fleet, & enhanced abilities to mine financial records & eavesdrop "anywhere in the world" -- all "known within the agency by the initials GST."

EW, Hope you will have a chance to listen to Risen on Terry Gross's "Fresh Air." Here's the link: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5166040

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