Turns out New York Times Public Editor Arthur S. Brisbane omitted more than one relevant fact in his latest column.
As the hardworking staff noted earlier, Brisbane wrote this in his piece about the challenges the paper faces in a digital age:
Indeed, taking sufficient care on the front end of reporting and publishing is one of the most difficult challenges for The Times as news consumption shifts rapidly to digital venues like the Web, tablets and cellphones. The newspaper scored a clear victory in this respect with its handling of the WikiLeaks material. With its deep roster of experienced reporters and computer-aided reporting expertise, The Times carefully mounted a responsible assemblage of coverage.
Floyd Abrams, the prominent First Amendment lawyer, gives The Times’s WikiLeaks work very high marks. And he notes that the stakes are huge, given the peril that news organizations face when dealing with secret material — dealings that could potentially subject them to prosecution under the Espionage Act.
Brisbane failed to note that Abrams represented the Times in the Pentagon Papers and Judith Miller cases, making the paper a once and (likely) future client of the First Amendment mogul. And making Brisbane less than a model of transparency in a job that demands it.
Bad enough. But . . .
Brisbane also forgot to mention that Abrams wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed the other week whacking WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for “[assaulting] the very notion of diplomacy that is not presented live on C-Span.”
The recent release of a torrent of State Department documents is typical. Some, containing unflattering appraisals by American diplomats of foreign leaders of France, Germany, Italy, Libya and elsewhere, contain the very sort of diplomacy-destructive materials that Mr. Ellsberg withheld. Others—the revelation that Syria continued selling missiles to Hezbollah after explicitly promising America it would not do so, for example—provide a revealing glimpse of a world that few ever see. Taken as a whole, however, a leak of this elephantine magnitude, which appears to demonstrate no misconduct by the U.S., is difficult to defend on any basis other than WikiLeaks’ general disdain for any secrecy at all.
So the release is “difficult to defend” but the Times gets “very high marks” for publishing the State Department documents?
Floyd Abrams needs to get sorted out – by himself first, and by Arthur S. Brisbane soon after.