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Old 10-24-2006, 10:33 AM
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Default NYT Times Wrong on Releasing Banking Data

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Major "Mea Culpa" At The New York Times

But, good luck finding it.
Un. Freaking. Believable. The NYTimes ombudsman, Byron Calame, buried a bombshell mea culpa in his column today--reversing his prior defense of the Times' blabbermouth report on a once-secret terrorist banking data surveillance program and now admitting the paper was wrong to publish it
Not just wrong to publish, but wrong in the facts and analysis. Calame writes;
Those two factors are really what bring me to this corrective commentary: the apparent legality of the program in the United States, and the absence of any evidence that anyone’s private data had actually been misused. I had mentioned both as being part of “the most substantial argument against running the story,” but that reference was relegated to the bottom of my column.
The source of the data, as my column noted, was the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift. That Belgium-based consortium said it had honored administrative subpoenas from the American government because it has a subsidiary in this country.
I haven’t found any evidence in the intervening months that the surveillance program was illegal under United States laws. Although data-protection authorities in Europe have complained that the formerly secret program violated their rules on privacy, there have been no Times reports of legal action being taken. Data-protection rules are often stricter in Europe than in America, and have been a frequent source of friction.
Also, there still haven’t been any abuses of private data linked to the program, which apparently has continued to function. That, plus the legality issue, has left me wondering what harm actually was avoided when The Times and two other newspapers disclosed the program. The lack of appropriate oversight — to catch any abuses in the absence of media attention — was a key reason I originally supported publication. I think, however, that I gave it too much weight.
In addition, I became embarrassed by the how-secret-is-it issue, although that isn’t a cause of my altered conclusion. My original support for the article rested heavily on the fact that so many people already knew about the program that serious terrorists also must have been aware of it. But critical, and clever, readers were quick to point to a contradiction: the Times article and headline had both emphasized that a “secret” program was being exposed. (If one sentence down in the article had acknowledged that a number of people were probably aware of the program, both the newsroom and I would have been better able to address that wave of criticism.)
A Malkin reader explains just how hard it is to find this little confession;
Just think how many people probably read this "apology" in print! To do so, they would have had to have been interested in a piece by Calame entitled "Can 'Magazines' of the Times Subsidize News Coverage?" Then they would have had to read 15 paragraphs of that particular snooze-fest. And then they would have had to have been enticed to read still more Calame drivel by the obfuscatory sub-headline, "Banking Data - A Mea Culpa."
...I'm a political junkie and if I had read those words in print I would have assumed the text that followed was going to be some boring crap about our nation's banking system. I estimate the number of print readers who read Calame's "apology" at, approximately, his mother.
I'm inviting feedback from our readers in the press on this one. Google News tells me this correction hasn't made the rounds, despite the fact that the original NYT story was widely reported repeated in Canadian media.

So, now that you know, when are we likely to see it?

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.

-Gerald Ford

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