Unless there is some stunningly effective explanation, which is highly unlikely, this story (via Politico) is almost the perfect example of the ever-deepening collusion and over-sharing between mainstream reporters and the intelligence services. This isn’t journalism:
Newly available CIA records obtained by Judicial Watch, the conservative watchdog group, reveal that New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti forwarded an advance copy of a Maureen Dowd column to a CIA spokesperson — a practice that is widely frowned upon within the industry.
Mazzetti’s correspondence with CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf, on Aug. 5, 2011, pertained to the Kathryn Bigelow-Mark Boal film “Zero Dark Thirty,” about the killing of Osama bin Laden, and a Times op-ed column by Dowd set to be published two days later that criticized the White House for having “outsourced the job of manning up the president’s image to Hollywood.”
According to Judicial Watch, Mazzetti sent Harf an advance copy of Dowd’s column, and wrote: “this didn’t come from me… and please delete after you read. See, nothing to worry about!”
POLITICO has just reached out to the Times for comment, as it was unable to do so prior to Judicial Watch’s decision to lift the embargo on the files. (See update).
Judicial Watch obtained the files through a formal Freedom of Information Act request. The full email can be viewed here.
UPDATE (12:41 p.m.): New York Times Managing Editor Dean Baquet called POLITICO to explain the situation, but provided little clarity, saying he could not go into detail on the issue because it was an intelligence matter.
“I know the circumstances, and if you knew everything that’s going on, you’d know it’s much ado about nothing,” Baquet said. “I can’t go into in detail. But I’m confident after talking to Mark that it’s much ado about nothing.”
“The optics aren’t what they look like,” he went on. “I’ve talked to Mark, I know the cirucmstance, and given what I know, it’s much ado about nothing.”
Baquet would not provide further details, which means his statements amount to a plea to readers to take it on faith that Mazzetti’s leak was ethically sound.
(h/t Byron Tau)
UPDATE (4:15 p.m.): Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy emails to explain that Mazzetti made a mistake:
“Last August, Maureen Dowd asked Mark Mazzetti to help check a fact for her column. In the course of doing so, he sent the entire column to a CIA spokeswoman shortly before her deadline. He did this without the knowledge of Ms. Dowd. This action was a mistake that is not consistent with New York Times standards.”