A secret kept by the Times

Today the New York Times reports that its David Rohde had been kidnapped and held by the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past seven months. Why did the Times sit on this story? The Times states: “Until now, the kidnapping has been kept quiet by The Times and other media organizations out of concern for the men’s safety.” The Times explains:

“From the early days of this ordeal, the prevailing view among David’s family, experts in kidnapping cases, officials of several governments and others we consulted was that going public could increase the danger to David and the other hostages,” said Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times. “The kidnappers initially said as much. We decided to respect that advice, as we have in other kidnapping cases, and a number of other news organizations that learned of David’s plight have done the same. We are enormously grateful for their support.”

Well, that’s great. Now the story can be told because Rohde is free and the telling does not compromise his safety.

The Times’s concern for the safety of its reporter, however, provides a bizarre contrast with the Times’s illegal exposure of the NSA terrorist eavesdropping program in December 2005, as well as its exposure of the Treasury Department’s terrorist-finance tracking program in June 2006. Whereas the reporting of Rohde’s apprehension may have endangered his life, the disclosure of the NSA terrorist eavesdropping and terrorist finance tracking programs only threatened the security of the United States.

Ed Morrissey notes that he learned of the Rohde story this past March and held off reporting it at the Times’s request. I think both Ed and the Times did the right thing in Rohde’s case. Ed takes the occasion to reflect on the Times’s behavior in the case of the NSA terrorist eavesdropping and terrorist finance tracking programs. Unfortunately, the Times shows no such inclination in its story on Rohde’s escape.

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