Richard Miniter writes in response to a few of the points made below by P.S. Malloy and our own John H. in the updates to “A word from Richard Miniter.” Mr. Miniter writes:
May I respond? P.S. Malloy writes that I am a “rendition apologist” and that just because the NYT rendition article could be “reverse engineered” does not mean that it was or that it is an acceptable piece of reporting. For what it is worth, I was appalled by the NYT piece. I think this kind of reporting goes deep into the no-go area of the Agency’s “sources and methods” and, especially given that we are at war, should frankly not be covered. Ditto on “secret prisons” story. I’ve been hearing about renditions and other things from sources for years; I would never dream of reporting many of these things. But then again, I am in favor of the war on terror and the war in Iraq. Stephen Grey and others are not and have come to different conclusions about what is permissible. I believe that he and they are wrong on both counts.
As for the “reverse engineering” charge, I was simply describing how the story was actually reported, not how it might have been. It was not a justification, but a description of fact–or at least as those facts were described to me. Grey is a damn fine investigative reporter and knows about a lot more than just Google. Even if you don’t like the story (and I don’t), you have to respect his sheer investigative skill in ferreting it out. Look, the CIA was sloppy (possibly purposely so) about listing the movements of the airplanes it leases and the corporate officers of its front companies. You have to admit it was very poor tradecraft.
Is it possible that NYT received CIA help after it had the initial foundation of the story? I can’t rule it out and never asked Grey or anyone else. My point was a simple one: As far as I know, Grey came by the story through old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting, not a leak. The bigger questions are: Why didn’t the CIA cover its tracks better and why are American newspapers discussing the internal workings of our intelligence services while we are at war?
As for John Hinderaker’s comment (“I also think, however, that it is highly probable that the article in its entirety was prompted by leaks from one or more current CIA officials”), sadly, he may be right. Grey’s account seems to exclude the possibility that the agency “prompted” it, as opposed to cooperating once the Times had a firm foundation. Again, I have no knowledge that CIA cooperated at any point; I am just speculating on that point given the political prejudices of so many at the CIA. Additionally, defense attorneys for the al Qaeda prisoners held in Cuba seem to have played a key, unacknowledged role in the story. This is one more reason why captured combatants should not be treated as criminal defendants.
The issues involved here are important, and we are pleased to present Mr. Miniter’s contribution to the discussion.