What Bill Keller learned from George Bush

On Sunday we wrote about the escape of New York Times reporter David Rohde from his captivity with the Taliban. In its page-one story on Rohde’s escape, the Times disclosed that it had kept Rohde’s kidnapping and detention by the Taliban a secret for the past seven months.

Speaking on Howard Kurtz’s CNN program, New York Times managing editor Bill Keller provided additional comments on his decision to keep the story of Times reporter David Rohde’s kidnapping out of the paper. “All along, we were told by people that probably the wisest course for David’s safety was to keep it quiet,” Keller said in his interview with Kurtz.

“It was an agonizing position that we revisited over and over again,” Keller explained. “But I also have a responsibility for the people who work for me. I send a lot of people out into dangerous places and their security is also part of my job.”

Keller also told Kurtz he worried at different points that the story would be leaked, such as in May when Rohde was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Keller disclosed that Al-Jazeera was among the media outlets that killed stories on Rohde at the Times’s request. Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey also sat on the story at the request of the Times..

Summing up his rationale for the Times’s treatment of the Rohde story, Keller explained: “The more you talk about who did what…the more you’re writing a playbook for the next kidnapping.”

It was Keller himself who ultimately rejected George Bush’s pleas that the Times not blow the NSA terrorist eavesdropping and Treasury Department terrorist-finance tracking programs on precisely the grounds that Keller cites in Rohde’s case. Bush too had responsibility for many who put themseles in harm’s way under his command, as well as responsibility for the security of the whole country. Like Keller, Bush sent a lot of people out into dangerous places and strongly felt that their security was part of his job.

For some reasoon, Keller had more luck with Al Jazeera and Ed Morrissey than George Bush had with Keller, but Keller must have learned something from Bush after all.

UPDATE: Michael Barone asks: “Whose side is the New York Times on?”


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