Indeed, "authorized leaking" to outlets like the Times is a useful tradition which Keller understandably does not want to jeopardize, since such government-approved information gives the Times a jump on its competitors (or at least prevents them from getting a jump on the Times).
Of course, such leaking is done for a political purpose, less about informing the public than controlling public opinion. At times, such leaks can involve outright lying as happened in the lead-up to the Iraq War or they can be more benign, giving a favored news organization an inside glimpse of how some policy was made.
"Authorized leaking" (as opposed to unauthorized whistleblower-type disclosures) is safe sport and part of the lucrative news game in which Keller and the Times profit by playing along with the puppet masters.
But Keller acknowledged that he and his newspaper can sometimes get taken. "I'm the first to admit that news organizations, including this one, sometimes get things wrong. We can be overly credulous (as in some of the prewar reporting about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction)," he wrote.
Still, Keller conveniently left out details about how the Times was manipulated by the Bush administration to give credibility to its false intelligence about Iraq's WMD, failures that -- not coincidentally -- matched up with the pro-war biases of the "reluctant hawks" in the editorial board rooms of the Times.
Nor did Keller mention the names of key Times journalists who crafted those bogus stories, the likes of Michael Gordon and Judith Miller, the pair that collaborated on the phony tale about Iraq's aluminum tubes being used for uranium enrichment.
Yet, a reader might consider that kind of detail relevant to the Assange article because, as Keller reported, when it came to sending three reporters to London to check out the WikiLeaks documents, one was none other than Michael Gordon. (Miller resigned in 2005 when the scandal over her collaboration with senior Bush officials regarding WMD grew too embarrassing for the Times management.)
So, given this background, it is valid to ask: Is the New York Times committed to informing the American people about the actions of their government or is it more concerned about keeping its place at the table of the powerful?
As Keller admits in his Assange article, "the journalists at the Times have a large and personal stake in the country's security." He says they are "invested in the struggle" against terrorism, a strategy that Keller insists is aimed at "our values and at our faith in the self-government of an informed electorate."
That sounds a lot like a reprise of Bush's old canard that the terrorists "hate our freedoms," rather than the more rational explanation that they hate the long history of U.S. interference in the Middle East.
But the point may get close to the real reason for Keller's disdain for Julian Assange -- because Assange and WikiLeaks represent a much purer commitment to the core tenets of journalism, including the principle of objectivity, than does the New York Times.
The Times sees itself inextricably -- and justifiably -- intertwined with the various strands of American power. Assange and WikiLeaks see themselves committed to getting out the facts.