Bill Keller, former Executive Editor of The New York Times
The reference to "people with noble intentions" was part of a recent comment made by former New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller to the Times current Public Editor Margaret Sullivan who queried him about the Bush administration request in October 2004 that the Times not publish an article about the secret program to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants which the administration had authorized (which coincidentally was just prior to the presidential election).
As we know the Times did publish the article by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau some 13 months later in 2005 which it won a Pulitzer Prize in 2006 and which Keller now says, "The story looks prescient. We now know that "people with noble intentions' (emphasis added) can run way out of bounds".
Risen and Lichtblau were on to that way back in 2004. And like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein before them in 1972 with their investigation of the "Watergate" scandal and the Nixon White House, Risen and Lichtblau didn't see the Bush administration acting with "noble intentions" when they fought to have the story published in October 2004, not subsequently delayed for 13 months by Bill Keller.
And it's not hindsight that causes one to cast aspersions at Keller's "people with noble intentions" remark regarding Bush administration official's credibility when it came to protecting the president and the policies and actions he had secretly undertaken.
The main reason Edward Snowden went to Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian and video journalist Laura Poitras was his concern, in light of what Keller did with Risen story, that those leaking information "must have absolute confidence that the journalists they go to will report on that information rather than bury it".
Snowden knew the NSA was not acting with "noble intentions" about its secret activities so how could Keller believe the Bush mob was acting with "noble intentions" wanting the story buried.
Wouldn't his suspicions be aroused? Keller knew by October 2004, more than 18 months after the Bush invasion of Iraq was built on a mountain of lies, that by then the Bush, Cheney gang had no credibility and it was necessary to reveal to the public the Bush administrations unlawful warrantless eavesdropping of Americans.
Yet in October 2004 Keller listened to his Washington Bureau Chief at the time Philip Taubman who recommended against publishing the Risen story.
What's particularly noteworthy here is Taubman had relationships with members of the Bush administration including Condoleezza Rice. He had long standing ties with her at Stanford University. As Bush's national security advisor in 2004 she made it known to Taubman she opposed the articles publication which he now says," That did not affect my thinking" and publication of the article would harm national security.
Now with the Snowden revelations he says, "I would have made a different decision had I known that Jim and Eric were tugging on the thread that lead to a whole tapestry".
Back to the time of "Watergate", for those to young to remember the story Woodward and Bernstein were revealing, how in their book, "All the Presidents Men" and later the movie of the same name, showed Ben Bradlee, the Executive Editor of the Washington Post even as he agonized over it, still gave his investigative reporters the latitude to get to the bottom of the story with the intent to publish it AT THE TIME the revelations were uncovered and determined to be true.
That was a time when the news media still believed it had an obligation to get the truth out to the public, not sit on it with the inane belief the Nixon administration minions had acted with "noble intentions".