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Arthur Sulzberger And Bill Keller On Bended Knee, Serf-Like.

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December 3, 2007

  Re:  Arthur Sulzberger And Bill Keller On Bended Knee, Serf-Like. 

Dear Colleagues:


            From time to time The New York Times (how “alliterative,” so to speak, is that?) has been strongly criticized here for failing to report very important stories that it knew about, often that it knew a lot about.  The Times has explicitly admitted to doing this; sometimes the admission has been that a newly disclosed story had been withheld, and sometimes the admission has been that still other, still undisclosed stories have been withheld.


            The failure to disclose stories has usually occurred at the behest of the Executive; it tells the Times -- which bends the knee, serflike -- that national security would be compromised by disclosure.  The most horrid example of this I know of is the Times more-than-one-year, bended-knee withholding of the story of the NSA’s spying.  This story was initially ready to go in October, 2004, before the November presidential election.  Publication could very conceivably have changed the results of that election -- we’ll never know that it wouldn’t have, will we? -- and spared us a second four years of the President who is the second worst disaster in American history (after only James Buchanan (1856-1860)).  So the Times contributed greatly to getting us into the Iraq disaster in the first place by its credulous reporting on WMDs, its buy-the-Administration-line-of-bovine-defecation hook, line and sinker reporting on WMDs, and it then helped keep us in that disaster via contributing to Bush’s 2004 victory by kowtowing to Administration claims and withholding the story of the NSA spying.


            It has been suggested here that such a record is ample ground to give the gate to the Times’ publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, who is publisher by inheritance, not by demonstrated competence, and, even more particularly, to the Times’ editor, Bill Keller, who, though a wonderful writer, has nonetheless presided over these editorial misjudgments of monumental, of historic, character.  Of course, illustrating those two American truisms that nothing succeeds like failure (as proven regularly by university presidents, football coaches, and baseball managers, who all get job after job yet perform badly every time, and that none of the big cheeses care a whit for anything said by the small fry of this society (as proven every day by the politicians, especially the Democrat leadership in Congress, while the Times itself, and the rest of the mainstream media prove everyday that they are sycophants to the rich and powerful, as when they report what George Bush had for dinner -- nobody in authority has paid the least attention to the idea that people like Sulzberger and Keller, who are responsible for journalistic disaster, and partly for national disaster, should be replaced.  Like other big deals, Sulzberger and Keller are above their horrid mistakes.


            One marvels that the newspaper’s powers that be still accede to the Executive’s bovine excrement.  Before the disastrous withholding of the NSA story, there was the disastrous withholding of the story of the impending, disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, there was attempted Executive suppression of publication of that encyclopedia of Executive misdeeds known as the Pentagon Papers, and there were efforts to smother and hide knowledge of the multiple crimes called Watergate.  But the Times, like most Americans, seems to abjure history and thus to never learn.  So it is that we again learn that it has withheld yet another story at the Executive’s request:  for over three years, it admitted on November 18th, it has sat on the story of American help to Pakistan in securing its nuclear materials against unauthorized use or (further) unauthorized transfer.  It admitted that some of the persons who told it about the program were “concerned that Pakistan’s arsenal remained vulnerable,” but it bent the knee, serflike, to “a request from the Bush Administration, which argued that premature disclosure could hurt the effort to secure the weapons.”  Here are pertinent excerpts from the November 18th article on efforts to secure the weapons (emphases added):


The New York Times has known details of the secret program for more than three years, based on interviews with a range of American officials and nuclear experts, some of whom were concerned that Pakistan’s arsenal remained vulnerable.  The newspaper agreed to delay publication of the article after considering a request from the Bush administration, which argued that premature disclosure could hurt the effort to secure the weapons.


Since then, some elements of the program have been discussed in the Pakistani news media and in a presentation late last year by the leader of Pakistan’s nuclear safety effort, Lt. Gen Khalid Kidwai, who acknowledged receiving “international” help as he sought to assure Washington that all of the holes in Pakistan’s nuclear security infrastructure had been sealed.

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The Times told the administration last week that it was re-opening its examination of the program in light of those disclosures and the current instability in Pakistan.  Early this week, the White House withdrew its request that publication be withheld, though it was unwilling to discuss details of the program.


* * * * *


Still, the Pakistani government’s reluctance to provide access has limited efforts to assess the situation.  In particular, some American experts say they have less ability to look into the nuclear laboratories where highly enriched uranium is produced -- including the laboratory named for Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man who sold Pakistan’s nuclear technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.


* * * * *


But while Pakistan is formally considered a “major non-NATO ally,” the program has been hindered by a deep suspicion among Pakistan’s military that the secret goal of the United States was to gather intelligence about how to locate and, if necessary, disable Pakistan’s arsenal which is the pride of the country.

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“Everything has taken far longer than it should,” a former official involved in the program said in a recent interview, “and you are never sure what you really accomplished.”


* * * * *


But a legal analysis found that aiding Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program – even if it was just a protective gear – would violate both international and American law.

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Lawrence R. Velvel is a cofounder and the Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law, and is the founder of the American College of History and Legal Studies.

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