The more important objection is that the fact that a certain behavior is common does not negate its being corrupt. Indeed, as is true for government abuses generally, those in power rely on the willingness of citizens to be trained to view corrupt acts as so common that they become inured, numb, to its wrongfulness. Once a corrupt practice is sufficiently perceived as commonplace, then it is transformed in people's minds from something objectionable into something acceptable. Indeed, many people believe it demonstrates their worldly sophistication to express indifference toward bad behavior by powerful actors on the ground that it is so prevalent. This cynicism -- oh, don't be naive: this is done all the time -- is precisely what enables such destructive behavior to thrive unchallenged.
It is true that Mazzetti's emails with the CIA do not shock or surprise in the slightest. But that's the point. With some noble journalistic exceptions (at the NYT and elsewhere), these emails reflect the standard full-scale cooperation -- a virtual merger -- between our the government and the establishment media outlets that claim to act as "watchdogs" over them.
From "All the news that's fit to print" to "please delete after you read" and cannot "go into detail because it is an intelligence matter": that's the gap between the New York Times' marketed brand and its reality.
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UPDATE: The Times' Public Editor weighed in on this matter today, noting his clear disapproval for what Mazzetti did:
"Whatever Mr. Mazzetti's motivation, it is a clear boundary violation to disclose a potentially sensitive article pre-publication under such circumstances. This goes well beyond the normal give-and-take that characterizes the handling of sources and suggests the absence of an arm's-length relationship between a reporter and those he is dealing with."
While Mazzetti himself expresses regret for his behavior -- "It was definitely a mistake to do. I have never done it before and I will never do it again" -- both he and Executive Editor Jill Abramson insist that he had no bad intent, but was simply trying to help out a colleague (Dowd) by having her claims fact-checked. Like Baquet, Abramson invokes secrecy to conceal the key facts: "I can't provide further detail on why the entire column was sent."
The question raised by these excuses is obvious: if Mazzetti were acting with such pure and benign motives, why did he ask the CIA to delete the email he sent? This appears to be a classic case of expressing sorrow not over what one did, but over having been caught.
On a different note, Politico's Byers, in response to my inquiry, advises me that Baquet did indeed say what Byers attributed to him -- "he could not go into detail on the issue because it was an intelligence matter" -- and that his exact quote was: it "has to with intel."