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White House Forces Censorship of New York Times 356

Posted by Zonk
from the beating-on-the-grey-lady dept.
VE3OGG writes "It would seem that scientists are not the only ones facing censorship from the White House. According to several news sources the New York Times originally had intended to run an article co-authored by a former employee of the National Security Council, critical of the current administration's policies toward Iran. The article had passed the CIA's publication review board, but was later redacted on orders from the White House. Article authors Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann were former advisers to the White House, and thus all of their publications are scrutinized by a board before they can be published. Of the numerous documents this pair has published since leaving their positions, they say this was the first that was actively censored.
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White House Forces Censorship of New York Times

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  • by Salvance (1014001) * on Saturday December 23, 2006 @01:48PM (#17348936) Homepage Journal
    I would have been really surprised if the government would have allowed a critical article co-written by a government official to be published. There is nothing sinister going on here ... if the NYT is upset, they should have just interviewed the National Security Council employee instead of using that individual as a co-author.

    Co-authoring any article with a government employee (or even a corporate employee) is always a risk. While the NYT is free to publish almost anything they want, the co-author (by nature of his/her employment) is not, which was the problem in this situation.
    • "Co-authoring any article with a government employee (or even a corporate employee) is always a risk. While the NYT is free to publish almost anything they want, the co-author (by nature of his/her employment) is not, which was the problem in this situation."


      The co-author is a former employee. I fail to see the reasoning behind the censorship, given the circumstances. Perhaps, if it were some issue of national security, I could see the relevance. However, I do not believe it is. More like current administration security.

      TLF
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rblancarte (213492)
        Because the guys have government secrets that can be passed. I am sure they wouldn't, but you never know.

        RonB
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by scotch (102596)
          The idea of the review is to determine if classified information is revealed by the article. Presumably, in this case it is. Or maybe not.
          • by IdleTime (561841) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @02:17PM (#17349062) Journal
            * sigh *

            It said the article had passed the review board so it could not have included anything secret.

            USA has become a 1st world economy with a 3rd world society.
            • by Anonymous McCartneyf (1037584) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @02:27PM (#17349110) Homepage Journal
              There were two review boards, though only one appears to be formal. The one run by the CIA said there was nothing there that couldn't be printed. The less formal board from the White House claimed that there was classified info that had to be redacted. I would think that the CIA would be a better judge of this, but oh well...
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                A system with proper checks and balances would allow the article to be published if either review board approved it, rather than both.

                Anyway, this sort of crap is exactly why I refuse to work on anything that requires a security clearance.

                • by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @03:36PM (#17349508) Journal
                  A system with proper checks and balances would allow the article to be published if either review board approved it, rather than both.
                  If you add up enough un-classified details, you can end up with a "big picture" that would be considered classified information.

                  Don't forget, between unclassified & secret, there's a "confidential" designation. The CIA may have said "fine, there is no classified information" while the White House may have said "hold on, this isn't secret, but we think it should remain confidential."
                  • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                    by LordVader717 (888547)
                    If you add up enough un-classified details, you can end up with a "big picture" that would be considered classified information.


                    Are you implying that they should censor conclusions that people draw out of public information?
                • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                  by paganizer (566360)
                  I'm just curious why I'm not seeing "prior restraint" anywhere; this should have only been decided by a federal magistrate.
                  Oh, sorry, forgot what century it was. all that posse comitatus, ex post facto, habeas corpus & prior restraint crap is Sooooo 20th century!
                  • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                    by jcr (53032)
                    this should have only been decided by a federal magistrate.

                    That would be the case if the author hadn't signed a contract that said otherwise.

                    -jcr
                    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                      by jcr (53032)
                      Breach of contract is a civil matter.

                      Ordinarly, yes, but the contracts you sign to gain access to classified materials also come under special legislation [state.gov]

                      -jcr

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by networkBoy (774728)
                  "A system with proper checks and balances would allow the article to be published if either review board approved it, rather than both."

                  Wrong.
                  Each review board is privy to information the other is not. CIA may not know FBI details, Oval office won't know CIA details to maintain plausable denial.
                  -nB
            • by Dunbal (464142) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @02:31PM (#17349138)
              USA has become a 1st world economy with a 3rd world society.

                    No, in a 3rd world society the article would have been published. But the author would be found shot dead in his car a few months later.
        • by arth1 (260657)
          Because the guys have government secrets that can be passed. I am sure they wouldn't, but you never know.

          That the white house is led by incompetents is hardly a government secret.
          • That the white house is led by incompetents is hardly a government secret.
            True, but many in the White House believe it is. This is just one of many instances where they holler about "national security" but what they are really protecting is their own asses from embarrassment. John Dean's book Worse than Watergate documented this a couple years before the current crisis; this is just one more incident in a long string of attacks on openness in government. I
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 23, 2006 @03:02PM (#17349352)
        I saw this guy talk about the issue on C-SPAN. As far as I know all of the following are true:

        1. He does *NOT* work for the government anymore.

        2. All information in his article is public knowledge combined from a variety of sources who have made public statements to the same effect.

        3. The CIA reviewed the document and declared that it contained no sensitive information.

        4. This isn't this characters first time doing this.. He's cleared some 30 different articles with the CIA and has not once including and until now had any issues.

        • 1. He does *NOT* work for the government anymore.

          2. All information in his article is public knowledge combined from a variety of sources who have made public statements to the same effect.

          3. The CIA reviewed the document and declared that it contained no sensitive information.

          4. This isn't this characters first time doing this.. He's cleared some 30 different articles with the CIA and has not once including and until now had any issues.

          And also:

          5. xxxx xxx xx xxxxxx xxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxxxx xx xx

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Charcharodon (611187)
        Doesn't matter if they are former or current. If the article is about anything doing with their job past or present the boss get's a say. That's how it goes when you work for the DOD or other security branches of government. That is also how it is in many civilian jobs in the tech industry as well. The moment you sign a non-disclosure or non-competition aggrement you pretty much are giving up your rights within the framework of the agreement. It's as simple as that.
        • by Doc Ruby (173196)
          Workplace rules are trumped by the Constitution.

          Are you defending a rule (uncited) that lets a White House squash the free speech/press of the authors and the NYT, even though the article contains no secrets, as proven by the CIA review clearance? In what is deductively certain to be a purely political move by Bush/Cheney, not to have public info endorsed in the NYT by a credible authority?

          Rights cannot be surrendered. People can waive protections of them, but the rights to free speech and the press are ina
          • by john82 (68332)
            People can waive protections of them...

            When these two went to work at the White House they would have signed a document doing exactly that. And please, let's not pretend that this arrangement began with this White House.
            • by Doc Ruby (173196)
              Well, apparently there is some agreement they're willing to abide by, because their article is not being published.

              Are you arguing whether Bush/Cheney are effective at infringing free speech/press, or whether it's right? And who said this is new? After all, Cheney worked for Nixon, and many of Bush's brains worked for Bush Sr and Reagan.

              So let's not pretend that we're talking about any of the Republican fallacies you're rolling out. Let's talk about how Bush/Cheney are stomping on free speech/press to avoid
          • by jcr (53032)
            Rights cannot be surrendered.

            Sure they can. Contracts are written every day where one party or the other gives up a right in exchange for some benefit.

            -jcr

      • by jcr (53032)
        I fail to see the reasoning behind the censorship,

        The person in question agreed to a contract as a condition for access to classified materials as part of his job. Those terms persist for many years after he leaves the position. He also (probably) has to tell the FBI if he travels to any foreign country, and report any contact with foreign officials.

        My business partner spent 12 years at the CIA. He left them years ago, but he'll still have the travel restrictions for several more years, and anything he
    • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Saturday December 23, 2006 @02:00PM (#17348988) Homepage Journal

      While the NYT is free to publish almost anything they want, the co-author (by nature of his/her employment) is not, which was the problem in this situation.

      Leverett is now at the New America Foundation, and left the CIA some time ago. Since he *used to* work at the CIA, the article had to be reviewed by the CIA. The CIA approved it. What is disconcerting in this instance is that the White House injected itself into the secrets review process. This raises flags because if the White House an override the CIA during the secrets review process, it could easily manipulate that ability for domestic political ends. Want to keep the discussion on Iran policy from going in a certain direction? Want to blunt an attack by a knowledgeable ex-CIA agent? Control the secrets review process.

    • public information (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nasarius (593729)
      The authors provided ample evidence [nytimes.com] that the information that was redacted had already been publicly disclosed.
    • Next time, RTFA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ArcSecond (534786) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @02:52PM (#17349286)
      Because if you *had* RTFA, you would know that every single redaction consisted of information already publicized, in several cases by members of the White House administration. The discussion of the article even links to citations where that VERY SAME INFORMATION is available, non-redact-stylee.

      So really, what is the end effect of this censorship? To draw attention to both the attitude of Bush & Co., while simultaneously providing the curious with the information that they weren't supposed to know.

      This administration must have lead in their water. I have never seen such ham-handed, short-sighted, and just plain dumb policy. Kind of like a class of Special Ed students who have read Machiavelli and think they know how to run the world.
      • by Slur (61510)
        Kind of like a class of Special Ed students who have read Machiavelli and think they know how to run the world.

        What do you mean, "Kind of" ?
    • by Doc Ruby (173196)
      Nothing unconstitutional about the government infringing the freedom of the press of the NYT, or the speech of the two authors? With even the usual BS "national security" excuse obviously bogus, after the CIA released them?

      What kind of "Constitution" do you have, that doesn't have a First Amendment? You praying for some kind of corporate anarchy?
    • by morcheeba (260908)
      You need to hold the government to a higher standard.

      "I would have been really surprised if the government would have allowed a critical article co-written by a government official to be published."

      The government is not and should not be of one opinion, handed down from one branch. If anything, the government should be a free exchange of ideas where policies are rigorously and openly debated. That's what I'd expect from a dictatorship, not my country.
  • WTF? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by A beautiful mind (821714) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @01:51PM (#17348950)
    Article authors Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann were former advisers to the White House, and thus all of their publications are scrutinized by a board before they can be published
    I can understand if current government employees have to go through this, or if they sign an agreement that they will allow this to happen for the rest of their lives, but come on! They are bound by law not to disclose classified information, so if they violate it, they can prosecute them, but noone should censor them! Especially when the administration doesn't understand the difference between "classified information" and "information we don't like".
    • Sure they do. Classified information is information that they don't like that they decided they don't like ahead of time.
      We're a few years away from "instantaneous classification". Watch for it about 2 presidents from now.
    • by SlamMan (221834)
      pre-publication review. Its part of most security clearances for a long, long time after you're not longer in the position you became cleared for.
    • They are bound by law not to disclose classified information, so if they violate it, they can prosecute them, but noone should censor them!

      That's just silly. If, say, someone had access to the Witness Protection Program files and decided to publish a list of names and addresses (from memory), we should just let them and slap him on the wrist later?

      Free speech is not unlimited, nor should it be.

      • by NMerriam (15122)

        That's just silly. If, say, someone had access to the Witness Protection Program files and decided to publish a list of names and addresses (from memory), we should just let them and slap him on the wrist later?

        Free speech is not unlimited, nor should it be.

        With the Pentagon Papers, the Supreme Court clearly said that any information that is of genuine news value can be published, regardless of what government programs or policies it hurts. Protecting government programs and opinions is not, in and of its

    • This is boilerplate contract for employment with the CIA or NSA or other US intelligence organizations. The US courts have consistently weaseled out of deciding such cases on strictly first amendment grounds, falling back on contract law (see Snepp or see Marchetti, Agee) when there is a dispute between a former govt employee with access to government secrets and the government about publication. The Supreme Court has said it is ok for the government to enforce a contract requiring prior review of publica
  • another misstep (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nanojath (265940) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @01:59PM (#17348986) Homepage Journal
    It seems like the Bush admin. has really lost their mojo... This is so badly played. If this article had been allowed to run without obstruction, how many people would really have noticed it? Another dry opinion piece promulgating one aspect of one of the five dominant Opinions on What Ought We to Do with Iraq. Instead, with the NYT's unusual decision to run it redacted with an explanation, the spotlight is on every piece of information they wanted to keep out of the press, and it is making headlines in places it never would have (it certainly never would have shown up on Slashdot just as the story it was).

    For the first time in a while I'm looking forward to the next year's politics... Not because "my team" is winning (my team doesn't seem to exist and if they did they wouldn't get on any ballot), but because it's just going to be such a clusterfuck... Watching that three ring circus known as the Democratic party try to joust its razor thin margin against this newly politically tonedeaf lame duck administration, while the GOP try to figure out how to put solid distance between themselves and the ever less popular Bush&Co while holding onto all those endearing litte traits that keep the various "bases" happy...
    • What should have happened:
      1) NY Times runs the article
      2) Attorney General investigates to see if any laws or contracts were broken.
      3) Attorney General prosecutes or sues co-author for breaking law or breaking contract. Use FISA or other closed-court hearings if necessary to protect state secrets.
      4) Message is sent to others: Don't do what he did.
      5) Citizens see article and see the author is being sued or prosecuted, and make up their own mind at the polls in '08.
      6) Next president considers Presidential Pa
    • by Animats (122034)

      It's surprising that the White House would do something this dumb. Karl Rove is usually brighter than that.

      This just about guarantees that Congress will look into the matter. Flynt Leverett will probably be testifying before Congress. With TV coverage of exactly what the Bush Administration tried to cover up.

      I'm beginning to get the feeling we may be headed for an impeachment. One with bipartisan support. One more Katrina-sized mistake out of the White House and Bush is toast.

  • Darn it. (Score:3, Funny)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @02:08PM (#17349026) Homepage
    They *really* redacted the comments. I was hoping to find the juicy tidbits after looking at the page source. But unfortunately I found:

              <"span style="color:black;background:black;">xxx xxx xx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx x</span"&>"

    On the other hand, looking at the source is always fun.

              <!--Kim was here:
              {} -->
    • <!--Kim was here:
      {} -->

      I noticed the Kim comment, too. So who is this person? Somebody at NYT, or with Bush&Co, or a CIA agent??

      There is a story within a story here, and I for one would like to hear it!

      • I think he's the guy who redacted the comments. (Yes, I know, it's in a different part of the article, but this is all cloak and dagger stuff, no?).

        He is leading us on. In a week or so he'll leave yet another tidbit in the next redacted, non confidential, not-so-secret NYT article.

        Soon we will have enough clues to decide who Kim really is. Then the NYT will sneak some adverts in the source code (did you notice the one at the bottom of the page?)

        Poof. Viral marketing for geeks and bored web page

  • by iOsiris (944032) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @02:14PM (#17349044)
    Ever notice how new and emerging democracies have freer and more open press while the modern democracies are slowly retracting this fundamental right.
    • by prandal (87280)
      cross out "slowly" and replace with "rapidly"
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Oligonicella (659917)
      No, I haven't. Perhaps you could provide some smidgen of evidence?
      • No, I haven't. Perhaps you could provide some smidgen of evidence?

        "Each year new countries in less-developed parts of the world move up the Index to positions above some European countries or the United States. This is good news and shows once again that, even though very poor, countries can be very observant of freedom of expression. Meanwhile the steady erosion of press freedom in the United States, France and Japan is extremely alarming,"

        The United States (53rd) has fallen nine places since last year, a

  • by Joebert (946227) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @02:22PM (#17349086) Homepage
    I wonder if they were smart enough to at least alter the structure of the censored words.

    But Tehran was profoundly disappointed with the United States response. After the 9/11 attacks, xxx xxx xx xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx xx set the stage for a

    The last censored word in that strip could very well be "to", as in "to set the stage".

    By the way, my title is "Are you fucking kidding me ?!"
  • Why is this under "Your Rights Online"? It has nothing to do with my rights, nor does it have anything to do with anything online.

    CmdrTaco should make a new category called "Somebody's Rights Somewhere", just for this sort of article.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    All hail the American Police State!!
  • by unity100 (970058) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @02:33PM (#17349152) Homepage Journal
    Well, american instutitions are much enthusiastic about advertising american values about free speech, transparent government, democracy, freedom and such to the world.

    We listen to those, then we visit to slashdot and see that the u.s. government is actively censoring what it does not like, and than, to add insult to injury, we are seeing people here that can actually support such a blatant blashpemy of values.

    I dont know which is worse.
    • we are seeing people here that can actually support such a blatant blashpemy of values.

      You seem to be under the assumption that the people who post here are true americans who support the american values.

      It has to be concluded that slashdot is full of Al-Quaeda operatives, chinese government officials and iraqi terrorists, therefor the Bush administration feels morally justified in dumping 500 tons of nerve gas on the internets users. No true american hates freedom, so they must be terrgrorist, after all

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      Well, american instutitions are much enthusiastic about advertising american values about free speech, transparent government, democracy, freedom and such to the world.....and [now] see that the u.s. government is actively censoring what it does not like, and than, to add insult to injury, we are seeing people here that can actually support such a blatant blashpemy of values.

      There is a culture war in the US that is actually a microcosm of the al-quida-versus-civalization battle. Religious fanatics beleive
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      No offense, but if you come to Slashdot for accurate news coverage to form an opinion from, you're already going to get a skewed image. This place has political leanings and is well-known for its sensationalist news coverage. Despite all that, we're still the most free place on Earth, or else we wouldn't even be allowed to post sensationalist coverage of this story and talk about it and the so-called "Bush regime."
      • by radish (98371)
        Despite all that, we're still the most free place on Earth, or else we wouldn't even be allowed to post sensationalist coverage of this story and talk about it and the so-called "Bush regime."
        You actually believe that no other country is allowed to criticise their own government? Wow. Go explore the rest of the world and realize that the US is really nothing special when it comes to "freedom". By no means the worst, for sure, but certainly not the "most free place on earth".
      • Despite all that, we're still the most free place on Earth, or else we wouldn't even be allowed to post sensationalist coverage of this story and talk about it and the so-called "Bush regime."

        According to Reports Without Borders, the USA has fallen to 53rd [rsf.org] (from 16th in 2002) in terms of the freedom of the press.
        That is one hell of a long way from most free place on the Earth.
  • Security Policy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aaron_ds (711489)
    Sounds like the government's policy is security through obscurity. We all know the end result of that mantra.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @03:57PM (#17349600) Homepage Journal
    Raw Story has published its analysis of the probable original version [rawstory.com] of the redacted op-ed:
    RAW STORY has examined these sources and has attempted to connect the previously published materials to the redacted paragraphs in the op-ed. What the information reveals is a series of events in which US-Iran dialogue broke down. In the aftermath of 9/11, the cooperative spirit around the world sparked by America's victimhood encouraged Iran to collaborate with the United States in its effort to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan. But the goodwill that might have been sustained by those early negotiations was undermined by a series of disputes between the US and Iran.

    [...]
  • by nutshell42 (557890) on Saturday December 23, 2006 @06:33PM (#17350334) Journal
    ...noone's posted this already:

    I, for one, welcome our new xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxx.

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