When they published their revealing book last August about the nation’s fight against terrorism, the authors, two New York Times national security reporters, immediately felt heat from the Pentagon for dishing too much operational info about the killing of Osama bin Laden.
“I was stopped by a very senior officer in the special operations community who basically wanted to rip my lungs out,” said Thom Shanker, who co-authored “Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America's Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda,” with Eric Schmitt.
But, he revealed at a counter terrorism expo this week, the info came directly and officially from the White House, not some garbage can digging operation. “I said to him, ‘Sir, that information came officially to us from the podium at the White House,’” Shanker said.
He added, “Your civilian leaders make choices about describing missions, perhaps for their own partisan political ends, perhaps to show the nation that their tax dollars are being spent well, but that’s the way it is.”
Shanker, an acclaimed Pentagon reporter and author, said he had a little advice for the unidentified officer: If you make general, “this is part of your new world.”
He and three other terrorism reporters helped to open the Counter Terror Expo at the Washington Convention Center and revealed something that most outside the journalism world don’t know: Repeatedly, the news biz has held reporting stories about the war on terrorism because it might harm an ongoing operation.
“The media’s got a pretty good record there,” said Schmitt, the Times’ national security reporter. He said that a number of NYT stories have been held and that the paper’s publisher is pressed by President Obama to delay publication “in some cases."
Associated Press reporter Eileen Sullivan added that when a story threatens lives and the Pentagon or White House seek a delay in publishing, “we almost always comply.”
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