Patterico on Times reporters: Lock 'em up

He wants them subpoenaed to find out who leaked the bank info, and then, after the leakers are put away, it’s their turn at the defense table.

I think he’s kidding himself. Not on the law, but as a political matter. However disgusting and adversarial the media has become, Americans will blanch at the slippery-slope potential of busting newspapers unless/until it can be shown that terrorists benefited from the information being publicized. We can assume they’ve benefited, but without concrete proof most people will take the “no harm, no foul” approach.

The frustration’s understandable, though. Security decisions that put the public at risk should be made by those accountable to it. In this case, they weren’t: the newspapers arrogated that responsibility to themselves, and there’s nothing we can do. Can’t vote them out, probably can’t prosecute them. We could boycott them, I guess, but that strains the definition of “we.” Conservatives already maintain a de facto boycott of the NY and LA Times; they’re liberal papers for liberal readers, and few of those readers will have any objection to them publishing this. It sucks, but it’s really out of our hands. Red versus blue, as usual, and blue’s betting that nothing worse will come out of this than some political difficulty for Bush. I hope they’re right.

One of the NYT reporters defended the story today to Editor & Publisher, FYI. Feel reassured:

Lichtblau, who co-wrote both stories with Times reporter James Risen, said that in each case the newspaper believed that the information it was reporting would not put anyone in harm’s way. “I think we came down on the same side in both questions,” he said of the two stories. “That this is not giving away information that is tangibly helping terrorists know what they don’t already know.”…

Lichtblau added that the reaction to the wiretapping story, which included both criticism and support for the paper, made it easier to go with this story. He noted that there had been no proof that the previous story had endangered national security.

“Our belief that it did not have any tangible impact has been borne out,” he said.

Not only will they decide what’s in “the public interest,” they’ll tell you whether their decisions have put you at risk or not. And guess what? They haven’t.

Update: Patterico comments below.