Tuesday, April 25, 2006

In a position to confirm

I have to agree with Tom Maguire's point here. When I first read this Washington Post story about Mary McCarthy denying being the leaker on the Dana Priest "black sites" story, I thought: Hm, now wouldn't the reporter from The Post (Dafna Linzer) assigned to the leak-story have asked Priest whether she could confirm that, in fact, Ms. McCarthy was not her source? It would not be betraying any source of Priest's to provide an answer, and The Post would at least be able to give them the truth on whether the woman was or was not the leaker in the matter. Perhaps there's some other explanation, but I'm hard-pressed to come up with one.

And even if Priest didn't answer, don't you think it would have been worth a try to ask her?

Instead, we get this bewildering response from the reporter in an online chat:

Tokyo, Japan: Hello, Ms. Linzer-You said earlier "we don't know exactly what was said and to whom ". That isn't entirely correct. Dana Priest would know the nature of her contacts with McCarthy, and Dana Priest is a Washington Post reporter. Why can't she just tell us? After all, she seems to feel comfortable exposing secrets. What are the ethics on this?

Dafna Linzer: Hi, you're up late. The compact reporters enter into with sources for information that they wouldn't get otherwise is often one of confidentiality, especially on issues of national security. That is the pact that Dana entered into with her sources.

To which Maguire notes:

But... but... if Ms. McCarthy was *not* a source for Dana Priest, then there is
no compact, yes? Why can't Ms. Priest simply say, "Although I will never
discuss my sources, I will occasionally discuss my non-sources; in this case,
Mary McCarthy was not a source to me in my Pulitzer Prize winning secret prison

I think that's right on.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 3:30 PM

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