Feb
22
2012

New NYT Rule: Anonymous Govt Sources Can Call Their Critics Terrorists

In today's New York Times report (2/22/12) about Khader Adnan–the Palestinian hunger striker challenging Israeli "administrative detention" practices–reporter Isabel Kershner allows this:

An Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, called the deal over Mr. Adnan "a workable arrangement" since ultimately he will be almost completing his four-month term of detention.

"We faced a dilemma," the official said. "On the one hand we did not want any harm to come to him, or the wider danger in that. On the other hand it is not healthy to set a precedent that every time a Palestinian terrorist goes on hunger strike, he gets a get-out-of-jail-free pass."

The "deal" is a reference to Israel's offer to free Adnan by mid-April.

The anonymous Israeli official is declaring Adnan a terrorist. If Israeli officials know this to be the case, they need not detain him without charge. They could bring a case against him for being a terrorist.

The Times is granting anonymity to a government official to declare Adnan is a criminal. This violates, among other things, the Times' own standards on granting anonymity.

And earlier this month the Times granted anonymity to a U.S. official who equated journalists who report on civilian casualties in Pakistan to Al-Qaeda sympathizers: "Let's be under no illusions–there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help Al-Qaeda succeed."

Is the Times' new policy on anonymity is that it should be granted rarely, but that a special exception be granted for government officials who want to smear those who challenge their power?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.