John Kerry and the New York Times are having a debate about journalism. It all started when Kerry was asked by CNN's Ted Barrett if he thought The Times should have held their story on President Obama's ordering cyberattacks against Iran's nuclear program "for national security reasons."
Kerry apparently thinks the story should have been held. Speaking to a scrum of reporters, Kerry said there was a "serious question" whether or not the public had to know about the program. "To me it was such a nitty-gritty fundamental national security issue," he said. "And I don’t see how the public interest is well served by it. I do see how other interests outside the United States are well served by it." Kerry left, but chased Barrett down to add, "With the Pentagon Papers, the country was being lied to, you can understand the need to know. On this, I don’t think a need-to-know standard gets met." One of Kerry's chief concerns with the report was that it "begs retaliation" from America's enemies, fearing the Stuxnet virus America helped develop could be used against it.
In a statement given to Politico's Dylan Myers, Times managing editor Dean Baquet responded to Kerry's criticisms and said the Obama administration was aware of the story before it went to print. "Our job is to report issues in the public interest, and this piece certainly meets that standard," he wrote. "As always with sensitive stories, we described the piece to the government before publication. No one suggested we not publish. There was a request to omit some highly technical details. We complied with the request after concluding it was not a significant part of the piece."
To his credit, Kerry praised David Sanger, the author of the report that leaked the information, while talking to Barrett. He called Sanger "a damn good reporter", and compared him Bob Woodward. "These guys, they get a lot of people talking about things they shouldn’t be talking about, and it always amazes me," he said.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.