Having skimmed the WikiLeaks release on Guantanamo Bay this morning, still difficult to see why the Times and Post have given it such prominence in their morning editions. You know part of it is the allure of the classified stamp, and the continuing fascination with those who committed 9/11.
But their headlines reveal the dirty little secret:
Details of Lives in an American Limbo, the Times says in four columns across the paper’s most prized real estate — its upper right hand corner.
New revelations on al-Qaeda’s 9/11 movements, says the Post, its story also slotted in the upper right.
In other words: there’s not much news here. Sure, there are details that give us greater understanding into our al Qaeda and Taliban foes but nothing fundamental. There’s carping in a second story on the Times’ front page: Judging Detainees’ Risk, Often With Flawed Evidence. So when has evidence ever been perfect? It just suggests editors eager to find something, anything, to warrant front-page play.
Some of this is no doubt due to the civil war now going on among the media outlets graced, if that’s the right word, by WikiLeaks with access to its cache of military files, and those not so blessed. Some outlets have been working with WikiLeaks in a coordinated effort to understand and report on the documents with an agreed-upon publication date.
At the same time, rebel outlets — including the Times, NPR and the Guardian — seem to have gone rogue on Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks outfit. Times editor Bill Keller told the Huffington Post that “WikiLeaks is not our source.” Where I come from, saying who is not your source is simply the flip side of revealing a source, and generally not done. Nonetheless, this internal warfare between two groups of media organizations — one working with WikiLeaks and the other in defiance of it — explains some of the heavy breathing associated with the release of the Gitmo docs today.