The U.S. media has turned a spotlight on itself after three news organizations admitted keeping the location of a drone base in Saudi Arabia secret at the request of the U.S. administration.
The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Associated Press acknowledged withholding the information since 2011, provoking harsh criticism from media watchers and fellow reporters - even their own.
Margaret Sullivan, the public editor at The Times, said the newspaper “ought to be reporting as much and as aggressively as possible” on the drone program, which has never been officially acknowledged.
“If it was ever appropriate to withhold the information, that time was over. The drone program needs as much sunlight as possible.”
Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple wrote that there are “good reasons to stiff the government’s request for intelligence complicity.”
Wemple said the construction of a drone base “is simply news in and of itself” and that The New York Times “acted responsibly” by backing out of the deal and publishing the news.
The Washington Post said it “refrained from disclosing the location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an Al-Qaeda affiliate.”
The Post said it decided to publish the news after learning that “another news organization” was planning to reveal the location, “effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organizations that had been aware of the location for more than a year.”
Associated Press spokesman Paul Colford said the organization “on rare occasions withholds information when officials offer a compelling argument that the information could imperil national security or specific individuals.”
“When the location of the base was made public Tuesday night, the AP felt national security concerns no longer applied and published the location,” Colford said in a statement.
Complicating the story was the fact that the location of the drone base was reported in 2011 by The Times of London and by Fox News.
The news was revealed as the architect of the U.S. drone war against Al-Qaeda, John Brennan, faced a grilling in Congress over his nomination to lead the CIA.