US media slammed for withholding drone secrets

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 February, 2013, 4:52am


The US media has turned a spotlight on itself after three news organisations admitted keeping the location of a drone base in Saudi Arabia secret at the request of the US administration.

The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Associated Press this week 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 programme.

"If it was ever appropriate to withhold the information, that time was over. The drone programme needs as much sunlight as possible."

The 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 information this week.

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 organisation" was planning to reveal the location, "effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organisations that had been aware of the location for more than a year".

A spokesman for Associated Press, Paul Colford, said the organisation "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.