What Salon's Alex Pareene says
: The Washington Post
should print the 90 minute interview
it conducted with John DeLong, the NSA’s director of compliance. The White House offered an on-the-record interview with DeLong, then reneged
after the fact.
The Obama administration referred all questions for this article to John DeLong, the NSA’s director of compliance, who answered questions freely in a 90-minute interview. DeLong and members of the NSA communications staff said he could be quoted “by name and title” on some of his answers after an unspecified internal review. The Post said it would not permit the editing of quotes. Two days later, White House and NSA spokesmen said that none of DeLong’s comments could be quoted on the record and sent instead a prepared statement in his name. The Post declines to accept the substitute language as quotations from DeLong.
Cheers to the Post
for refusing to make that substitution, and for the transparency in saying exactly what happened to their on-the-record interview with DeLong. But Pareene is right, it should be published
As the reporter, your obligation is to the reader, not to the government (or the corporation or the movie studio or the music label or whatever). The point of these journalistic conventions was always supposed to be to ensure that the reader got the best information — you protected good sources so that you would continue to have good sources so that you could inform the reader. But when you protect bad sources, you are serving them, instead. There is no reason for government employees, speaking officially, with permission, to ever be anonymous. If you grant them anonymity to ensure that you aren’t cut off in the future, you misunderstand the flack/reporter relationship. They need the reporter more than you need them, especially if you’re the Washington Post.
And the reader—the American public that has a right to know what our government is doing in our name and with our information—needs a functioning national press again. The Post
has got a great start on being that again. They need to keep it up by publishing that interview under the original terms of the White House agreement.