The Washington Post’s editorial page editor is defending a controversial editorial on Edward Snowden that maintains the NSA contractor who leaked government surveillance secrets should surrender and that his leaks should be plugged—without ever noting that the paper itself published the leaks.
The editorial brought reaction like these:
The Washington Post editorial board wants the NSA leaks to stop, even though it doesn't know what horrors the Snowden trove may hold?
— Jack Shafer (@jackshafer) July 2, 2013
WashPost editorial page is reliably pro-govt on military/security (& often embarrasses itself). Example, NSA leaks: http://t.co/gEcYpraskc
— Dan Gillmor (@dangillmor) July 2, 2013
Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the Post, didn’t respond to calls about the criticism, but, through a spokeswoman, answered questions via email. Here are those comments in full:
“I don’t think anyone who reads the editorial carefully will find any contradictions. We say:
“Documents published so far by news organizations have shed useful light on some NSA programs and raised questions that deserve debate, such as whether a government agency should build a database of Americans’ phone records. Perhaps there we should have repeated that the primary organizations involved are the Post and the Guardian, but I think that is pretty well known, and in this context might have sounded like bragging if we had repeated the fact.
"We also say the government should do its best to prevent the publication of information 'that harms efforts to fight terrorism and conduct legitimate intelligence operations.' It’s hard for me to imagine who could disagree with that proposition and, as I say, I don’t see any contradiction.
"We don’t offer advice to the newsroom, and the newsroom doesn’t ask for our advice. But we have written several editorials about the usefulness of the information that has come out and the debate it provoked, and have said that this is a debate the administration and Congress should have encouraged and enabled."
Marty Baron, the Post's top editor, declined to comment on the editorial, saying he "never comment[s] on our editorials, regardless of the subject."
It's worth noting that the Post's opinion page has had a soft spot for leaks in the past, and, as the editorial board is independent of the newsroom, hasn't always been in lockstep with its news pages:
— Dafna Linzer (@DafnaLinzer) July 2, 2013