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CIA Article Sidebar: A Story of Deja Vu

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"We are talking about the secret detention and abuse of prisoners," Kornbluh says. "There is an aspect of enabling this to go forward by yielding to the arguments these senior officials made. This is the most significant decision to withhold information since the Bay of Pigs, when President Kennedy twisted the arm of the publisher of the New York Times to take out key details" about the 1961 invasion of Cuba.

Writes Gal Beckerman of Columbia Journalism Review: "The Post is trying to have it both ways: getting credit for breaking the story, without breaking the specific details that might have caused it grief from the CIA."

The Post, for its part, said in its story that U.S. officials "argued that the disclosure might disrupt counterterrorism efforts in those countries and elsewhere and could make them targets of possible terrorist retaliation."

Downie calls the piece "a good example of a public-policy question that might not have surfaced without a number of people with knowledge of the debate going on at the CIA and the program itself having to speak to reporters without public attribution."

Priest, who is also an NBC News analyst, hears an echo among liberal critics who fault the decision to withhold the prison locations. "They say, 'This is the same paper that toed the administration line on WMD,' like we were in cahoots with the administration over bad intelligence. That doesn't sit well with me, having tried very hard before the war to truth-squad the WMD reporting."

The fiery passions surrounding the war increasingly seem to be singeing such reporters as Miller, Priest and Newsweek's Michael Isikoff, whose flawed report on an allegation of Koran desecration at Guantanamo Bay was blamed for violent protests in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Journalists aren't supposed to take sides, but there is no shortage of detractors asking which side they are on.

Searching for Support

The trial lawyers' lobby has a new technique for pressing its opposition to proposals that would reduce or eliminate liability for drug companies to manufacture vaccines.

Run a Google or Yahoo search for "bird flu" or "avian flu" and a sponsored link will pop up, leading to ads by a group called People Over Profits -- which is actually a unit of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. They bear such headlines as "Bird Flu and Viagra: What do they have in common?" and "President Bush and Bird Flu: What Bush is not telling you." (The group also purchased the search term "Rafael Palmeiro," not because he has anything to do with the issue but because the ballplayer gets Googled a lot in the steroids controversy.)

Now even Web searchers aren't safe from lobbying! And since sponsors can monitor the traffic, says ATLA spokeswoman Chris Mather, "you can change your message during the day if it's not working."

Media Morsels

It may be unpopular in the blogosphere, but the New York Times has signed up 135,000 subscribers at 50 bucks a pop for online access to its columnists and other bonus material (plus an equal number of print subscribers who get the service free). Other news outlets are surely taking note.

Under pressure from Democratic lawmakers, Armed Forces Radio has agreed to carry liberal radio talker Ed Schultz, weeks after a Pentagon political appointee vetoed an earlier deal.

Salon has hired former USA Today columnist Walter Shapiro as its new Washington bureau chief. Shapiro says he had been doing some blogging, but "I felt this irresistible urge to make phone calls and go places, and rather than theorize what people are saying, actually find out what they're saying."

Andrew Sullivan, one of the first bloggers to gain a wide following online, is moving his daily musings to the Time Inc. Web site, which plans to build a cyber-neighborhood around him and other bloggers.


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