Guardian, UK – US news organizations are facing accusations of complicity after it emerged that they bowed to pressure from the Obama administration not to disclose the existence of a secret drone base in Saudi Arabia despite knowing about it for a year.
Amid renewed scrutiny over the Obama administration’s secrecy over its targeted killing program, media analysts and national security experts said the revelation that some newspapers had co-operated over the drone base had reopened the debate over the balance between freedom of information and national security.
On Tuesday (February 5), following Monday’s disclosure by NBC of a leaked Justice Department white paper on the case for its controversial targeted killing programme, the Washington Post revealed it had previously refrained from publishing the base’s location at the behest of the Obama administration over national security concerns.
The New York Times followed with its own story on the drone programme on Wednesday, and an op-ed explaining why it felt the time to publish was now.
One expert described the initial decision not to publish the base’s location as “shameful and craven”.
Dr Jack Lule, a professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, said that the national security implications did not merit holding on to the story.
“The decision not to publish is a shameful one. The national security standard has to be very high, perhaps imminent danger,” he said. “The fact that we are even having a conversation about whether it was a national security issue should have sent alarm bells off to the editors. I think the real reason was that the administration did not want to embarrass the Saudis – and for the US news media to be complicit in that is craven.”