Blogger Michael Yon—one of the few people to break the New York Times' news blackout over the kidnapping of reporter David Rohde in Afghanistan—reports via Twitter that former CIA operatives paid a ransom to secure Rohde's release.
Yon is apparently incensed about a Times report two days ago on the status of two kidnapped British citizens in Somalia. The paper asked reporters everywhere to keep quiet about Rohde, but is reporting on the status of other similarly situated civilians apparently without much concern for their well-being. (A spokesman for the British Embassy told Gawker that the British government has not asked news organizations to keep quiet on the Somalia kidnappoing.) So Yon is opening up the notebook, claiming that he's been sitting on the fact that, despite its claims to the contrary, the Times paid a ransom to get Rohde out alive:
We've contacted the Times for a response. Times editor Bill Keller has insisted that no ransom was paid to get Rohde out, and Rohde's detailed account of his escape certainly seems to indicate that it was an old-fashioned breakout with no outside help. If it turns out that the escape was actually somehow engineered after a ransom was paid, it would be a grand lie of Blairian proportions, deliberately sowed by the Times in a five-part series.
Yon says the ransom was facilitated by former CIA operatives—presumably he means Duane "Dewey" Clarridge, the legendary spook who played a role in Iran-Contra and, according to ABC News' Brian Ross, was hired by the Times to help secure Rohde's release. Ross has previously reported that some of Rohde's guards were bribed surreptitiously in order to grease the escape and make sure he was well-treated. Those bribes amounted, according to Ross, to just a few hundred dollars and wouldn't qualify as a ransom in any normal use of the word. In an epilogue to his series on his kidnapping, Rohde reported that "a number of Afghan and Pakistani men also offered to try to obtain information about our whereabouts or to gain our release," and that some "asked for money.... During that time, two of the Afghan men died in ambushes, but it is not known whether those attacks were related to work on our case."
UPDATE: A Times' spokeswoman responds simply by quoting the epilogue to Rohde's series, in which he wrote, "My family and the New York Times paid no ransom. The Times has decided not to make public its efforts to secure our release because details could endanger correspondents and others working in the region."
SECOND UPDATE: The Times has responded on its At War blog, including a statement from Rohde saying, "As I stated in the series on our captivity, no ransom was paid in our case and no one, including our guards, helped us escape. I would never have written - and the newspaper would never have published - a five-part-series based on a lie."