New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti e-mailed an advance, unpublished copy of a Maureen Dowd column dealing with the CIA to an Agency spokeswoman last year, according to newly released emails obtained by Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act. Depending on whom at the Times you ask, that was either "much ado about nothing" or a "mistake that is not consistent with New York Times standards."
The emails were released to Judicial Watch as part of a FOIA lawsuit the group brought seeking information about the Agency's cooperation with filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, who are working on a film about the assassination of Osama bin Laden. They show that last August, Mazzetti, who covers national security for the Times, sent CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf a Maureen Dowd column the paper was about to publish critiquing the White House's attempt to spin the raid with the admonition, "this didn't come from me...and please delete after you read." Earlier, Harf had emailed Mazzetti asking "any word?" Mazzetti had replied, "Going to see a version before it gets filed. My sense is there is a very brief mention at the very bottom of column about CIA ceremony, but that Boal also got high level access at the Pentagon."
Indeed, the column reported that Boal had been invited to a CIA ceremony honoring the SEALs. The exchange was obviously an effort on Harf's part to gather intelligence about what the Times was going to report. And if Mazzetti did indeed send Harf a version he saw "before it [got] filed," that means the CIA read Dowd's column before her own editors did. Mazzetti declined to comment for the record.
As far as Times managing editor Dean Baquet is concerned, this sort of cozy information-sharing (for which Wall Street Journal reporter and elephant-fucker Gina Chon was nominally fired in June) is no big deal at all. "I know the circumstances, and if you knew everything that's going on, you'd know it's much ado about nothing," Baquet told Politico's Dylan Byers. "I can't go into in detail. But I'm confident after talking to Mark that it's much ado about nothing. The optics aren't what they look like."
But Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy, issuing a statement to Gawker on behalf of the paper, had a slightly less sanguine take.
Last August, Maureen Dowd asked Mark Mazzetti to help check a fact for her column. In the course of doing so, he sent the entire column to a CIA spokeswoman shortlly before her deadline. He did this without the knowledge of Ms. Dowd. This action was a mistake that is not consistent with New York Times standards.
It's not really clear what's behind the cognitive dissonance, though the statement's insistence that Mazzetti acted without Dowd's knowledge might explain it. Perhaps she found more to be "ado" about than Baquet did with the notion of her colleague sharing a critical column with a flack for the spooks, and asked that it be made known.
The Judicial Watch emails, by the way—which are supplementary to another batch released in May—offer a wealth of new information on the extent to which the White House invited Boal and Bigelow into the highly classified world of the bin Laden raid, including letting them speak to a translator who joined the raid and the fact that then-CIA director Leon Panetta was fully aware of the project and offered his "full knowledge and full approval/support."
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