The torture narrative at the NY Times

Byron York:

If you go to Memeorandum, the most talked-about story on the Web today, or at least as of 11:20 this morning, is Peter Baker's New York Times piece, "Banned Techniques Yielded 'High Value Information,' Memo Says." The story begins:

President Obama’s national intelligence director told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques banned by the White House did produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.

“High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country,” Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday.

Baker's story attracted a lot of attention soon after the paper posted it on its Web site. In addition to a link on Drudge, it is, according to Memeorandum, the talk of PowerLine, JustOneMinute, The Daily Dish, The Plum Line, Hot Air, Commentary, RedState, Political Punch, AmSpecBlog, and lots of other places on the Web.

In fact, it appears there is just one place you won't find Baker's story: the print edition of the New York Times.

I read the story on the Web last night and, going through the actual newspaper this morning, noticed that it wasn't there. Instead, there were a few graphs devoted to Baker's material placed deep inside another story, "Obama Won't Bar Inquiry, or Penalty, on Interrogations," by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, on page A-15.

I asked Richard Stevenson, who is the Times' deputy Washington bureau chief, what was going on. He told me Baker got the Blair information late in the day Tuesday, and there just wasn't room for it in the paper. "We already had three stories on this subject," Stevenson explained, "and it was late, there was no more space to do this separately…We just didn't have the space to put it in the print newspaper."

The other interrogation stories the Times published in the paper were, "In Adopting Harsh Tactics, No Inquiry Into Past Use; Interrogations Based on Torture Methods Chinese Communists Used in '50s" on the front page; "Report Gives New Detail on Interrogation Approval," on A-14, and Stolberg's, on A-15.

What makes this news judgment questionable is that Baker's story is the only one that cut against the torture narrative being pushed by the liberal Democrats and the Editorial Board of the Times. Stevenson's response to York's question is as weak as the response of the spokeswomen who left out the details to begin with. All you have to do is go to Real Clear Politics to see that Mathew Yglesias (Torture Still Doesn’t Work) is still pushing the narrative that the harsh interrogation did not work when it is clear from Blair statement that it did.

What is also clear is that who oppose the harsh interrogations want to say it does not work, and those who say it helped to keep us safer make the case that it provided valuable information. The fact that it did provide such information is far more important than the stories the Times put forward on the history of the interrogations. Those histories are only relevant to those looking for an reason not engage in harsh interrogations. The Baker story cut against that narrative.


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