Manchester bombing: Why the ‘New York Times’ should not be blamed for printing leaked information

Manchester bombing: Why the ‘New York Times’ should not be blamed for printing leaked information

An editor’s first instinct is always to publish. And the news executives at the New York Times would not have had to think too long and hard about the ethical issues when images from the investigation into the Manchester bombing landed on their desks.

It would have been a very different matter had the leak been to a paper in Manchester or London, where the shock of what happened is palpable and the sense of hurt and harm is very close to home – even among journalists hardened to atrocities such as this. But even here, the imperative to publish would have been strong, and the images have been carried by the British press.

Once, it may have been possible to contain a leak of this nature. But in today’s news environment – where traditional news organisations are competing with new media players – it is no longer feasible for the authorities to appeal to the “better nature” of journalists in the interests of “the public good”.

Editors will be conscious of appeals to stay their hand in matters of national security – but within the boundaries of sovereign nations. Making an appeal of this nature to a publication in a different jurisdiction – and one like the United States where press freedom is enshrined in the constitution – is much more difficult.

Stopping the spill

Once a leak has happened, it is impossible to contain the spill. If the New York Times had not published, someone else would have. And they may have done it in a way that was more disrespectful to the bereaved and injured; and in a manner that sensationalised the material.

In a free society, leaks will always be one of the sources news organisations rely on for their stories. Gone are the days when a chancellor of the exchequer would feel impelled to resign because he had mentioned an item in the budget to a journalist when he was on his way to deliver it, as Hugh Dalton did in 1947.

Indeed, leaks now have a special status of their own in the news agenda – leaks by the likes of Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden had a greater impact on the news agenda than the work of many a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

Legitimate source

From the editor’s perspective, of primary importance will be the need to be assured that the material is from a legitimate source. In this case – where the information appears to have come from official intelligence sources – the New York Times will have been easily satisfied about the veracity of the material.

The motivation for the leak will also have been taken into consideration. Journalists know that sometimes they are being used. In this case, the motivation is still unclear. And on the face of it, it looks like the material was being shared just because it could be. Even if, as an editor, you know you are being played as part of a bigger game, you might well decide to go to press in any case if the information is clearly in the public interest.

Far removed from the scene of this particular crime, the New York Times will have been less concerned about the impact its story will have had on those who are suffering after this atrocity. A British editor would have almost certainly have considered the issues about intrusion on grief, which is covered by the IPSO editor’s code.

They will certainly have been swayed by concern over the impact on the investigation. But they would also be conscious that if the material is out there someone will use it.

Only those close to the victims will be able to say whether this adds to their sense of loss or not. In many cases, families want to know everything they can – sometimes it is a way of sharing the pain of the loved one they have lost. A vacuum is often worse.

Public interest

In terms of the public interest – this is undoubtedly one of those cases where the need to know is not driven by prurience or the desire for salacious gossip. The importance of the story is perhaps less in what it says about the bomber and his crime, but more about the fitness of international intelligence agencies to meet the threat of terrorism.

It also tells us much about the relationship between Britain and America – particularly as the leak came after home secretary Amber Rudd’s blunt warning over the leaking of the bomber’s name.

And it reveals a dysfunctional relationship between those charged – on both sides of the Atlantic – with keeping us safe and secure. In bringing that to public light, the New York Times may well have done us all a service. This is a faultline in the fight against terror that needs to be fixed.

The ethical dilemma here rests not with the press, but with the people who decided to share intelligence that had been given to them in confidence. Don’t shoot the messenger.

Tom Collins, Professorial Teaching Fellow, Communications, Media and Culture, University of Stirling.

This article first appeared on The Conversation.

[“Source-ndtv”]

Photographs of Manchester bomb parts published after leak

The pictures indicate it was carried in a blue rucksack made by the Karrimor outdoor company.

Extraordinary details about the bomb used in the Manchester atrocity have been published in the New York Times, almost all of it forensic evidence gathered by the British police at the scene.

A series of photographs of the remains of the bomb, the detonator and what appeared to be a rucksack were leaked. The preliminary investigation by the police is extremely detailed, down to the belief that the killer, Salman Abedi, held the small detonator in his left hand.

Suspicion on who leaked it to the US-based reporter rested on US officials, who have been feeding a series of details about the Manchester bombing to American journalists.

Leaking such inside information from the investigation will add to tensions between the US and UK over the extent to which much of the investigation is being leaked by authorities in America.

The latest revelations came hours after the home secretary, Amber Rudd, expressed irritation with the US and expressed hope that the leaks would stop.

An image of what is believed to be the detonator, released by the New York Times.

“The British police have been very clear that they want to control the flow of information in order to protect operational integrity, the element of surprise. So it is irritating if it gets released from other sources and I have been very clear with our friends that should not happen again,” the home secretary said.

Although her language was mild, it is rare for a UK politician to issue such a rebuke to the Americans.

Rudd called the US secretary of homeland security, John Kelly, on Tuesday to ask for the leaks to stop. UK officials were stunned and angry on Wednesday when the crime scene photographs appeared in the New York Times.

The photographs suggest the bomb was relatively sophisticated, requiring a degree of expertise. It contained a powerful explosive in a lightweight metal container. The pictures indicate it was carried in a blue rucksack made by the Karrimor outdoor company.

Such was the power of the blast that nuts and screws packed round the bomb penetrated doors and walls. Abedi stood in the middle of a crowd. The upper part of his body was thrown towards the entrance to the arena.

It was not a crudely made bomb, as among the evidence recovered was a Yuasa 12-volt, 2.1 amp lead-acid battery, which is more expensive than normal over-the-counter ones. The detonator appeared to have a small circuit board soldered inside one end.

There seemed to have been several options for detonating it, such as a simple manual switch or possibly remotely by a radio signal.

The latest disclosures come on top of a series of leaks from US officials about the British investigation, including the naming of the killer.

The leak of the British information, as well as demonstrating a lack of respect for a US ally at an emotional time, will have hindered the investigation, where it is deemed essential to control the release of details.

UK counter-terrorism specialists said they needed to keep secret the name of any perpetrator or suspect for at least 36 hours to ensure there was an element of surprise in approaching relatives, friends and others.

The home secretary reflected the frustration and dismay of the UK security services in a series of interviews on Wednesday morning.

Adding to the sense of anger in the UK were further leaks from an NBC reporter who quoted US intelligence officials providing other details about the killer.

Tributes to the victims in St Ann’s Square in Manchester. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

The reporter Richard Engel of NBC tweeted details not released by the UK. Engel said US intelligence officers told him family members of the the killer, Salman Abedi, had warned UK security officials about him and had described him as dangerous.

The intelligence community has long been uncomfortable about revelations from its recent past made in books and articles, but the release of details of a live investigation on the scale of those by the US and France is a relatively new phenomenon.

It comes on top of Donald Trump’s release of intelligence to Russia that had been passed on by Israel, which had obtained it from an Arab country.

American officials in Washington briefed US journalists early on Tuesday about the number of dead, confirming that it was a suicide bombing and – hours later – the name of the killer. The UK had not been planning to release the name on Tuesday.

The UK’s reluctance to identify the assailant was evident because it took hours after his name was circulating in the US media before Greater Manchester police confirmed it.

One of the basic tenets of intelligence sharing is that other agencies do not disclose it. The problem is that those intelligence agencies, whether American or French, pass it up to their presidents, prime ministers and departmental ministers. In the past, that secrecy was respected.

After the leaks, it could be tempting for UK police and intelligence services to stop sharing sensitive information, although Britain relies heavily on the US sharing its intelligence and benefits from intelligence, especially on counter-terrorism, from European colleagues such as France and Germany.

Adding to the impression of western security services as uncoordinated and amateurish, the French interior minister, Gérard Collomb, then told French television on Wednesday that Abedi had been in Libya and possibly Syria, information UK police had not disclosed.

Soldiers and armed police patrol near the Houses of Parliament. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Adam Schiff, said he did not know the source but insisted it was not from Congress, as members and their staffs had not been briefed.

Schiff, who is a driving force behind the congressional investigation into the Trump campaign’s links with Russia, said: “We should have been very careful and respectful of the British investigation and the timing which the British felt was in their investigative interests in releasing that. That should have been their discretion not ours. If that is something we did, I think that’s a real problem.”

[“Source-ndtv”]

Top Republican recorded suggesting that Putin pays Trump

House majority leader Kevin McCarthy.

House majority leader Kevin McCarthy. Photograph: Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

In a 2016 conversation with fellow members of House leadership, majority leader Kevin McCarthy suggested that Donald Trump was on Vladimir Putin’s payroll.

In an exchange first reported by the Washington Post, McCarthy said: “There’s…there’s two people, I think, Putin pays: [California Representative Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump…[laughter]…swear to God.”

According to the transcript, speaker Paul Ryan immediately responded: “This is an off the record … [laughter] … NO LEAKS … [laughter] … alright?!”

On Wednesday night, Ryan’s spokesman, Brendan Buck, said in a statement to the Guardian: “This entire year-old exchange was clearly an attempt at humor. No one believed the majority leader was seriously asserting that Donald Trump or any of our members were being paid by the Russians.”

He added: “What’s more, the speaker and leadership team have repeatedly spoken out against Russia’s interference in our election, and the House continues to investigate that activity.”

Both Buck and a spokesman for McCarthy initially denied the remarks; the Washington Post listened to and verified an audio recording of the conversation. McCarthy’s spokesman did not respond to the Guardian for a request for comment. However, he tweeted: “This was an attempt at humor gone wrong. No surprise @WashingtonPost tried to contort this into breaking news.”

Trump’s ties to Russia have been the subject of bipartisan concern and, on Wednesday, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to investigate those as well as Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election.

The conversation came shortly after both McCarthy and Ryan had been briefed by the Ukrainian prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman, about Russian attempts to undermine democratic institutions in eastern Europe, and a day after it was reported that Russia had successfully hacked the DNC.

At the time, Ryan had still not endorsed Trump but McCarthy had already signed up to become a Trump delegate to the RNC and formally endorsed the real estate developer’s campaign.

At least some Democrats raised concerns about the statement. California congressman Eric Swalwell, a member of the House intelligence committee, said the remark raised questions about whether the majority leader has additional information on the “relationship the president had with president Putin”.

“If it was said they had their own concerns and so far they have done nothing to address concerns about the president’s ties to Russia,” Swalwell told reporters. “So I just want to know, were these concerns based on separate information that the majority leader had or had been told?”

Rohrabacher, who has a history of expressing support for the Putin regime and has been described as “Putin’s favorite congressman”, told the Guardian Wednesday night that McCarthy reassured him it was a joke.

He said that the majority leader approached him on the floor during votes on Wednesday evening to ensure that he knew that the remark was intended as a joke.

“Kevin didn’t mean any harm, I’m sure,” said Rohrabacher told reporters.

“You have to be very careful when you’re using humor,” Rohrabacher said, recalling a joke he made during a hearing.

“I remember I was trying to make fun of the scientist who claimed that cow farts make global warming,” Rohrabacher said. “And so at a hearing I said, ‘Oh do you think maybe the dinosaurs disappeared because of dinosaur flatulence?’”

To this day, he said environmentalists still fault him for believing “that dinosaur flatulence killed the dinosaurs”.

[“source-ndtv”]

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Image result for Scrum,team,

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