back to article NYT casts Assange as 'arrogant' (with a little 'Peter Pan')

WikiLeaks is hardly the journalistic enterprise many of its supporters claim, but it will be a sad day for American jurisprudence if the website is prosecuted for spilling government secrets, the top editor of The New York Times says. In a lengthy behind-the-scenes account of his dealings with Julian Assange, NYT Executive …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well Done

    My compliments to The New York Times for putting a plausible overall perspective on this issue, and my compliments to Dan Goodin and The Reg for competently bringing it to our attention.

    Yes, Assange lacks the skills of a credible journalist, and yes, he's managed to make voters think in ways that governments and politicians wouldn't want them to. No one's perfect but, between them, Wikileaks and the press have manged to do well.

    Perhaps Assange can cope with reality sufficiently to keep up the good work. If not then at least he's shown the way for others to follow.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby


      I agreed with most of your post. You lost it when you said the following:

      "Perhaps Assange can cope with reality sufficiently to keep up the good work. If not then at least he's shown the way for others to follow."

      Please pay attention.

      Wikileaks hasn't done 'good works'. Any potential, Assange has destroyed Wikileaks credibility. Hence those with any integrity and brains left and started their own site.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Aw maaaan, not this again

        Look, we've already established that some people in ogvernment were doing crappy things. By telling everyone about these things, Wikileaks did a "good work".

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @ Anon "Assange not so bad"

            You know, I'm getting tired of people claiming the full and uncensored release of information did not cause risks to the people involved. A number of people already had to publicly resign for simply speaking their mind, but those I care less about than informants in unstable governments, providing vital background. Those people ARE affected as it takes little imagination to ferret out the sources of that information.

            Naturally, if you base yourself on Western intel and communication only you will never see that harm, because the nations in question are not exactly going to advertise that their newest car battery user was an informant but try to engage, just for one moment, the few remaining braincells and use some logic.

            As a matter of fact, I think those people stating that "no harm was done" know that anyway - it seems they doth protest too much..

            Well done by NYT to be precise about what they do with information, and what goals they aim for. Of course, the proof will be in what they publish, but it appears they are at least a little bit more careful with managing collateral damage than Assange is. It appears that for Assange anything goes as long as it benefits Assange..

        2. Steven Knox

          @Iron Oxide

          Except that everyone who was paying attention already knew everything that WikiLeaks "leaked".

          That's why the leaks have been met with little more than a collective yawn from the established press. Most of the hype surrounding Assange and WikiLeaks has been generated by Assange himself.

  2. alien anthropologist

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    ".. run up against the First Amendment and the best traditions of this country.”

    Jeez... I just threw up a bit in my mouth. The First Amendment as one of the best traditions of the US of A? As likely as 419 e-mail turning out to be the real thing and making you a millionaire...

    1. CD001

      Ummm - what?

      Do you mean that freedom of speech, religion, the press and the right to assemble for peaceful demonstrations is a bad thing or that it's not one of the best American traditions?

      Does that mean you're a fascist or that you really, really like apple pie?

      I'm not really sure I understand your comment so don't know whether to upvote or downvote it.

    2. Tom Maddox Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Okay, then

      All right, Skippy, let's hear what *you* consider one of the best traditions of the USA. I await the sound of crickets from your direction.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    The difference between Assange and NYT

    From the actual NYT article:

    "Guided by reporters with extensive experience in the field, we redacted the names of ordinary citizens, local officials, activists, academics and others who had spoken to American soldiers or diplomats. We edited out any details that might reveal ongoing intelligence-gathering operations, military tactics or locations of material that could be used to fashion terrorist weapons. Three reporters with considerable experience of handling military secrets — Eric Schmitt, Michael Gordon and C. J. Chivers — went over the documents we considered posting. Chivers, an ex-Marine who has reported for us from several battlefields, brought a practiced eye and cautious judgment to the business of redaction. If a dispatch noted that Aircraft A left Location B at a certain time and arrived at Location C at a certain time, Chivers edited it out on the off chance that this could teach enemy forces something useful about the capabilities of that aircraft. "

    This is why the US DoJ would be hard pressed to go after NYT.

    Wikileaks? Not so much.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Assuming you mean the press, then that should be the Fourth Estate.

    2. JaitcH

      "This is why the US DoJ would be hard pressed to go after NYT"

      The reason they won't litigate against the NYT - OR ASSANGE - is because of the provisions of The Constitution with respect to the Fourth Estate.

      (Thanks AC - I was thinking of a TV news show!)

      1. Ian Michael Gumby


        In a single word, no.

        The reason they wont prosecute the NYT is because the US Supreme Court has already ruled that the interest of the people trumps the right for the state to keep things secret. Were Wikileaks only a conduit, they would stand the same protection. (Right or wrong, the US DoJ is not going to risk prosecution.)

        Assange may actually be charged. It depends on what the US DoJ uncovers in their investigation. The more information reported in the press lends to suggesting that Assange could be guilty of more than just receiving the leaks.

        If Assange aided in the theft of the documents, then he's going to find himself in front of the US court system. Regardless of arguing Assange's membership in the 'fourth estate', if he committed the crime, he will be charged.

        Its interesting that the NYT has distanced themselves from Assange. I suspect that they suspect something or know something... Why? Because the NYT would be the first paper to support a leak site that didn't break the law.

  4. thecakeis(not)alie


    To the writer from the NYT. Says it like it is, doesn't pull punches. I can't help but agree with him.

    Respect to El Reg as well; this was a well written article well presented here too.

  5. silver fox


    A sensible article, sensibly reported by El Reg, with sensible comments to follow.

    I like it!

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Ah no - a break with tradition

      I hereby offer a nonsensical and insensible comment to compensate.

      Balance must be.

      And beer, of course. Cheers.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Afghan informants

    I was surprised to see that the Wikileaks data available online contained both names and corresponding place names for Afghan informants.There was certainly enough information to identify families who might include informants and one wonders how many of them have suffered as a result of the disclosures. I doubt we will ever get to hear of any reprisals though, given that they are all Afghans.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Afghan informants

      otherwise known as collaborators - ie conspirers with an occupying foreign army.

      Which, if it occurred in the US, would be seen as treason, and punished, probably with a violent death. Just like the Vichy traitors.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Good work

    Assange gave up the 'good work', right after the Apache vids.. they where in the public intrest.. everything since has been for himself... self proclamation, self gain, self fame, self, self, self, and some of the papers have noticed it.

    NYT, might, have written an unbiased piece; strange considering the bed fellows, however, all it is doing is to appoligise for giving this cretin publicity... which is all he ever wanted....

    Public intrest information = good

    Wikileaks (after heli vids) = $$$ for Assange (and screw the source)..

    How's the defence fund for the leaker going? Anyone know?

    Fuck him.. and the apache he rode in on.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby

      A slight correction..

      If you actually read the NYT article linked in the story, you'll find out that Assange released an edited version that removed footage of an enemy combatant with an RPG (Grenade Launcher). For those who don't know... fire enough RPG's at a chopper and you can take it down.

      Now what's the standing RoE for this type of engagement?

      We are talking about editing the material, not just redacting information to protect someone.

      Oh and on *that* topic... Assange slowly started to edit material after the fact... remember that kiddies when he and his supporters say 'show me where his leaks have done harm...'

      So really outside of their latest sensationalist crap on the US, what good has wikileaks done?

  8. Ian Michael Gumby

    Goodin did a good job.

    But I found the NYT's Bill Keller a bit on the defensive when it comes to charging Assange.

    I understand and if it were just a case of publishing the leaks in some/any context, it would be wrong for the US DoJ to go after them.

    However, what if Assange wasn't just the conduit and just received the documents?

    Clearly then Assange would have crossed the line that a real journalist organization would never have.

    But that's the thing. The DoJ *has* to be able to make the connection for Assange to be charged.

    If you read the article and look at what Assange had allegedly said.. there's definitely something worth investigating.

    If Assange facilitated or acted in concert with Manning... then I'm sure the NYT would agree he should be charged. And yes, I know its a mighty big if.

  9. JaitcH

    "lacks the skills of a credible journalist"

    What are the skills of a 'credible journalist'?

    Is a credible journalist one who hires a communications whiz to hack peoples cell telephones to find out about the users activities? Is a credible journalist one who rifles through garbage/trash cans searching for clues to a persons lifestyle?

    I think most people agree that the function Assange has performed is that of a investigative journalist.

    Assange didn't just go out and expose the leaked cables, he acted as a responsible journalist and redacted information that could endanger 'little' people.

    Did he act lawfully? I think even the U.S. government agrees he broke no laws, therefore he acted within the law.

    So we are back with 'credible'. He warned the U.S. government; he shared the information with several leading newspapers - one of which consulted with the U.S. government before publishing.

    So Assange took a little hop and a skip following a meeting that obviously went successfully for him. Who amongst The Reg readers hasn't, in their own way, physically demonstrated satisfaction at a job well done - be it coding, circuit design or whatever.

    If Assange had dropped into a pub following the meeting, would that qualify him him as a drunk?

    By any measure Assange behaved as many other journalists would - remember he has no editor to guide him - and in enraging the U.S. government he was very brave. How many of we readers would want to go up against the U.S. government, or indeed those of Britain, France or Russia, given their historic records of solving problems with a little termination in a back alley.

    We need more like Assange, and Bradley Manning, to expose the dishonesty of the elected officials who lie and mislead their respective citizens.

    The families of all those killed or maimed in Iraq or Afghanistan deserve to know, so they may judge whether their respective losses were in a good cause.

    Our present and future generations of leaders are without military experience (Bush never made it to a zone of conflict) and therefore they can hardly relate to the horrors of war. Blair, IMO acted as a lapdog to Bush, as we are now finding out through an inquiry in London, satisfying his ego at the expense of British soldiers who have since died.

    Assange has done well and right and may he continue to expose the injustices in this world.

  10. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

    Talking Of Instable Personalities

    ..I am much more concerned about that "Commander In Chief" who apparently wields the authority to initiate Armageddon or maybe just starting a conventional war by autocratic decisionmaking:

    Why Americans think that their President is by definition sane and rational is completely above me. Apparently they let him drink the water of sanity or something. And it apparently has no effect. Which makes the whole "Commander In Chief" concept something very, very dangerous. As expected by any rational person. But we are talking about Americans.....

    Mr Assange can only "do damage" with a pile of bits. I have yet to see anybody killed by information, which does not contain any operational relevance anymore.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't know...

    It smells a little of double-standards.

    On one hand, they say it's fine to take the employee through the legal system and lock him up. On the other, the people who publish the material (the media, be it the NYT or Wikileaks) shouldn't be acted against.

    As far as I can see, cutting through the BS, at best, Wikileaks is running roughshod over copyright laws and at worst is knowingly in receipt of stolen goods.

    It all seems like the NYT are trying to put forward a view that the media as a whole (and by extension themselves) should be above the law, which to my mind is a worse position than any leaked materials, regardless of motive.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby


      The cables and information stolen from the US are not copyrighted materials.

      The issue that you're asking about is if the journalist should be held accountable after the fact of receiving stolen information.

      The courts have already ruled on this. There was a case during the Viet Nam era where a person leaked material to the NYT. The USSC ruled in favor of the NYT.

      If the journalist, instigated, acted in concert with the individual who committed the crime, then they would be charged. However, to the best of my knowledge there hasn't been a case of that.

      And this is the point of my arguing with the commentards.

      If the US DoJ can show that Assange was more involved than just receiving documents... they will have made their case and he'll be making a visit to the US.

      I suggest you read the actual NYT article. It is good stuff. I do agree that its a bit defensive on the rights of the journalist but it also suggest that Assange aint no journalist. Fair and balanced? Pretty much. But I get the feeling they know more than what they are saying. ;-)

  12. mhenriday

    Bill Keller of the New York Times

    pointing the finger at others for «arrogance» ? O the irony !...


    1. Anonymous Coward

      @Bill Keller of the New York Times - Assange is arrogant and Peter Pan like

      Yet journalists are such nice people. Just behind lawyers and politicians.

      And they cause less collateral damage than Assange - by FAILING TO REPORT THE FACTS.

  13. Bernard M. Orwell

    NYT, not propagandists?

    "We live and work in a city that has been tragically marked as a favorite terrorist target..."

    That'd be once, then. Not exactly a regular, favourite target by any stretch of the imagination.

    " the wake of 9/11 our journalists plunged into the ruins to tell the story..."

    I trust they are speaking metaphorically, as there was a total media blackout after 9/11 and no one

    was was permitted physically into the ruins.

    "The Times has nine staff correspondents assigned to the two wars still being waged in the wake of that attack...."

    Disingenuous at the very least. "..Two wars still being waged under the thin disguise of that attack...". There, fixed that for them. I could barely believe they are STILL attempting to link US 'foreign policy' (Cf: Kill, kill, kill) to the 9/11 incident.

    But, they're not propagandists.

    (PS. I actually agree with them articles body about Assange/Wikileaks. I just though the last paragraph was a bit rum!)

    1. Maty

      nice rant but ...

      >>"We live and work in a city that has been tragically marked as a favorite terrorist target..."

      That'd be once, then. Not exactly a regular, favourite target by any stretch of the imagination.<<

      Since the first attempt to destroy the WTC failed (car bombs in the basement) that would be twice at least.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        @nice rant but ...

        Still, at least the NYT has been relentless in its efforts to try and uncover why the forensic evidence of the largest number of civilian deaths due to terrorism in the recent past, was shipped out of the country as quickly as possible. /NOT

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not two wars .. six

      I can't be arsed to find the article in Huffpost from Michael Moore, but he listed six ongoing wars to remind people there was just a little bit more going on than Congress or gheadlines were mentioning. Moore may use sensationalism to get his points across, but he's usually damn good with his facts.

  14. James 5

    In other words

    "paints the WikiLeaks founder as an erratic figure with “a bit of Peter Pan in him.” Mood swings, temper tantrums and a lack of care that could threaten the safety of Afghan citizens cooperating with US forces all feature prominently"

    In other words: A narcisstic a**ehole.

    Worked for them, been there, done that, got the T-shirt, I can't stand narcissists........ Don't care what they've achieved, they destroy people for their own glorification.....

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Mood swings, arrogance, temper, egotistical?

    Doesn't that describe pretty much *any* newspaper editor?

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. adobob

    Think, *before* believing what a "journalist" says ...

    “While I do not regard Assange as a partner, and I would hesitate to describe what WikiLeaks does as journalism". Fairly disgusting that NYT consider themselves to be "journalism". The concept of journalism died long ago, all these people do is pander to governments and self-interest. Journalists such as this clown from the NYT are simply puppets of their corporate masters (after all, all news organisations are corporations, with agendas. the idea that these people are free journalists is ludicrous at best and without doubt insulting to anyone of mediocre intelligence). He mentioned WikiLeaks "glib" antipathy towards America, but fails to mention America's "glib" antipathy to the entire world outside of the US, murdering civilians like it's a drunken Texan bbq with non-Americans for target practice (a pretty reasonable assessment of the US ... if the lives of civilians mean anything that is ... which they clearly do not to US journalists. a dead Iraqi child is just a statistic to these so-called "journalists" - or "corporate mouthpieces" to give them their correct title). what an arrogant fool that "corporate mouthpiece" is, assuming his own moral superiority and denigrating anyone that brings actual *factual* information to the public. WikiLeaks provide the public with direct factual information, instead of the impotent, blurred, biased, corporate mouthpiece factless unclear claptrap that NYT Executive Editor Mr. Bill Keller peddles ...

    1. Ian Michael Gumby


      Proving information without the proper context can be a very dangerous thing.

      Its a very simple concept to understand.

      1. adobob


        for a drooling moron, that needs to be fed everything from his masters, i understand that a person like that absolutely requires that *everything* must be interpreted for him. what an awful picture you paint, where information must be "contextualized". who is being protected ? government lies (either they are by definition without corruption, i.e. a fantasy, or they are humans, in which case, information *will* be modified and the justification of "oh, we had to contextualize it to make it fit for drooling moron consumption!"). the vision is a nightmare: masters painting the context for you so that a simpleton can deal with the information, i guess. journalism is exactly that: filtered by corporate agendas and diluted by people who are more interested in the corporate career ladder than in informing the public about government lies and deceit.

        the abuse of information is a very simple concept to understand ... to those that are not drooling morons i mean.

  18. Zolko Bronze badge

    Just a Human

    Assange is just a Human being. He did something extreme, both dangerous, daring, and revolutionary. So now, he is afraid and exuberant, who wouldn't be ?

    I would shit in my pants if I had the entire CIA, KGB, MI6, Mossad ... coming after me. His only chance for survival - survival !!! - is to be famous and overplaying his role, because killing him now would make a martyr out of him, he knows it and "they" know it. If he were modest and likeable, he would "receive" a car accident and that would be it.

  19. Steve Davies

    newspaper integrity ?

    sheesh - giime a break,

    no such thing

  20. BorkedAgain

    Oh for goodness' sakes.

    I was going to post something lighthearted about how Assange looks like Alexander Armstrong in drag, but everyone else is being so damned grown-up so I can't or I'll look like a shallow, immature idiot.


    The one with the mittens on string through the sleeves, please...

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Poisoning the well

    This (like the many other attempts that have been made to blacken Assange's character and throw doubt on his motives) is a classic example of the logical fallacy known as "poisoning the well". The writer hopes to give readers the strong impression that Assange is unstable, self-seeking, and therefore unreliable.

    But such an attack is particularly inappropriate and ineffectual in this particular case. After all, none of the evidence that Assange has published was written by him! It consists of documents written by US government personnel, and if it condemns them then it does so out of their own mouths.

    Assange's personality, motives, and methods have nothing whatsoever to do with it.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very one-sided

    "...a lack of care that could threaten the safety of Afghan citizens cooperating with US forces..."

    Since the US forces are the soldiers and airmen of a hostile nation that launched an unprovoked invasion of Afghanistan, those Afghan citizens are in the position of Quislings. There is no justification for their choice to side with the enemy aggressor against their own countrymen who are patriotically fighting to free Afghanistan.

    We should be more concerned about the deaths and injuries of Afghan and Pakistani civilians which have been going on for years virtually unmentioned by the Western media. The number of civilian deaths is at least 1,000 times higher than that of US forces or their informants - more likely 10,000 times higher.

  23. NoneSuch Silver badge

    US Espionage Act of 1917

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    The Espionage Act of 1917, is a federal law passed in the United States on June 15, 1917.

    It prohibits attempts to interfere with military operations, support America's enemies during wartime, promote insubordination in the military, or interfere with military recruitment. In 1919, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled (Schenck v. United States) that the act did not violate the freedom of speech of those convicted under its provisions.

    Freedom of Speech cannot be claimed if prosecuted under this statute.

    Anyone with an interest in this area of law will also be interested to know that the SHIELD Act (specifically drawn up in response to Assanges' Wikileaks) will amend the Espionage Act to specifically target publishers of leaked info.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      perhaps you should look at some of the few prosecutions under the 1917 act

      It has a history of being used to stifle political dissent.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    I don't know either ... #

    As far as I am aware, copyright cannot be asserted on government papers.

    Some US lawyer might care to correct that if it is wrong, because I am tired of seeing the copyright idea bandied about wrt. wikileaks.

    'Paris, because she has copyrited herself...'

  25. Nick Galloway

    Human rights

    So Assange is a bit of a fruit cake. I don't think I needed the NYT to tell me that!

    Assange is supposedly trying to recreate himself as the Daniel Ellsberg of the digital age. Ellsberg didn't do too well as most people didn't care how wasteful and entrenched the US involvement in Vietnam was.

    Human rights, do I hear?

    Well freedom of speech isn't a human right. Imagine if the German government had managed to keep Hitler quiet, or similarly, do you want Charles Manson to start blogging and holding TV interviews?

    Freedom of movement. See my previous to examples.

    The only Human rights that should be available to everyone is access to clean drinking water and safe food. So a nice pint and a curry will do nicely, which might shut Assange up at the same time!?

    1. KjetilS


      "The only Human rights that should be available to everyone is access to clean drinking water and safe food."

      This is one of the most frightening comments I've read in a while. You use the coat icon, but I really can't see many signs of irony or humour in your post.

      Sooo... If we throw you in a cell with no windows and no means of communication with the outside world, you'd be perfectly happy as long as you got all the food you asked for?

    2. Ubuntu Is a Better Slide Rule

      @Nick Galloway: There's A Ticket Waiting For You at Heathrow

      It says: One-way to Pyongyang.

  26. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Well, the NYT isn't a newspaper, so why are they complaining?

    They are still propelling the propaganda on Iran and Af/Pak (generally using officially leaked leaks from unnamed government officials) after grave facilitation of the Iraq debacle.

    At least they got rid of Judith Miller.

    What a bunch of embedded jerks.

  27. Steven Knox

    Assange? Arrogant? Really?

    Other articles on the NYT site:

    Science: "Atmospheric properties generally pass sunlight in the 450-490 nm range"

    Outdoors: "An embarrassing encounter in the woods"

    Religion: "An interview with Joseph Ratzinger on his religious beliefs"

  28. alien anthropologist

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    Seems like some did not like my comment that the 1st Amendment is not the one of the best traditions of the US of A... Undoubtedly,. it once was. As the US once was "a symbol of freedom" and the "home to the oppressed and persecuted". Before it started illegal wars over oil. Before it had detention without trail. Before it had extraordinary redition. Etc and etc and etc...

    The US of A and many of its citizens have become exactly that which their forefathers feared and fled.

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