“Deliberate Leaks?”

by Joshua Foust on 12/8/2008

Myra MacDonald notices something interesting: despite Pakistan’s so-called “cheap” grab a legitimacy, in which the accused mastermind of Mumbai Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi has been taken into custody and Pakistan begins a “crackdown” on Lashkar-e Toiba, there remains a very deliberate leaking campaign by U.S. intelligence officials to put pressure on the Pakistani government to continue to act.

A leaking campaign wouldn’t necessarily be new—remember the ZOMG THE ISI IS IN AFGHANISTAN moment after the July bombing of the Indian embassy?—but such blatant use of it is intriguing. Our last major example of a concerted leak campaign to the press via anonymous sources (“Iraq has WMDs”) didn’t really turn out too well. Despite that, the press is falling for this one hook, line, and sinker.

“Falling for” is too harsh a word. But there is little obvious realization on the part of publications like the New York Times that they are essentially acting as mouthpieces for the government. That doesn’t make what they print untrue (we lack the ability to confirm or refute such claims as “LeT is supported by ISI”), but it does make me wonder what, exactly, the role of a free press in this kind of an environment. Should they be more skeptical, given recent history with anonymous officials? Is it even realistic to expect more investigation when dealing with something like the Mumbai attacks? I honestly don’t know; it just doesn’t sit right with me.

Any thoughts?

P.S. This email exchange between Nitin Pai (India) and Ahsan Butt (Pakistan) is very much worth reading as well, perhaps before offering some more thoughts on the topic.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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