The New York Times Admits It’s Been Slacking When it Comes to Drones

According to The New York Times’ internal watchdog, the newspaper has not investigated the blurry circumstances surrounding drone attacks to the best of its ability, nor has it challenged the Obama Administration’s extreme secrecy, including the government’s dubious reports of civilian deaths.

Margaret Sullivan is the Public Editor at the NYT, where she occupies a role similar to that of an ombudsman, tasked with the meta- responsibility of reporting on the Times’ reporting.

…The Times has not been without fault. Since the article in May, its reporting has not aggressively challenged the administration’s description of those killed as “militants” — itself an undefined term. And it has been criticized for giving administration officials the cover of anonymity when they suggest that critics of drones are terrorist sympathizers.

In the last week, Orwell’s Avenger has published a comprehensive overview of the drone attacks in Pakistan, but there are several other consequences of drone use worth noting in Sullivan’s Oct. 14 piece.

“The use of drones is deepening the resentment of the United States in volatile parts of the world and potentially undermining fragile democracies,” notes Naureen Shah, Director of the Human Rights Clinic at Columbia University’s law school.

David Rohde, a former NYT columnist, kidnapped by the Taliban in 2008, and now at Reuters sees a glaring double standard in media coverage.

“If a Republican president had been carrying out this many drone strikes in such a secretive way, it would get much more scrutiny,” he said.

When the Times has attempted to shed light on abuse, they’ve been denied by a government that refuses to comply with any Freedom of Information Act requests.

In the end, the lack of coverage — accurate media coverage — surrounding Obama’s drone program makes it more difficult for the public to find faults.

While a  majority of Americans have a positive view of the drone attacks, “critics say that’s because the news media have not informed them well,” observes Sullivan.


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