07 December 2006

My, how the (New York) Times have changed!

In honor of Pearl Harbor Day, The New York Times reprinted excerpts of a series of lengthy articles its correspondent in Pearl Harbor filed in the months following the attack. These dispatches detail the monumental effort to rebuild the Pacific Fleet after its decimation by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. The full articles are available online in .pdf format and make for fascinating reading.

The bylines on the articles note that these were "Passed by naval censor"; despite that preliminary official approval, the introduction relates that "wartime censorship killed the articles".

In the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Times has repeatedly published or sought to publish information which damages our efforts, most notably last June when it disclosed details of a classified intelligence program which analyzed the financial transactions of people suspected of ties to al Qaeda. The paper acknowledged that the program was legal and effective and that its decision to publish would hinder the government's efforts in the War on Terror. It's open to honest debate whether the reporters and leaders of the Times sought to damage our nation's interests during a time of war or merely disregarded those interests in favor of its own.

These New York Times articles are not just an interesting glimpse at a significant but overlooked part of our efforts during the early years of World War II. Considering its current practices, these articles are also a memorial to a time long past when, during wartime, the Times specifically and the American press more generally were on our side rather than our enemies'.

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