Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Should You Publish Military Secrets if They Seem Questionable?

IN CLASS TODAY, WE TALKED about a New York Times story that revealed a military strategy to place "bait" in certain areas where potential insurgents would find them.

After placing the bait, American snipers observed the area around it, a military official told the newspaper.

“If someone found the item, picked it up and attempted to leave with the item,” he said, “we would engage the individual, as I saw this as a sign that they would use the item against U.S. forces.” (Engage is a military euphemism for firing on or killing an enemy).

Should the New York Times have revealed this strategy?

Does the reporter seem objective?

(The photo above is by Jim MacMillan, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his war coverage in 2005. Jim is a Temple adjunct who will probably speak to our class at the end of the semester).

16 comments:

darrianr said...

I feel that a large amount of people in the U.S. want to know what's going on Iraq. Isn't it a goal of journalism to give the people what they want? Knowledge? The reporter is simply telling readers the latest of what is going on and the methods the military is using in this dreadful war. It's the reader's freedom to think it's right or wrong, but the reporter is just putting it out there. I think it's acceptable for the New York Times to have revealed this strategy, because it's real, factual information on what's happening. The people have the right to know.

becmat56 said...

There are far worse things going on in Irag that the average person will never find out about. I have had friends go over there and they have told me stories of their own personal experiences that are far worse than this story. Does that mean I should go around and tell people so that they can look down on the soldiers and the military that are fighting for our freedom? I think not. It is war, and in war it is survival of the fittest. Most of these journalist that the military has to watch over 24/7 have no clue about the military and what it takes sometimes to stay alive. To me the story is just plain selfish.

gabriellesc@temple.edu said...

Story seems pretty objective to me. I couldn`t find any bias, the quotes were both positive and negative on behalf of the issue at hand so you could see both sides of the fence and choose your own position.. my brother is currently in Iraq, and as a person who has a loved one serving in the military, I still believe the journalist has a job to report what goes on. If the information was LEAKED already, who are we NOT to go on a lead? We didn`t dig and bring the story out; it was already floating, but a journalist did what he was supposed to do; grab something relevant and important and inform us of what`s going on in our name.

Dan Zubrzycki said...

This is war, whether or not the "war has been won" is not the question to me. I think if you talked to a WWII vet, they could probably admit to doing some heinous things. They do not receive much criticism and are labeled "the greatest generation."

While it is a journalists duty to report and be a watchdog, the soldier was right when he said that this tactic was most likely saving lives. The risk of a few civilians who, knowing that they live in a wartorn area, attempted to pick up a firearm, dieing for the possibility of some soldiers not dieing...i feel as though thats worth it.

KBagenstose said...

Saying that a journalist can’t reveal a tactic sets a dangerous precedent. Besides the military and some contractors, journalists are the only Americans over there, and definitely the only ones who are supposed to remain objective. If they aren’t allowed to speak on what they see, then who will? However, it is also the responsibility of the journalist and paper that they do not reveal important information or tactics unless they feel that it might be crossing moral boundaries.

Saying soldiers have a free ticket because war is war is not a valid excuse. If someone uses illegal aliens or child labor in business, it actually helps the business in a dollar and cents way, but we still don’t allow it because it is immoral. If a soldier shoots dead a person they suspect might be an insurgent, I’m not going to give them a free ticket because it’s war. All in all they are surely killing some insurgents, but how many innocent families suffer, especially with young boys who will grow up thinking the U.S. unjustly killed their father? And saying journalists can’t report on the military because they aren’t part of it, pretty much disqualifies any journalist from reporting on any industry or profession they were previously not a part of. This story was right for bringing attention to a tactic that has a number of moral and logistical questions.

tony azzaro said...

regardless of whether or not you think the tactic itself is wrong, a newspaper that can be internationally accessed by people outside of this country should not print military plans in the paper.

Megan McCue Journalism said...

I didn't find it bias and people should know things about the military, journalists shouldn't cover things up. The only thing would be if this could affect our country's war tactics and be leaked out, then it should be kept private. But if it is not a secret in terms of safety I think it is fine and should be published.

Arty Kern said...

First of all, Paul von Zielbauer may not have discovered this story if the Army did not press these soldiers with murder charges. This information was made blatant for any journalist not sleeping to see, because the soldiers were on trial.

Secondly...
1. Journalism's first obligation is to the truth.
2. Its first loyalty is to the citizens.

These two principles would obligate a journalist to cover this story. Zielbauer gives his source of information that seems fairly reliable, therefore it is truthful until proven false. Also, this is knowledge the citizens should obtain, for this is happening in their name.

The journalists during the Vietnam War began a cultural revolution in the U.S. because the truth was revealed. Even Ernie Pyle did not shy away from the gore and savagery that occurred in World War II. Wilfred Owen's poem "Dulce Et Decorum Est" (latin for - "it is sweet and right to die for your country"), was about the horrors of World War I and the lie of dying for ethnocentric values. Imagine if this poem was distributed by the magnitude of media we have today. The bewildered, betrayed population would realize what war really is and what is being done in their name.

This is what the article and photograph are simply doing. This is the exposing of the reality of war. The troops are amazing and I love them. The war is wretched and I hate it. Regardless of feeling, reality needs to be acknowledged in a calamity like this.

Anonymous said...

The military is soooo secretive and due to media spoils, I feel they are even moreso. The journalist have a bias based on ignorance. They don't know the full story/plan behind their methods. They need to stop!

Geo said...

Not leaving your name is soooo secretive as well.

Take credit for your opinions. Stand by them and be prepared to back them up.

Always.

- George (the teacher)

summergirl said...

I think it's totally wrong for the media to publish this. They don't necessarily know the whole story behind this tactic. They only have what somebody leaked to them. No, the military is not perfect, but I trust that they know more than I do about what should be going on over there. I don't think it's right to give away their information to the enemy.

Chris said...

If the military allows reporters to be embedded in units, then they should expect certain information to come out. It's like inviting someone in your house, showing them where the safe is, and then complaining about being robbed. The reporter did what s/he thought was right, as did the Times. Don't embed the journalists and it will be harder for secrets to get out.

HeartlessDusk said...

Hi, this is Victoria H.
Chris (my older brother, not anyone in the class) brings up a perfectly valid point that I actually had not thought of.
It's true that the military should have forseen the consequences of bringing a reporter into their midst. I still don't agree that the reporter should have disclosed such information, though; he/she should have known better than to reveal a tactic like that. It could put soldiers' lives at risk.
But I also think the reporter was still just doing his/her job; informing the public of what is being done in their name.

In conclusion, I have mixed feelings on this article; though I'm leaning more towards the military's side.

Brandon Duhart said...

ummmmm i'm not to sure how secrect something is if a journalist knows it. A Journalists job is to tell what they know. Its a solders job not to tell something if its secrect

HouseMD said...

The NY times was completely out of line to make this public! It's a military strategy for a reason -- it helps us advance. Once it's public knowledge it's pretty hard for us to use it to our advantage. It's not like our soldiers were out there shooting little children and the elderly; they've been trained well enough to make a decision about someone who seems like a threat. I think it's outrageous that the media would publish this during a war.

Valerie Rubinsky said...

I think if you look at it from the stand point, 'I'd rather not know this so the military would be better off' a lot of people would say that the journalists have a duty to tell us. If the military weren't doing anything questionable, their strategies probably wouldn't be news until after they happened. I personally am glad I know this. I want to know if something I disagree with is being done in my name. The journalist's loyalty is not to the military or to the government, it's to the citizens. They're not endangering citizens or Americans by telling them this. They have a duty to tell us this. I do think the article was biased, so in presenting this issue to the public they did not do anything wrong, but how they presented it they did.