LA Times Bureau Chief Admits That Its Reporting Could Help Terrorists

In a remarkable interview on the Hugh Hewitt radio show this afternoon (Mon. June 26, 2006), Doyle McManus, Washington D.C. bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, publicly admitted that the column in his paper on Friday, the one in which a secret financial tracking program was reported, could aid terrorists who target the United States. The original column was written by Josh Meyer and Greg Miller, but McManus played a role in the decision to go forward with the story's publication.

The eye-opening interview, with audio, is at Radio Blogger. The key exchange:

HUGH HEWITT: Is it possible, in your view, Doyle McManus, that the story will in fact help terrorists elude capture?

DOYLE McMANUS: It is conceivable, yeah, although it might be worth noting that in our reporting, officials told us that this would, this disclosure would probably not affect al Qaeda, which figured out long ago that the normal banking system was not how it ought to move its money, and so turned to other unofficial and informal channels ...

Later ...

HEWITT: Did anyone who would go on the record tell you this would have no significant damage to the counter-terrorism effort?

McMANUS: I don't believe anyone made that unqualified statement, no.

HEWITT: Given that you couldn't find anyone to tell you that it wouldn't be damaging, wouldn't the necessary conclusion be that it would be?

McMANUS: That's a reasonable inference. But we did...there were people who told us that they believed that the damage, if any, would be minimal.

"Minimal"? As opposed to ...

And the closer:

HEWITT: Sgt. T.F. Boggs, who's serving in Iraq on his second tour, sent a letter to Mr. Keller after the story published at the New York Times, in which he included the line, "Thank you for continually contributing to the deaths of my fellow soldiers." He, and many other mil-bloggers, are as angry as they can be, and they believe that these stories, yours among them, have contributed to the death of Americans and the empowerment of terrorists. I want you to have a chance to respond before you've got to leave, Mr. McManus.

McMANUS: Well, I respect Sgt. Boggs, and I respect what he's doing for our country. I think accusing newspapers of causing the deaths of soldiers over the last several years because of a story that was printed last week probably adds more heat than light to this discussion.

Good grief. Check out this interview.

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Also ... The great LA Times watchdog Patterico has his thoughts on another radio interview that McManus conducted today. Check that out, too.

Dave Pierre
Dave Pierre is a contributing writer to NewsBusters and the creator of TheMediaReport.com.