After the New York Times decided to host scores of sensitive U.S. diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks, a number of pundits, myself included, alleged a serious double standard. A year prior, the Times had refused to publish leaked emails in the so-called ClimateGate scandal. Environmental blogger Andy Revkin had this to say at the time:
The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.
In the last couple of days, some conservative commentators have compared the treatment of the East Anglia climate files in this post with the dissemination of Wikileaks files by The Times and charged that a gross double standard exists.
I'll note two things about my coverage of the unauthorized distribution of the climate files:
First, while I initially did not publish the contents of the climate files and e-mails (at the request of Times lawyers, considering the uncertain provenance and authenticity of the materials at the time), I did (from the start) provide links to the caches of material set up elsewhere on the Web.
Second, in the rush on the day the files were distributed across the Web, I called them "private" when, in fact, I should have said their senders had presumed they were private. As I've said off and on since then, given that much of the research discussed in the exchanges was done using taxpayers' money, any expectation of privacy wasn't justified.
What do you think? Is Revkin's combined mea culpa and defense of his position adequate?