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The Times Actually Kept a Secret. Who Knew?

Secrecy was rightly considered vital when it came to the security of Times journalist David Rohde - yet on two occasions the Times turned a deaf ear to pleas from the Bush White House that spilling secrets about two anti-terrorist programs would jeopardize America's security.

New York Times journalist David Rohde escaped from his Taliban captors after being held seven months in Pakistan's North Waziristan region. The Times keptRohde's kidnappingsecret on the advice of kidnapping case experts.



Rohde's escape is certainly great news, and one can't fault the Times' desire to protect one of its own. But it does bring up the question of why secrecy was so vital when it came to the security of one of the Times' employees -yet on two occasionsthe paper turned a deaf ear to pleas from the Bush White House that spilling secrets about two anti-terrorist programs would jeopardize America's security, running front-page stories on the programsby TimesreportersEric Lichtblau and James Risen.



Adam Ellick had more on Monday on the escape of Rohde and Tahir Ludin, the Afghan journalist captured with him -"With Plan and a Hidden Rope, Captives Escaped the Taliban." With the aide of a rope they had managed to squirrel away, Ludin and Rohde climbed over the wall of their compound and fled to safety. (Rohde was captured while researching a book. It's safe to say he has material for one, but atgreat cost.)



Executive Editor Bill Keller laid out the need for secrecy in Sunday's front-page account.


Until now, the kidnapping has been kept quiet by The Times and other media organizations out of concern for the men's safety.


"From the early days of this ordeal, the prevailing view among David's family, experts in kidnapping cases, officials of several governments and others we consulted was that going public could increase the danger to David and the other hostages," said Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times. "The kidnappers initially said as much. We decided to respect that advice, as we have in other kidnapping cases, and a number of other news organizations that learned of David's plight have done the same. We are enormously grateful for their support."


By contrast, here's Keller in June 2006, dismissing White House pleas not to expose the legal anti-terrorist program SWIFT, which monitored international banking transactions:



We have listened closely to the administration's arguments for withholding this information, and given them the most serious and respectful consideration. We remain convinced that the administration's extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest.



In late 2005 the paper had exposed a secret government program of wiretapping terrorist suspects without warrants, also against the urgings of the Bush White House