Sep 27, 2019 - Economy

N.Y. Times defends decision to publish whistleblower ID details

Donald trump

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The New York Times defended its decision to publish a story identifying the whistleblower as a male CIA officer, as executive editor Dean Baquet said it reported "limited information" about his identity so readers could "make their own judgments about whether or not he is credible."

The big picture: Federal whistleblowers are protected by law. Readers and some in the national intelligence community expressed concern that revealing too much detail in media reports could put the officer's life and reputation in danger and deter future whistleblowers.

What we know: AP confirmed the NYT report. The timeline of the officer's complaint raises questions regarding how the White House and the Justice Department handled it, per AP.

  • The CIA officer initially filed the complaint to the CIA, which notified the White House and Justice Department. On Aug. 12, the whistleblower was granted more legal protections after he flagged the intelligence community's inspector general.
  • The administration initially blocked Congress from viewing the whistleblower's complaint — as is usually required under federal whistleblower statutes when a complaint is marked as of "urgent concern" — citing a Justice Department decision.
  • A redacted version of the complaint and the White House's memo of President Trump's conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were eventually made public this week.

What they're saying:

  • Baquet: "We decided to publish limited information about the whistleblower — including the fact that he works for a nonpolitical agency and that his complaint is based on an intimate knowledge and understanding of the White House — because we wanted to provide information to readers that allows them to make their own judgments about whether or not he is credible."
  • AP: "The Associated Press is publishing information about the whistleblower's background because the person's credibility is central to the impeachment inquiry into the president."

Go deeper: 300+ former national security officials condemn Trump-Ukraine actions

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