Mitt Romney recently scolded the media and ABC specifically for publishing stories potentially detrimental to national security. On May 22 ABC published a story exposing the information that President Bush had authorized the CIA to take non lethal action to destabilize the current regime in Iran. The plan includes “a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran’s currency and international financial transactions” according to the article.

Echoing Romney’s thoughts, columnist Hugh Hewitt categorized the story as “self-serving, and clueless or treacherous dangers to the national interest.” (view his article here) Apparently some consider this story the very ammunition Ahmadinejad needs to stay in power, develop nuclear weapons and take down western civilization

Although some news stories should be withheld in the name of national security, its time to step back and admit that on this particular story, ABC got it right. Bush is a president known both for pre-emotively engaging nations he views as dangerous, and for operating secretively outside the view of the American public.

If our President is planning operations to destabilize a foreign country, the public deserves to know about it. Bush doesn’t have the right to secretly invade, so why is he allowed to secretly use our intelligence agencies to take down a regime. Media silence on presidential actions creates a dangerous environment conducive to foreign policy blunders and a collapse of democratic accountability.

Is Bush’s plan a bad one? Not necessarily. Should it be done in secret? Heck no!

And exactly what damage did ABC do? America uses propaganda constantly; Iran is no stranger to the subject. The game of information and counter information would have continued regardless of ABC’s decision to go to press. We were planning to secretly manipulate Iran’s currency? Did we think Iran wouldn’t notice shifts in their monetary situation large enough to destabilize its government?

If an American operation to overthrow Iran were to take place successfully, it would not occur beneath the radar but would be noticeable to Iranian policy makers. Cluing in the American people is not a security risk but an important effort to keep tabs on our President’s actions. We need to learn to distinguish between genuine needs for secrecy and the overused “national security” battle cry behind which hides every questionable government policy

Hewitt sarcastically asks “is there anything that Brian Ross and ABC News wouldn’t run?” The answer is one those of us outside the news room cannot know for sure. The reason is simple: news outlets receive no viewers, subscribers or add money for the stories they don’t run. If information is a security risk, the military and intelligence agencies should work to plug their leaks, they are the ones who get paid to control information. News outlets are not responsible for in any way hampering the spread of information. In all but the most extreme circumstances the media must go to press with the information it receives in order to stay in business. And once in a while a story should be withheld for the good of the nation, but clearly this story not only was able to run, but needed to be seen.

See Michael Fields’ Blog at www.fieldsforthought.blogspot.com

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