Handling of Obama/Khalidi Tape is Handbook for 'Swiss Banking' of Politically Radioactive Material
As a student of journalism since junior high school, I was indoctrinated in the notion that the great reporters of the American press lived and breathed that thing called 'the story'. When journalists such as Upton Sinclair and Nellie Bly received information it went into the story, not into the wall safe. Maybe that's why the Los Angeles Times' refusal to release the infamous and enigmatic Khalidi video strikes me as so odd, even for that paper.
A reporter's right to keep their sources anonymous must be preserved and protected. It is also not strictly unethical to allow a source to place conditions on how information is used, even though striking such a deal would seem counterproductive to gathering information. On that score, the Los Angeles Times' refusal to release the controversial video has a sliver of ground on which to stand. That ability to claim the right to keep the video from the public is, however, elective and not strictly required by law.
The Times has not claimed that the agreement with the tape's source was contractual or in any way legally binding, but there is the possibility that the manner in which the tape was given to the paper was an orchestrated act intended to give all sides - Obama, the source and the Los Angeles Times - a way to avoid having to reveal the tape's contents to the public, contents which might give American voters a way to assemble a picture of Obama's worldview that does not flatter the candidate.
Since no illegal acts are alleged to have been captured on the video, and we must assume the tape was delivered to the newspaper legally, there is no legal method to pry the material from the Times' icy grip. If the source gave the newspaper the only public copy of the video, it could conceivably be hidden away for as long as its owners, its custodians and the powerful person appearing on it wish to keep it away from our eyes.
The mystery unfolds further when consulting the article, written by Peter Wallsten and run in the print edition on April 10, 2008, for which the video was used as a reference. Its main effect on the piece seems to have been to give the Wallsten a way to portray Obama as a cool-headed mediator of Middle Eastern tensions. This passage appears nine paragraphs into the story:
One speaker likened "Zionist settlers on the West Bank" to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been "blinded by ideology."
Obama adopted a different tone in his comments and called for finding common ground.
That doesn't seem so bad. Why would the source want to keep that video away from the public? In fact, with the Obama campaign fighting for their life to maintain the Democrat stranglehold on the Jewish vote in the battleground state of Florida, one would think that a video showing Obama standing up to be the voice of reason in a room full of Arabs would be campaign gold. Axelrod would be setting up half hourly screenings at every senior center from Pensacola to Boca.
Of course, if there was other material on the video, material that was both relevant to campaign or character issues, and damaging to Obama, the Times would have its own reasons to suppress it lest readers and fellow journalists question the ethics of how the Wallsten article constructed.
The question arises: Did the LA Times and the source of the tape knowingly enter into an agreement that would give all parties to its hiding a plausible reason to deny the public access to its content? There is no way to ever answer that question, but the very presence of the question in the minds of readers will very likely have consequences for a newspaper already on the verge of collapse.
Right now, if the LA Times holds the only copy, there is no safer place to keep it away from the rest of the media and prevent it from damaging the Obama campaign in the final crucial days of this presidential election.
Where are Liddy and the Plumbers when you need them?