Did the US Issue a Prior Restraint Request to the NYT, Too?

Skdadl, who has been tweeting up a storm on the upcoming WikiLeaks dump, noted that the British government has issued D-notices regarding the upcoming dump, which is basically a non-binding request on editors to brief the government before doing a story.

The news came to light in two Tweets from WikiLeaks one of which said, “UK Government has issued a “D-notice” warning to all UK news editors, asking to be briefed on upcoming WikiLeaks stories.” The follow up pointed out that the notices were “Type 1” which relates to “Military Operations Plans and Capabilities”, and “Type 5” which relates to “United Kingdom Security and Intelligence Special Services.”

Here’s the content of the D-notice:

Subject: DA Notice Letter of Advice to All UK Editors – Further Wikileaks Disclosures

To All Editors

Impending Further National Security Disclosures by Wikileaks

I understand that Wikileaks will very shortly release a further mass of US official documents onto its internet website. The full scope of the subject matter covered by these documents remains to be seen, but it is possible that some of them may contain information that falls within the UK’s Defence Advisory Notice code. Given the large number of documents thought to be involved, it is unlikely that sensitive UK national security information within these documents would be recognised by a casual browser. However, aspects of national security might be put at risk if a major UK media news outlet brought such information into obvious public prominence through its general publication or broadcast.

Therefore, may I ask you to seek my advice before publishing or broadcasting any information drawn from these latest Wikileaks’ disclosures which might be covered by the five standing DA Notices. In particular, would you carefully consider information that might be judged to fall within the terms of DA Notice 1 (UK Military Operations, Plans and Capabilities) and DA Notice 5 (UK Intelligence Services and Special Forces). May I also ask you to bear in mind the potential consequential effects of disclosing information which would put at risk the safety and security of Britons working or living in volatile regions where such publicity might trigger violent local reactions, for example Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan? [my emphasis]

Of course, there’s something odd about this effort.

The intertoobz don’t have national boundaries.

So even if the Brits are successful at getting the British press not to cover these stories, that doesn’t prevent media outlets outside of the UK from reporting on them, making them available to be read within the UK (or, given that the concern seems to focus on our war zones, Pakistan).

Mind you, the D-notice seems to be particularly concerned about major outlets and the “prominence” they can accord. And since with the last dump, at least, WikiLeaks actually did a great deal of redacting before releasing the documents via its public site, it would suggest the British government would be most worried about the one British outlet that got advance copies — presumably unredacted ones — of the latest dump.

So, the Guardian.

FWIW, here’s what the Editor-in-Chief for the Guardian — which presumably has had the files in question for some time — had to say about the D-notice.

Puzzled by DA Notice re #wikileaks. Overwhelming majority of t stuff not covered. “Safety + security of Brits” nothing to do w DNotice

I’m not entirely sure what he means — though presumably he’s signaling that the bulk of the material in the document dump has nothing to do with the UK’s military and intelligence operations.  In any case, it doesn’t sound like the one recipient of the D-notice who has seen the documents thinks it’s an entirely credible request.

But that still leaves the borderless toobz problem. Even assuming the Brits could get the Guardian to snitch out Wikileaks, that doesn’t mean the NYT or Spiegel or al-Jazeera will spike any stories that threaten British national security.

Or does it?

I certainly can’t speak for Der Spiegel’s independence. (Though on Afghan policy, the Merkel government may have reason to want to help quash this dump.) Al-Jazeera has been pressured by the US for ten years now.

And then there’s the NYT.

If the Brits have taken the step of asking British editors for prior restraint, then do you really think the US government hasn’t done the same with the outlets with which it has influence?

And Bill Keller would presumably be amenable. After all, he was willing to spike the illegal wiretap story for an entire year until James Risen’s book threatened to scoop his own employer.  The NYT rather remarkably published a whole series from the last WikiLeaks dump — complete with Judy Miller’s Michael Gordon’s involvement — that fit nicely into the Pentagon’s spin. And then, when the NYT’s more dangerous treatment of the documents than Wikileaks itself may have endangered Americans captured in Iran, the NYT published a very weird story that appears to have everything with the State Department’s efforts to fix the damage done and nothing to do with exposing the truth.

The only way the British D-notice makes sense, IMO, is if Britain’s partners are making similar efforts to request prior restraint from the other major news outlets that have the Wikileaks dump.

  1. radiofreewill says:

    Who knows, maybe this will force the entire back-story of the run-up to the War out into the open…and maybe that’s what Britain and the US, in particular, want restrained…

    • emptywheel says:

      Some of what seems like to be in there are:

      Documents laying out Karzai’s corruption in detail
      Documents laying otu the corruption of our C. Asian “allies”
      Acknowledgment of some of the targeted assassinations (!) we’ve been involved in (I wonder whether Arafat will be one)
      We know it’ll outline our support for the PKK. I wonder whether it’ll make it clear we’ve been using PKK to spy on Iran and others.

      • radiofreewill says:

        I wonder if all the immoral volatility in the dump will add-up to a conclusion that the US – fundamentally – doesn’t understand the tribal/ethnic basis of pan-Islamic culture?

        I wonder if it will seem obvious that Westerners, and their governmental styles, will always be ‘out-siders’ in the Middle East and Central Asia?

        I wonder if it will occur to us that if we promise to leave them alone, then they’ll likewise promise to leave us alone, too?

        Would we trade Hegemony for Peace?

  2. emptywheel says:

    Actually, come to think of it, details of Karzai’s corruption sounds like precisely the kind of thing the UK directive would be about. Because to the govt details about that would be damaging for their plan to stay in Afghanistan for 4 more years. But from the Guardian’s perspective, it would have nothing to do with the safety of Brits, and even less to do with British national security.

  3. emptywheel says:

    This has some interesting detail about what the dump will include:

    As well as political commentary, US officials fear that the leaked papers could reveal details of intelligence-sharing arrangements, counter-terrorism operations and other highly sensitive aspects of American foreign policy.

    As part of preparations for a “worst-case scenario”, US diplomats have privately briefed governments in countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Turkey about the likely revelations. Australian and Canadian officials have also been briefed.

  4. Jay Rosen says:

    Thanks, Marcy. It is odd. I’m betting this is more internal to the Brits than an internationally coordinated thing. The British government likes to think it can prevent the publication of secrets. I have been struck by how difficult it is for people raised on the system of national states and national press packs to understand what Wikileaks is: an international drop box made possible by the Internet. Or as I called it, the world’s first stateless news organization.

    • emptywheel says:

      Well, assuming the documents aren’t entirely redacted beyond use (I consider a lot of the Iraq ones to be), then it also raises the dilemma of competition from … us.

      NYT at first didn’t publish the real eye-popping bits in the latest dump. They did the Admin’s Iran-war mongering instead. But as the others published them, particularly the torture stories, NYT gave in.

      And I think al-Jazeera has a particularly interesting role here (they were among the advance group again, weren’t they), not least bc its readership is a significant part of whom the US and UK likely don’t want to read this stuff.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The D-notice would be a shot across the bow to the Guardian organization, its top management and shareholders, that the government, its permanent bureaucrats and political leaders, would look unkindly at the Guardian’s entire business if it publishes material it considers too incendiary. Actions it might take in response would not be limited in fact to taking action in anticipation of or in consequence of a publication the government considers over the top.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        It seems possible it relates to Iceland’s refusal to bail out lenders in favor of the economic well-being of its citizens, a choice it is impossible to imagine the US Congress making.

          • Tom in AZ says:

            Let’s hope so. That, and Sein Fenn (sp) winning an election in Ireland before the vote on the bailout will make for an interesting weekend.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I suspect our current establishment confuses hegemony with peace, in an Orwellian way that defines peace as continuing war, but one which it hopes will lead to hegemony.

  7. skdadl says:

    I notice that the Guardian’s two main competitors, the Telegraph and the Independent, have published their leaks on the leaks this evening; the Guardian remains silent. That, at least to me, means they’re getting ready.

    You know the NYT better than I do, and you know the focus on Iran. You also can’t have missed the NYT’s smear piece by John Burns, which they actually ran ahead of their own war logs coverage. Comparing their coverage just to the Guardian’s was so revealing, and then the Al-Jazeera TV clips I’ve seen are so much better than anything the North American press did.

    Maybe I’m putting too much faith in the Brits, but I think the last two or three years of High Court judges brushing off David Miliband and of inquiries into the war and hr abuses haven’t escaped people like the Guardian editors. I doubt they are impressed by the DA notices, or not very impressed. And besides, what will it matter? The stuff will all be online.

    Given that these are diplomatic cables, I’ve been assuming that, in Canada’s case, anyway, the interest will be in sneaky stuff about trade (the SPP, G8/20, etc), maybe mutual complicity in hr abuses (Khadr, Arar, but a whole long list of others), maybe arm-twisting about sending our forces to Afghanistan, maybe more complicity on laundering Afghan prisoners through Afghan police to your secret prisons, and then, if we’re really lucky, there could be some snide remarks about our polis, which we would all enjoy.

    It could be broader than that. I have no doubt that not only Harper but also Ignatieff (oppo leader, good friend of Sunstein) is/are dead keen to join in any perverse plans that Washington has for Pakistan, Iran, and who knows where else.

    Gee. So I started to tweet and I met all these nice Australians, and an Irish guy with a silver tongue, and a bunch of Germans and Swedes, and even a couple of Canucks and Merkins, and suddenly … one of them made the connection to EW. Sheesh. Small world. ;-)

    In case you haven’t seen it yet, WL Central is a totally unofficial site started up by supporters of WL, and there is a ton of good reference stuff to check out there. It’s only a couple of weeks old. I know that bmaz is just going to love it. ;-)

  8. rosalind says:

    ot: fed ex, when your lower level radioactive material absolutely has to get there overnight!

    A shipment of radioactive rods that went missing Thanksgiving Day was found Friday in Tennessee by the shipping company FedEx.

    Though the materials, used for medical equipment, posed little threat to the public, the misplaced shipment underscores the need to track low-hazard materials that could be used in small-scale terrorist attacks, experts say.

  9. Sharkbabe says:

    Of course this will make not a ripple in the USA bought media.

    America’s so gone it’s beyond laughable.

    Look forward to following any actual truth on Asia Times, Al Jaz english, Guardian etc.

    Btw do we have the Korea WW3 thing yet?

    • eCAHNomics says:

      Yesterday morning, at my sil’s, I read, for the first time in a long time, dead tree edition of NYT and several articles in NYer. Amazing how banal they’ve become. It was Wed NYT & it took them until well after the jump to revel that S. Korea was conducting massive military exercises in the area where N. Korea shelled, but never raised a Q about who might have been the provocateur vs. provocatee. Of course, N. Korea HAD to have been the former. Then George Packer managed to write 3 or more page review of W’s memoir. It was an excellent way to spend a couple of hours to have fresh ammo on why I never read corp media anymore.

  10. BearCountry says:

    I think that any of the countries now in Afghanistan will have a hard time staying there no matter what Wikileaks material says. I think that the economic pressure will be so great that a tipping point may come for any or all of the countries, which will put one or all into bankruptcy, not excluding the US.

    • eCAHNomics says:

      I’m not so sure about that. I’m impressed by how many have stayed for so long, with so little pressure from their citizens, despite all the problems you refer to.

      It seems to be a new model of permanent occupation. And Iraq too. Israel paved the way. Iran up next.

    • eCAHNomics says:

      Headline from your link

      Leak on Wikileaks release says documents classified secret, not ‘top secret’

      I’d guess the plain version of the diff between secret & top secret would be embarrassing vs. really embarrassing.

      • lsls says:

        Oh yeah, and not to be too concerned…cough, because Mike Allen says so too:

        “None of the documents are classified ‘Top Secret’, but only ‘Secret’ at the highest clssification rating. This was also confirmed by Politico’s White House correspondent Mike Allen on Twitter, quoting the US administration.”

        That is from the WL Central link in Skdadl’s link in an above comment. BTW, Skdadl notes that it has only been up a few weeks…and has been put up by friends of Wikileaks…


        I trust Skdadl. I don’t know for sure though who is going to control what is and what isn’t going to be put on that site…since they cite Allen, I dunno…

        • skdadl says:

          What that means, I believe, is that whoever the leaker was — and we don’t know (remember that — WL don’t know) — only had access to “Secret,” not “Top Secret,” so that’s all s/he could leak.

          So that means that some things just won’t be there. Search me: I don’t know what would be the difference between those two classifications, but probably a lot of what we would like to know.

          • lsls says:

            Right. Maybe Sibel Edmonds knows something about this… She mentioned Turkey…and corruption…and top leaders, etc. Not that she is the leaker who leaked the actual documents…just thinking out loud.

            • lsls says:

              “Of course, the sanction and legitimization of far reaching foreign influence and strongholds in the U.S., despite the many dire consequences endured by its citizens, is not limited to the government of Saudi Arabia. Numerous well-documented cases can be cited for others such as Turkey, Pakistan, and Israel, to name a few.” Sibel Edmonds


  11. Synoia says:

    which is basically a non-binding request on editors to brief the government before doing a story

    There is nothing non binding about a D Notice.

    The UK has no semblance whatever of a first amendment, no freedom of the press, and no non-partisan media (except possibly the BBC).

  12. mgloraine says:

    What’s to stop the Department of Fatherland Security (or other branches of the American Gestapo) from just blocking, sabotaging or otherwise shutting down the Wikileaks site? They can easily silence the NYT and any other American “news” outlet (“state secrets!!!”) and have demonstrated that they have no qualms about arbitrarily shutting down any other site they don’t like in the USA, and they have been planning to “legalize” the shutting down of non-US sites for any reason they choose.

      • marc5 says:

        Beat me to it ;-)

        The DHS/ICE “copyright” police actions are demonstrating and normalizing arbitrary Internet censorship at the whim of the US gov. Note that the officializing COICA legislation -currently & heroically delayed by Sen Wyden- was not even needed. Censor first, justify later, get forgiveness if absolutely necessary.

        The run-up to this next set of document disclosures by Wikileaks has certainly motivated a range of pre-emptive actions by the US and probably various others. That such pre-emptions might aim for the dominant news sources should not be surprising. And I expect there will be FULL compliance from every major US newspaper, radio and cable conglomerate (what is that, 5 phone calls?).

        Squelching the Internet distribution of Wikileaks material won’t be as comprehensive, but you can bet that the boundless resources of DHS can keep a purpose-minimal Great Firewall of America in place until the news-cycle passes.

        • lsls says:

          I would think that they would have found a way to move against Wikileaks before they had to call all of the world leaders to warn them. That is what seems strange to me.

            • marc5 says:

              Well the frontman, Julian Assange is Australian, but the WL organization is international. And their servers are presumably replicated and distributed globally as well. Interesting times.

          • marc5 says:

            Well, if this new release is as big as supposed, and includes lots of sensitive diplomatic backstory, there’s probably a strong incentive to pre-spin certain things and certain diplomatic partners. Heck, I’d be surprised if they did NOT do that sort of thing, Just In Case.

            • lsls says:

              Absolutely. I guess they can’t stop what comes out, but they’ll sure spin it of course. It will be really interesting to see what happens.

        • eCAHNomics says:

          The funny thing is that the preemptive actions are giving the leaks more publicity than they got the last couple of times. USG ignoring them seems to have been the best tactic for burying them so far.

  13. tremoluxman says:

    The governments are all pissed, not because it might endanger the lives of military personnel or reveal identities of intelligence operatives, but because it might expose the illegality of military and intelligence operations and embarrass the shit out of political leaders.

    It’s all about keeping the cock-roaches protected.

  14. TomThumb says:

    Could this possibly be the disinfectant that will stop warmongering shenanigans for the Obama-Petraeus administration, the same way that the NIE 2007 report on Iran nipped the neocons’ plans in the bud to invade Iran??

  15. TheOracle says:

    This follows on the heels of reports of torrent sites being shut down without notice, without any due process, including those that only do searches, that don’t have any alleged copyright-infringement material actually on their website, just links to other websites.

    So, what would stop these governments (UK, US, etc) from shutting down news websites (similar to what the Communist Chinese already do), blocking as much of the internet as possible to try to stop the spreading of information from Wikileaks, trying to “limit” the damage as they view it?

    I know, I know, they can’t possibly stop it, especially after Wikileaks took measures to not have this information cached in one place, but it looks like these governments are still trying to control the release, to limit the dissemination, targeting physical news organizations who have the Wikileaks documents in their possession, with a similar effort being made behind-the-scenes against internet sites and search engines no doubt, with these governments viewing these Wikileaks documents and the information contained therein as “copyrighted material.”

    IOW, there is a pattern here. How long will it be before anyone who downloads, links to, or publishes Wikileaks-released information on the internet ends up on some watchdog list (essentially an internet “no-fly” list), with their internet link being blocked or shut down, with them facing fines for daring to publish or reprint “copyrighted” government material?

  16. conradcelledge says:

    If Al Gore had not invented the intertoobz then none of this would be happening. We could all be quietly watching Bristol stomping on the stars and not have to be so angry.

    At each level the government is forced to take more extreme action, they awaken more sleeping sheep and further identify themselves for what they are and further reveal what they have done. The next level of oppression brings on the next level of resistance. Evil always loses, sometimes it just takes longer.