NYT Quietly Tweaks Blistering Obama Criticism

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 7 2013 9:42 AM

The New York Times' Small But Significant Change to Its Blistering Obama Criticism

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The New York Times building is seen on November 29, 2006 in New York City

Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

The New York Times got everyone's attention yesterday afternoon when the paper's editorial board went live with a blistering op-ed that unloaded on the Obama administration in the wake of the NSA news of the day. Here's the section in question that got everyone's attention, including mine:

"... the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights. Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability. The administration has now lost all credibility. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the 9/11 attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers."
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After that "lost all credibility" line spread like wildfire on Twitter and around the Web, the Times brass apparently had second thoughts on its word choice. The version that's now live, and the one that appeared in this morning's paper, includes a small but significant change:

"... the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights. Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability. The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it."

As of this morning, there's no note to readers informing readers of the change. It's three small words, but they make a world of difference. (The editors also appear to have updated the original version to include a few lines about yesterday's late-breaking news PRISM news, although that's a much more common practice in the world of journalism.)

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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