The Times on McCarthy

(Note: Andrew McCarthy explains the change in his view of terror trials in the 1990s which the Times article on him failed to explain.)

The February 19 New York Times has a profile of Andrew McCarthy, the former federal prosecutor of terrorists who now staunchly opposes federal civilian prosecution of terrorists. The piece is written in the manner in which you would expect the New York Times to write about Andrew McCarthy.

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Brad C. writes:

I’m glad you mentioned this piece. I was intrigued by the topic and read the whole story the first day it ran. I could not believe how uninformative and badly written it was. The story entices you with a “conversion” narrative. I genuinely wanted to know why a former successful prosecutor of terrorists in civilian courts was now arguing for the use of military courts. Were there any experiences McCarthy had as a prosecutor that led him to rethink the process of trying accused terrorists in civilian courts? Did he change his mind as a result of new cases of terrorism that were unlike the ones he prosecuted? What, in short, led to his conversion on this issue? The Times’ silence is deafening.

What is shocking to me is not how partisan the story is (it is also that), but how uninformative it is. It’s just not good journalism. It does not answer the basic “why?” question that the story raises. It doesn’t even attempt to answer this question. Instead, it merely quotes McCarthy as saying that he is against using civilian courts before going on to quote irrelevant jabs by his opponents (‘Is he running for office, or does he want a show on Fox?’). Aren’t Times reporters supposed to be exemplars of journalism?

LA replies:

Of course they are not to supposed to be exemplars of journalism, at least when it comes to writing about non-liberals. At the Times, no non-liberal view can ever shown as proceeding from a good-faith, reasoned position; it can only be shown as coming from bad, reactive, irrational, or insincere motives. The Times rigorously blocks out the possibility that conservative views may be reasonable.

Also, I suggest you send a version of your e-mail to Times reporter Benjamin Weiser. Reporters’ e-mails are usually included in the print version of articles. But based on the Times’ conventions, his address is probably or

February 24

Andrew McCarthy writes:

Many thanks, Larry.

I think the concept the reporter had was to write a much longer piece but it got cut short by his editors. In any event, I did share with him the evolution in my thinking over many years time, and explain that it was mostly a matter of actually prosecuting one of these cases (from 1993 through 1995) and being taken aback by (a) how much national defense information the due process rules require the government to disclose in these cases, and (b) how at odds are the job of being a prosecutor (which incents you to plead a case broadly to make sure all your evidence is admissible) and being an executive branch officer responsible for national security (which incents you to plead the case narrowly because the more broadly a case is framed the more discovery the law requires).

As the reporter noted, my thinking on this had changed pretty drastically by 1998, when I wrote the essay for the Weekly Standard.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 22, 2010 01:19 PM | Send

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