12/16/2005 01:58 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Spy Story: Five Questions for the New York Times

Today the New York Times revealed that the Bush Administration used the NSA to spy on Americans and others in the U.S. If the facts as presented in the Times are true, this seems to have been a large-scale illegal operation. We'll be learning more about this operation in the days and weeks to come -- hopefully.

These lines from the Times piece are particularly interesting, however:

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting.

Let's see, it's now December of 2005. So here are a few questions the Times should be prepared to answer:

1) Does that "one year delay" mean that the article would have been published in December 2004 -- or earlier?

2) Specifically, were you aware of the existence of a large-scale domestic spying operation prior to the 2004 elections -- and did you suppress the story before then?

3) Do you consider it appropriate for a newspaper to conceal evidence of potentially illegal government activity for a year? If so, under what grounds?

4) Which officials in the Administration asked you to delay publication of this story?

The reputation of the Times has been understandably sullied by the Judith Miller incident, and by its apparent willingness to be used as a dissemination instrument for false stories that helped lead us into war. it needs to act quickly to defend its credibility in this story.

Which leads us to our final question:

5) Will the New York Times conduct a public investigation of its decision to delay publication, so it can demonstrate to its readers than the decision was genuinely based on national security -- and not just another case of press manipulation for political purposes?

A Night Light