10/07/2013 09:51 am ET Updated Dec 07, 2013

Jill Abramson Defends NYT Leak Story: Government Said We'd Have 'Blood On Our Hands'

New York Times editor Jill Abramson defended her paper's handling of a controversial story about national security leaks during a conversation with New Yorker reporter Ken Auletta on Saturday.

The Times was criticized by its own public editor for the piece, which suggested that the leak of information about al Qaeda communications had harmed national security, and, to many, seemed to accuse the McClatchy news service of irresponsibly publishing the information. The Times, in contrast, withheld some details about the al Qaeda leaders who were being tracked by the U.S.

The public editor, Margaret Sullivan, called the premise of the story "questionable" and the paper's headline "unacceptable."

According to Politico, Abramson told Auletta that Sullivan was "wrong," adding that government officials had told Times editors that the paper would have "blood on our hands" if it published more information.

Speaking of McClatchy, she said, "I don’t know that they were wrong to publish. What I was told was they had obtained information in Yemen and they had not gone to the government for comment. I don’t know whether that’s true or not. So I assume it’s possible that they never were pressured or they never got a request from the government."

In fact, McClatchy's Washington bureau chief James Asher told HuffPost's Michael Calderone that the government had not raised any objections to its story, saying, "So far, the U.S. government has not contacted us about our initial story to raise any concerns or to ask us about our sourcing."



New York Times