In an example of the kind of cooperation with sources a New York Times editor encouraged reporters to "push back" against earlier this summer, Times reporter Mark Mazzetti shared a Maureen Dowd column with the CIA to assuage concerns before its publication. An email from Mazzetti, a security correspondent, surfaced in a sheaf of documents requested by the conservative watchdog Judicial Watch about meetings between the agency and the makers of the film Zero Dark Thirty, about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Judicial watch's Freedom of Information Act request, the contents of which it released on Tuesday, turned up the email from Mazzetti, which indcluded a pre-publication copy of Dowd's Aug. 6, 2011 column along with this note: "This didn't come from me....and please delete after you read. See, nothing to worry about."
That goes beyond allowing a source to approve a quote, requests for which The Times has said it "encourages its reporters to push back." Politico's Dylan Byers, who was one of the first to point out the email amid Judicial Watch's findings, points out that Dowd's column contained this line: "It was clear that the White House had outsourced the job of manning up the president’s image to Hollywood," which is the same in the pre-publication version. It also contains this sentence, the same in both versions, which pertains to the CIA's concerns about filmmakers' access going public: "The moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history from an administration that has tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration." We've reached out to The Times for comment, and will update this when the paper responds.
Update (4:24 p.m. EDT): The Times sent the following statement via email, saying Mazzetti's sharing the column with Dowd was "not consistent with New York Times standards":
Last August, Maureen Dowd asked Mark Mazzetti to help check a fact for her column. In the course of doing so, he sent the entire column to a CIA spokeswoman shortly before her deadline. He did this without the knowledge of Ms. Dowd. This action was a mistake that is not consistent with New York Times standards.
Update (12:53 p.m. EDT): Byers has updated with a comment from Times managing editor for news Dean Baquet, who declined to provide details, but said the story-sharing issue was "much ado about nothing" Via Politico:
"I know the circumstances, and if you knew everything that'd going on, you'd know it's much ado about nothing," Baquet said. "I can't go into in detail. But I'm confident after talking to Mark that it's much ado about nothing."
"The optics aren't what they look like," he went on. "I've talked to Mark, I know the cirucmstance, and given what I know, it's much ado about nothing."