A Matter of Trust

Via Brin, via NPR, the Washington Post reports about how Afghan military contracts were ending up going to insurgents, and how they're doing better about it.

Now, color me skeptical, but hopeful, about whether all that is true. But what I really wanted to highlight is this:
“I think we’ve finally got our arms around this thing,” said a senior military officer who was authorized to discuss the matter only on the condition of anonymity.

What I want to focus on is this little nugget at the end: [he] was authorized to discuss the matter only on the condition of anonymity.

Why the hell does anyone need authorization to speak anonymously? It speaks to fundamental dishonesty somewhere along the way. We're talking about someone giving the official line, but being told to do so under cover of darkness. The military is not standing by this statement. It's just being thrown out there, hoping that it makes people feel better. Given that it's being reported, I suppose it is probably doing that, too.

Let's remember, too, that the Post has guidelines for when to grant anonymity, and is supposed to tell us why that source is credible if the source must remain confidential. Those guidelines are not available to the public, but there's some discussion about them here. I'm trying to find where I found more discussion (I'm pretty sure it was on Glenn Greenwald's blog some time back), but haven't found it yet. In any event, this goes against everything I remember about those guidelines. You might note, too, that this isn't in some half-hidden blog at the Post, it's in their foreign policy section.

This is one of the news outlets that's supposed to always be on the ball about verifying facts, and not putting out half-baked information. This sounds decidedly half-baked.

And really, why should we give any credence to what this person is saying?

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