Over 67 years, Associated Press has changed its tune dramatically on reporting military operations
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At 2:41 a.m. on May 7, 1945, Associated Press reporter Ed Kennedy was one of 17 reporters invited to witness as the Germans surrendered at Reims, ending World War II.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Harry Truman, however, had instructed military censors to make sure the reporters agreed to hold the news, to give Josef Stalin time to stage a second surrender in Berlin. In a hastily-arranged plane-ride over France, the 17 pledged to do so before a U.S. general. They'd wait until Allied Headquarters gave them the go-ahead, a few hours, they estimated. But the hours grew to 36, and Kennedy was upset.
[At] 2:03 p.m., the surrender was announced by German officials via a radio broadcast from Flensburg, a city already in Allied hands. That meant, Kennedy knew, that the transmission had been authorized by the same military censors gagging the press.
Furious, Kennedy went to see the chief American censor and told him there was no way he could continue to hold the story. Word was out. The military had broken its side of the pact by allowing the Germans to announce the surrender. And there were no military secrets at stake.
The censor waved him off. Kennedy thought about it for 15 minutes, and then acted.
He scooped the other 16, for which he was promptly fired; 67 years later, the retiring A.P. president and C.E.O. Tom Curley apologized. He is also the writer of an introduction to a new version of Kennedy's World War II memoirs, Ed Kennedy's War: V-E Day, Censorship & The Associated Press.
These days the A.P. is again coming under fire for its reporting on sensitive military operations. This time, it was a joint operation by Saudi intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency to use a double agent to infiltrate al Qaeda in Yemen and become involved in a plot to use a new underwear bomb to blow up an American plane to mark the anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden. The New York Times reports:
American intelligence officials were angry about the disclosure of the Qaeda plot, first reported Monday by The Associated Press, which had held the story for several days at the request of the C.I.A. They feared the leak would discourage foreign intelligence services from cooperating with the United States on risky missions in the future, said Representative Peter T. King, a New York Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
A.P. hasn't talked yet at length about the case, but two of the lead reporters in the developing "Frighty Whities" story, who are part of the wire service's Washington investigative unit, have clashed with King and with security interests before.
Their extensive reporting on the surveillance of local Muslims by the New York Police Department earned them a Pulitzer, and a rebuke from the Congressman, back in early March, who said, "Virtually everything they've said has been one-sided."
At the time, A.P. director of media relations Paul Colford wrote a note to Capital's Azi Paybarah responding to the criticism their stories had received in the press and specifically from King.
"The AP’s job is to provide information so that the public can judge its value and respond accordingly. That is how a democracy works. We are proud of our coverage," he wrote.
So, 67 years later, a very different A.P.
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