Their problem is in characterizing the 'doubt' in the specific instance they are defending. This is really all they offer:
Keller has characterized the decision to publish the information as a "close call,"That's it.
Keller asserts it was a close call? And that's that? (Keller himself has done no better in defending himself.)
Well, they say:
We believe that in the case of a close call, the press should publish when editors are convinced that more damage will be done to our democratic society by keeping information away from the American people than by leveling with them.The deans are speaking in generalities again. How do I benefit from knowing the details about this program? What difference does it make to me, as a citizen, exactly? If, as Keller shouted, the SWIFT program was already common knowledge, what more do I gain by learning the details?
The bottom line is that the program was successful and legal. And all that's left is the fact that the details were secret and the possibility that revealing the details will harm the program and help terrorists and their backers. How is revealing the details leveling with us? Is it worth the risk in a "close call" if the government did nothing wrong?
And here we get to the thinking behind the deans and Keller. Bush keeps secrets!
In the aftermath of 9/11, a new climate of caution was a sensible response to a sophisticated terrorist foe. But Bush's reaction -- declaring a "war on terror" and claiming the Constitution grants almost limitless powers to the president in a time of war -- is excessive. His administration has been aggressively restricting access to information on the grounds of national security.So there you have it. The entire justification for Keller's decision. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the details of this program, or the harm in revealing those details, or the legality or success of this particular program. It didn't even have to be a "close call". It's just that, on general principles, they disagree with Bush's policies which they feel give him too much power, therefore they claim it is their responsibility to spill every single bean.
Well, I personally think the bean fart is on them. The American public does not believe their interests were served by The New York Times revealing the details of a legal, successful, program. Especially since, even it weren't a war, this program would still be necessary and secret to help law enforcement. Even if Bush didn't exist!
That civics lesson should have included the part about trust in our institutions. Years ago a president violated the peoples' trust in the Presidency and now Keller has violated the trust in the institution of Journalism.
Do I dare say it? Keller is the Nixon of the Press.