(Anne Louise Bardach, author of The Prison Letters of Fidel Castro)
Yesterday was a frustrating day for me. I had the opportunity, thanks to another of the significant think tanks in town, to pose a question to one of the more important international diplomats of the moment.
I asked this diplomat to make clear something that the neocons have alleged was a fabrication by a European government. I asked the question very carefully and asked it in front of about 300 people. The meeting was “entirely off the record.”
The diplomat who responded before people like Helene Cooper of the New York Times and Jim Hoagland and Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post in the audience said some extremely interesting things. I connected with the diplomat later and tried to lift the veil on the “off the record” commentary — without success.
Now, I know something that is extremely important about the conduct of American foreign policy and cannot report it. Helene Cooper actually chased me out of the room to ask what I was going to do with the info — and we were both flummoxed — realizing we were stuck but fearing someone else might scoop us in reporting the info that came after a question I posed.
I understand the realities here, and I won’t write this up unless I find independent confirmation of what I learned. I have thoughts on how that might be possible.
But all this stuff about journalistic propriety came up yesterday as well on a second front when I hosted a meeting for the Cuba-diva herself, Anne Louise Bardach, who spoke both about her new book, The Prison Letters of Fidel Castro, but who gave a talk at the New America Foundation I chaired and co-hosted with The Nation Institute titled “Cuba, Castro, and What Comes Next?”
Bardach was terrific — but she’s been trying to connect to an anonymous source of mine for some years — and that source has not been cooperative. I’ve lived up to my commitment to this person, who happens to be a soldier, but it’s clear that Bardach would be an excellent person to run further with some information related to Cuba than what I have written.
Blogging is different than journalism — but there are norms and best practices that I think serious bloggers need to live up to. The blog has grown so much and is read so widely among Washington types that I consider this both my own sandbox for oped-style commentary, but it is also a place that breaks some news. So, I have to maintain an approximation of journalistic standards.
I realize that this is a disappointing post. Perhaps you’ll get a sense, however, as to how I feel sitting on some of the most interesting foreign policy information out there and am completely unable to write about it. ARGHH!
— Steve Clemons