Of course, to litigate a case for Barstow is to understand how the people on the other side of his reporting must feel. He doesn’t stop asking. He always believes that one more e-mail, one more letter, one more phone call to the AUSA might do the trick.

So week after week, I kept writing and calling. (Pity the poor AUSA. She had friends at the Times, and when the Times’s general number showed up on her caller I.D., she could never be sure whether it was one of them or me. Again. I could hear the disappointment every time she guessed wrong.)

But by April of 2008, I had pretty much hit the wall. We had received lots of documents, but we were owed more. The government had just written a letter to the court asking for additional time. I decided to let it go. If the judge wanted to give Defense more time, so be it.

That afternoon, the producers developing the web version of David’s story came to show me what they were working on. As a video of the story unfolded, viewers could click on links that would take them directly to the documents being discussed. It tapped into the power not just of the Internet but of the documents themselves to tell an important story to readers.

In the midst of that meeting, Judge Sullivan’s clerk called and wanted to know whether I intended to send a response to the government’s letter. I told him the letter would be there in an hour. “If DOD is unable to review and produce responsive documents in time to meet a Court-ordered deadline, it is an emergency solely of DOD’s own making,” I wrote. I asked the court to order Defense to produce the documents “forthwith,” even though I wasn’t quite sure what that meant.

I learned quickly. Judge Sullivan read my letter and scheduled a hearing for the next day. It was there he issued his “last chance, no more extensions, don’t care what the reasons are” order.

David E. McCraw is a vice president and assistant general counsel for The New York Times Company.