Karzai’s About-Face in the NYT

On Tuesday, a New York Times front page story, “Leaks Add to Pressure on White House Over Strategy,” followed up on reactions to the publication by WikiLeaks of 92,000 classified U.S. military documents pertaining to the war in Afghanistan. Towards the end of the article, a reporter sought a response from Afghan president Hamid Karzai:

While Pakistani officials protested, a spokesman for the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, said that Mr. Karzai was not upset by the documents and did not believe the picture they painted was unfair.

Speaking after a news conference in Kabul, Mr. Karzai’s spokesman, Waheed Omar, was asked whether there was anything in the leaked documents that angered Mr. Karzai or that he thought unfair. “No, I don’t think so,” Mr. Omar said.

Today, another Times front pager told a different story. “U.S. Military Scrutinizes Leaks for Risks to Afghans” contains a reaction from Karzai fairly high in the article:

Speaking in Kabul on Thursday, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, called the disclosure of the names of Afghans who had cooperated with NATO and American forces “extremely irresponsible and shocking.”

“Whether those individuals acted legitimately or illegitimately in providing information to the NATO forces, their lives will be in danger now,” said Mr. Karzai, who spoke at a press conference just after he said he discussed the issue with his advisors. “Therefore we consider that extremely irresponsible and an act that one cannot overlook.”

What are we to make of this? We can think of at least three reasons for the discrepancy: either President Karzai changed his official position on the leaks over the course of two days, or the spokesman the Times interviewed for the first article was simply uninformed, or the spokesman misunderstood the reporter’s question. Anything we’re missing?

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Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner