Mickey Kaus is tearing into Carl Bernstein for his hypocritical comments on the News of the World hacking scandal, noting that Bernstein used the 1970’s equivalent of phone hacking to crack the Watergate scandal, using connections at the phone company to access phone private records, as well as obtaining private credit card records:
Bernstein had several sources in the Bell system. He was always reluctant to use them to get information about calls because of the ethical questions involved in breaching the confidentiality of a person’s telephone records. It was a problem he had never resolved in his mind. Why, as a reporter, was he entitled to have access to personal and financial records when such disclosure would outrage him if he were subjected to a similar inquiry by investigators?
Without dwelling on his problem, Bernstein called a telephone company source and asked for a list of Barker’s calls. That afternoon, his contact called back and confirmed that the calls listed in the Times had been made. But, he added, he could not get a fuller listing because Barker’s phone records had been subpoenaed by the Miami district attorney.
Even in his latest piece attacking Murdoch, Bernstein confesses that:
…I obtained private telephone and credit-card records of one of the Watergate figures.
But Bernstein is far from alone in his hypocrisy. Many in the media were quite supportive of WikiLeaks, which obtained information illegally that, like Watergate, they apparently believed was used for ends that justified the means. How many journalists supported WikiLeaks or Woodward and Bernstein, but yet treat the News of the World’s actions as a scandal of epic proportions instead of a dog bites man tale of tabloid reporters doing shady and even reprehensible things to get a story?
Might the political implications of these various scandals explain the difference?
EDIT: In the comments, Awing1 notes that Bradley Manning was the one in the WikiLeaks matter who broke the law to get a story, whereas it is less clear whether or not WikiLeaks itself did in publishing material originally gathered illegally. Fair enough. There is a high degree of overlap between Manning backers and WikiLeaks backers anyway. Yes, you could say that those who condemn Manning BUT not WikiLeaks AND take the stand that it is only unacceptable for reporters arrange the hacking themselves might not be hypocrites to condemn News of the World. Thanks Awing1 for giving me the opportunity to be more precise in my wording.”