Buzzfeed has the story of how Brave, brave Sir Barack – the man who single-handedly killed Osama bin Laden with his own bare hands – and his media minstrels labored today to kill the story about his trip to Afghanistan:
Shortly before 9:19 a.m. this morning the Afghanistan-based 24-hour broadcast news station TOLONews tweeted that President Barack Obama had landed in Afghanistan.
The surprise trip was a closely guarded secret, kept by White House officials and members of the White House press corps — as is customary with presidential trips to war zones. It coincides with the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, and according to the White House pool report, Obama is expected to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Obama’s schedule for today included a handful of routine meetings in the Oval Office, and no hint of the journey.
The TOLONews tweet was spotted by Huffington Post reporter Joshua Hersh, who wondered “Is this right?” setting in motion a frantic effort by the White House to keep word of Obama’s trip out of the press until he was out of harm’s way.
The scramble by the White House national security team was last seen after Agence France Press reported that Malia Obama was vacationing in Mexico with friends. The rapid response also reflects the longsanding sense inside the White House that they can’t give up an inch to the press on security issues, or else no one will think twice the next time around.
In a tweet moments later, this reporter noted the TOLONews report and that no U.S.-based outlet was reporting the same.
A few minutes later, at 9:33, National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor called BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, who had retweeted the report, to ask that the tweet be taken down, warning that it would endanger the life of the president and everyone with him if the tweet was not removed.
“Like most news organizations, we will typically defer to the White House’s judgment on true security risks,” Smith said, explaining why BuzzFeed complied with the request. “In this case, we had no original reporting on the subject, and it didn’t seem like right moment to have an abstract argument about the contemporary media ecosystem, though I think it’s getting harder and harder to unring these bells.”
Reminds me of a song I once heard…