(Hint: The sources were given anonymity because . . . they asked for it.
"The sources would only allow us to use the material on condition of anonymity," Post National Security editor Cameron Barr told Yahoo! News.
I'm sure that clears things up for everyone. The sources, with or without anonymity, were necessary for ABC and WaPo to circulate accusations that would been even thinner still without them, so the deal was struck.)
The Post published the entire fact-checking email between Rolling Stone and McChrystal's now-former press aide online, coincidentally just hours after a Washington Post blogger resigned following a media controversy over the publication of supposedly private emails.
But here's what seems, to me, to go to the heart of the problem (emphasis added):
But even though the news organizations did their diligence in getting both sides, there's a rather glaring irony in other press outlets relying solely on anonymous sources for a story about sourcing. While Rolling Stone defended itself against the charges, the magazine doesn’t get the benefit of knowing who's actually making such charges.
In addition to anonymous officials making allegations against Hastings, criticism has come from another reporter who’s spent considerable time on the front lines: CBS chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan. Logan, Sunday on CNN’s "Reliable Sources," suggested — based on her assumptions, not with any actual evidence — that Hastings must have acted unethically in publishing some caustic quotes from McChrystal and his aides aimed at the civilian leadership, including President Obama.
"It's hard to know — Michael Hastings, if you believe him, says that there were no ground rules laid out," Logan said. "And, I mean, that just doesn't really make a lot of sense to me, because if you look at the people around Gen. McChrystal, if you look at his history, he was the Joint Special Operations commander. He has a history of not interacting with the media at all." (The Economist reported otherwise on Friday, noting that McChrystal regularly spoke to the press and did so with notable candor.)
Logan, who married a State Department contractor she met while covering the Iraq War, also made a comment suggesting that the Rolling Stone scribe should not have reported as aggressively on the military leadership in Afghanistan. "I mean, the question is, really, is what Gen. McChrystal and his aides are doing so egregious, that they deserved to end a career like McChrystal's?" Logan asked. "I mean, Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has."
Nice touch, there at the end -- "Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has" -- isn't it?
Well, no, strictly speaking, he hasn't served his country quite the way McChrystal has. But he has served it in a very important way all the same -- in a way so important, in fact, that it's been enshrined in its very own Amendment. Surprising (and disappointing) that Logan needs to be reminded of that.
And yet -- although I could be wrong -- I'll bet that, when he reaches age 56, Hastings won't retire with the pension and benefits of a three-star general, either.
Logan's suggestion that it's Hastings whose ethics are somehow compromised would be laughable if the stakes weren't so high.