The FBI did something unusual: it was so concerned by two men who seemed to be casing the Seattle Ferry system that it asked for the public’s assistance. To that end, it asked the media to publish a picture taken, not by covert FBI surveillance, but by a ferry employee. The photograph shows the two men standing in open air, in public, side by side on ship’s deck.
Then, a funny thing happened. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which claims to be a major newspaper, refused to publish the photos:
The FBI is asking the public for help in identifying two men who were seen behaving unusually aboard several Washington state ferries.
About four weeks ago, the FBI fielded several reports from passengers and ferry workers about the men, who seemed “overly interested in the workings and layouts of the ferries,” Special Agent Robbie Burroughs said Monday.
The FBI also publicized photos of the men, which were taken by a ferry employee, Burroughs said.
The Seattle P-I is not publishing the photos because neither man is considered a suspect nor has either been charged with a crime.
It doesn’t take a genius IQ to recognize that this explanation is a load of bollocks. There is no invasion of privacy in publishing a photograph of people taken in open air. Also, the Seattle PI makes much of the fact that these men haven’t been charged with anything. But the point is that we all know that. They’re not being publicly defamed as in “these men are wanted on suspicion of terrorism.” The FBI freely admits that these men may be wanted for nothing at all — but also points out that these same men have been spotted repeatedly engaged in suspicious behavior, behavior made all the more suspicious by the fact that the Seattle Ferry system has already once been the subject of terrorist reconnaissance.
Of course, if you’re a newspaper that has taken an untenable stand, you have to take steps to distract attention from your silliness. The Seattle PI opted to request reader haikus, apparently thinking that the best way to engage the public in a discussion about security and civil rights. Michelle Malkin has reprinted some of the best ones:
Paper fails duty.
Seattle P I
Is a joke to sane people
God help Seattle
a magical place,
where 9/11 never
PI wants Haiku
To justify its dumbness
Malkin invites more, as do I. I’ve no knack for haiku, but this is my effort:
Two lads sightseeing.
Learning ship from stem to stern.
P I covers eyes.
I have absolutely no doubt but that you can do better than I just did.
UPDATE: According to David Klinghoffer, we shouldn’t be in the least surprised by the Seattle P I’s approach to this issue. It’s thinking is entirely in keeping with the neighborhood in which it lives.
Filed under: Media matters