NYT defends publishing information on whistleblower

The New York Times on Thursday defended the paper's decision to disclose key details about the whistleblower whose complaint against President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE has sparked an impeachment inquiry.

In a note published Thursday afternoon, the Times said it was aware of criticism of its decision to include what detractors have said could serve as identifying details and make the person a target for retaliation.

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The newspaper wrote that it took the concerns to executive editor Dean Baquet, who argued that the information — including the fact that the whistleblower is allegedly a CIA officer — was necessary context to allow readers to draw conclusions about the whistleblower's reliability.

"The president and some of his supporters have attacked the credibility of the whistle-blower, who has presented information that has touched off a landmark impeachment proceeding. The president himself has called the whistle-blower’s account a 'political hack job,'" Baquet said.

"We decided to publish limited information about the whistle-blower — including the fact that he works for a nonpolitical agency and that his complaint is based on an intimate knowledge and understanding of the White House — because we wanted to provide information to readers that allows them to make their own judgments about whether or not he is credible," he added, according to the Times.

Baquet offered a similar justification in a statement tweeted by the Times earlier Thursday.

"The role of the whistle-blower, including his credibility and his place in the government, is essential to understanding one of the most important issues facing the country – whether the president of the United States abused power and whether the White House covered it up,” Baquet said.

The decision to publish the information was sharply criticized Thursday afternoon, with critics saying the information could expose the whistleblower to retaliation, particularly in the wake of a recording of Trump privately saying the official who gave the whistleblower information was “close to a spy” and expressing nostalgia for “what we used to do in the old days.”

Others noted that the Times included far less identifying information when it published an anonymous op-ed by a White House employee who claimed they and others within the executive branch were subtly undermining Trump.