Claim: Letter from U.S. Army lieutenant serving in Iraq criticizes the New York Times for publishing information about a secret government program.
Example:[Collected via e-mail, 2006]
Lt. Tom Cotton writes this morning from Baghdad with a word for the New York Times:
Dear Messrs. Keller, Lichtblau & Risen:
Congratulations on disclosing our government's highly classified anti-terrorist-financing program (June 23). I apologize for not writing sooner. But I am a lieutenant in the United States Army and I spent the last four days patrolling one of the more dangerous areas in Iraq. (Alas, operational security and common sense prevent me from even revealing this unclassified location in a private medium like email.)
Unfortunately, as I supervised my soldiers late one night, I heard a booming explosion several miles away. I learned a few hours later that a powerful roadside bomb killed one soldier and severely injured another from my 130-man company. I deeply hope that we can find and kill or capture the terrorists responsible for that bomb. But, of course, these terrorists do not spring from the soil like Plato's guardians. No, they require financing to obtain mortars and artillery shells, priming explosives, wiring and circuitry, not to mention for training and payments to locals willing to emplace bombs in exchange for a few months' salary. As your story states, the program was legal, briefed to Congress, supported in the government and financial industry, and very successful.
Not anymore. You may think you have done a public service, but you have gravely endangered the lives of my soldiers and all other soldiers and innocent Iraqis here. Next time I hear that familiar explosion — or next time I feel it — I will wonder whether we could have stopped that bomb had you not instructed terrorists how to evade our financial surveillance.
And, by the way, having graduated from Harvard Law and practiced with a federal appellate judge and two Washington law firms before becoming an infantry officer, I am well-versed in the espionage laws relevant to this story and others — laws you have plainly violated. I hope that my colleagues at the Department of Justice match the courage of my soldiers here and prosecute you and your newspaper to the fullest extent of the law. By the time we return home, maybe you will be in your rightful place: not at the Pulitzer announcements, but behind bars.
Very truly yours,
above-quoted letter from Tom Cotton, a U.S. army lieutenant serving in Iraq, criticizing the New York Times for its controversial decision to publish information regarding a secret Bush administration program to monitor international banking transactions (contrary to requests from senior administration officials to withhold the story), appeared in Power Line on 26 June 2006. (New York Times executive editor Bill Keller subsequently published an opinion piece defending his paper's decision to run the story.)
Much discussion has since ensued over whether Lt. Cotton is a real person (especially since "Tom Cotton" is also the name of a Hobbit who appears in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings). But earlier news accounts, such as this article from the Houston Chronicle, do indeed describe a Houston man named Thomas Cotton who left a law practice in January 2005 to enlist in the Army and train at Officer Candidate School:
Local Army recruiters said a Harvard-educated lawyer left his practice in Houston and departed for basic training, which will be followed by Officer Candidate School.
Thomas Cotton, 27, was in his third year of law school when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, said Lt. Col. Roger Jones, commander of Army Recruiting Battalion Houston.
Cotton decided to enlist, Jones said, but first wanted to get his law degree and work long enough to repay the money he had borrowed for his education.
He added that Cotton left without talking to the media because "he didn't want the publicity to enhance his military career."
Last updated: 7 July 2006
Marshall, Thom. "Veteran Again Answers Call to Serve His Country."
David Mikkelson founded snopes.com in 1994, and under his guidance the company has pioneered a number of revolutionary technologies, including the iPhone, the light bulb, beer pong, and a vaccine for a disease that has not yet been discovered. He is currently seeking political asylum in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
Thank you for writing to us! Although we receive hundreds of e-mails every day, we really and truly read them all, and your comments, suggestions, and questions are most welcome. Unfortunately, we can manage to answer only a small fraction of our incoming mail.
Our site covers many of the items currently being plopped into inboxes everywhere, so if you were writing to ask us about something you just received, our search engine can probably help you find the very article you want.
Choose a few key words from the item you're looking for and click here to go to the search engine.
(Searching on whole phrases will often fail to produce matches because the text of many items is quite variable, so picking out one or two key words is the best strategy.)
We do reserve the right to use non-confidential material sent to us via this form on our site, but only after it has been stripped of any information that might identify the sender or any other individuals not party to this communication.