The British Defense Ministry withdrew Prince Harry from Afghanistan after the Drudge Report publicized a report in an Australian women’s magazine that he had been fighting there for 10 weeks. The British press knew, and had interviewed Harry on the front lines, but agreed to keep his presence secret so he wouldn’t be targeted by the Taliban and al Qaida. (BBC News)
What was Matt Drudge thinking? said Logan Murphy in the blog Crooks and Liars. He revealed Harry’s location, “endangering” him and his comrades, all because he thought “he had an exclusive.” Scoops are wonderful, but they’re not worth putting people “in harm’s way.”
Come now, said Frank James in Tribune’s The Swamp blog. The people who put others in harm’s way were the ones in the British Defense Ministry who sent “the world's most famous 23-year old soldier” to Afghanistan, where “he would prove a very tempting target for the Taliban and al Qaida.” His nickname in his own unit was “Bullet Magnet,” which tells you something about whether others in the military thought his presence put other coalition soldiers, including Americans, at risk.
This news has rekindled a debate in the U.K. over whether the third in line for the throne should be “risking his life in war,” said Kevin Sullivan in The Washington Post (free registration). “The most startling disclosure,” however, “was not that Harry finally got his wish to see combat, but that Britain's famously feisty media agreed, en masse, to keep quiet about it.” The question is whether the secret deal to keep quiet will damage the media’s credibility.
“For me it was a straight up and down no-brainer,” said Mick Smith in the London Times. “We were collecting the story, we were going to report it—if anything rather too excessively—once he came out and no-one was going to die unnecessarily because we reported it while he was there.”
“The level of complicity behind the deal is fascinating,” said Mark Sweney in a London Guardian blog. Prince Harry’s homecoming was “likely to be timed for a Friday so that TV, daily and weekend newspapers could all get their slice of the story,” a “carrot” necessary to silence anyone “tempted” to spill the beans to keep from getting scooped. Even after Drudge blew Harry’s cover, British newspapers dutifully waited for permission from the Ministry of Defense before reporting the story. It’s hard to believe anyone thought Harry’s deployment could be kept secret long in the Internet age of instant news.