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ABC News Comes Under Fire For Iran Report

(AP / CBS)
Last night, the lead story on ABC's "World News" was an exclusive report on how the "CIA has received secret presidential approval to mount a covert 'black' operation to destabilize the Iranian government." You can read about it here, and watch it here. Then again, maybe you shouldn't. According to many of the commenters at ABC News' "The Blotter" – around 1,500 at last count – running the report was "traitorous" because it revealed a secret U.S. government action.

Bloggers are all over the story as well: As Lynn Davidson at Newsbusters sarcastically put it, "[w]hy should a country go to the effort of spying on Americans when all they have to do is follow the US media?" She compares this story to one in the New York Times exposing the SWIFT banking transaction database and another in USA Today about an NSA phone call database, both of which came under criticism from those who felt that the programs should not have been made public.

Here's a typical comment attached to the ABC News story: "I can't believe you would report something like this! You should be ashamed of yourselves. Whatever happened to country first? Someone should be thrown in jail. It is irresponsible for news agencies in the time of war to put people's lives in danger!" And that's one of the nicer ones.

Presidential candidates are also getting in on the anti-ABC action. As "The Blotter" itself notes, Tom Tancredo and Mitt Romney criticized the report, with Romney saying he was "shocked to see the ABC News report regarding covert action in Iran."

More Mitt: "The reporting has the potential of jeopardizing our national security. To put it quite plainly, it has the potential of affecting human life, we may never know."

Here's what ABC News said in a statement:
In the six days since we first contacted the CIA and the White House, at no time did they indicate that broadcasting this report would jeopardize lives or operations on the ground. ABC News management gave them the repeated opportunity to make whatever objection they wanted to regarding our report. They chose not to.
It's still too soon to see if this is going to develop into a full blown debate about Journalism Ethics – it depends in large part on whether the White House or CIA suggest that ABC News acted improperly and/or dispute ABC News' account of the interaction over the story. But the Romney comments suggest that this one has a decent chance of making waves beyond the blogosphere.