It is exceedingly rare for The Times to grant anonymity to a writer on its Op-Ed pages, and the paper could cite only a handful of previous cases. But James Dao, the paper’s Op-Ed editor, said in an interview that the material in the essay was important enough to the public interest to merit an exception.
“This was a very strongly, clearly written piece by someone who was staking out what we felt was a very principled position that deserved an airing,” Mr. Dao said.
...Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman, responded: “We are incredibly proud to have published this piece, which adds significant value to the public’s understanding of what is going on in the Trump administration from someone who is in a position to know.”
The Op-Ed article was submitted to Times opinion editors last week through an intermediary, Mr. Dao said. “It was clear early on that the writer wanted anonymity, but we didn’t grant anything until we read it and we were confident that they were who they said they were,” he said.
Critics, however, believe that by protecting the anonymity of the source, the Times is facilitating the undermining of our government and shirking the paper's civic responsibility to tell the truth.
The Times, however, does know who the person is, which also changes the position the newspaper occupies in this democracy. The Op-Ed section is separate from the news operation, but, in protecting the identity of the person who wrote the Op-Ed, the paper forfeits the job of holding power to account. An anonymous Op-Ed is a very rare thing. The editors at the Times faced a tough choice. They evidently concluded that the information contained in the piece was important enough to justify sidestepping normal journalistic practices and principles. I don’t doubt the editors’ serious intentions, though I happen to disagree—the content of the Op-Ed does not strike me as newsworthy. But that’s not the point. The thing about autocracies, or budding autocracies, is that they present citizens with only bad choices. At a certain point, one has to stop trying to find the right solution and has to look, instead, for a course of action that avoids complicity. By publishing the anonymous Op-Ed, the Times became complicit in its own corruption.