Why did the New York Times change its Bout story? UPDATE Clarification
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Why did the New York Times change its Bout story? UPDATE Clarification

UPDATE: From what BP understands the original story, with mention of the royal connection, was online all of Friday where it was overtaken by the NYT’s Saturday print story (i.e the web version of the story was then replaced by the print version but the URL remained the same). The story with the royal connection was in the print edition of the IHT which Thailand gets. So the difference is web vs print and IHT vs NYT.

BP: Still think that NYT should use a different URL for the different versions of the story…

BP has blogged many times about the arrest in Thailand of suspected arms dealer Viktor Bout in Thailand in 2008 (see here, here and here) and the unusual decision by the lower court in Thailand not to extradite Bout. Yesterday, the Appeals Court overturned the lower court ruling and allowed the extradition of Bout to the US.* The New York Times had some very interesting, and to BP not previously-heard details, in a story yesterday. Key excerpt:

Initially Mr. Bout’s lawyers submitted a list of witnesses that included advisers to Thailand’s royal family suggesting his visit had something to do with the country’s powerful monarchy. Many witnesses were never called. Mr. Chamroen, the lawyer, also submitted copies of speeches in which members of the royal family called for closer military cooperation with Russia.

Thai intelligence officials say that Russia was in talks with Thailand to provide a small but sophisticated diesel-powered submarine in honor of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his more than six decades on the throne.

If Mr. Bout traveled to Thailand to take part in a royal-related project his arrest, organized and mainly carried out by U.S. officials, would have been highly embarrassing to the government and the royal family. This might help explain Thailand’s initial reluctance to extradite Mr. Bout and the unusually lengthy hearing process.

A Thai naval officer, Capt. Anurak Phromngam, testified during the hearing that he had been told to expect a Russian expert to assess whether a particular Thai port was suitable for docking submarines.

The Russian expert was not explicitly identified in court but Capt. Anurak testified that he “found out that the person who was supposed to do the survey had been arrested.”

It remains uncertain whether Mr. Bout was the Russian expert or whether the evidence was a ruse by the defense to elevate Mr. Bout’s status in the eyes of the court. Mr. Chamroen, the defense lawyer, shook his head when asked during an interview whether Mr. Bout traveled here as part of the submarine mission. “He came to do business,” Mr. Chamroen said.

BP: Now, if you look at the New York Times article this part of the article has been removed. However, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who appear to have a licensing agreement with the NYT has the original article which you can see here (at the end of the article it states “[t]his article originally appeared in The New York Times“.

No correction or explanation is provided by the NYT for the editing. Did the NYT Thai intelligence source(s) retract their statements? Even so there are enough details, particularly the Thai naval officer’s statements and the witness list to include something in the story. This adds an entire new dimension to the story and the reluctance to extradite Bout last year. Am making some inquiries into the reasons behind the edit.

*There is a separate story about the lobbying by US (who want Bout extradited) and Russia (who don’t). From what BP understands the Americans took mostly a hands-off approach prior to the lower court ruling whereas the Russians were lobbying furiously. The Americans were surprised by the lower court ruling and has gone on the offensive – as an example of this lobbying by the US they summoned the Thai Ambassador in Washington to emphasize that the case was “of the highest priority to the United States”. BP also understands that behind the scenes the Americans have been lobbying like-minded countries to raise the extradition of Bout during bilateral discussions with Thailand..

h/t to a reader for pointing out the original NYT story and then the correction.