Marcy Wheeler brings us the disturbing revelation of a New York Times reporter collaborating with the CIA by giving them an advance copy of a Maureen Dowd column, ostensibly to “check a fact.”

Mazzetti’s correspondence with CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf, on Aug. 5, 2011, pertained to the Kathryn Bigelow-Mark Boal film “Zero Dark Thirty,” about the killing of Osama bin Laden, and a Times op-ed column by Dowd set to be published two days later that criticized the White House for having “outsourced the job of manning up the president’s image to Hollywood.”

According to Judicial Watch, Mazzetti sent Harf an advance copy of Dowd’s column, and wrote: “this didn’t come from me… and please delete after you read. See, nothing to worry about!”

Here’s the email. The NYT has now called this a “mistake that is not consistent with New York Times standards,” and that Mazzetti was trying to check a fact for Dowd when he sent the CIA the entire column and added, “See, nothing to worry about!”

The “nothing to worry about,” apparently, referred to the CIA’s role in the bin Laden killing, which is recounted in the Bigelow-Boal movie. The column notes that Boal recently appeared at a CIA celebration of the Navy Seals. Marcy writes:

Consider: this is the best face the Gray Lady can put on this rather cozy relationship with the nation’s spy agency, claiming that Mazzetti’s spying on MoDo for the CIA was a “mistake.”

But what I want to know is this: is this how the NYT conducts fact checks? Or just fact checks of its MoDos and other columnists? “Here, beat writer. I’m writing a column suggesting Obama has a very small penis. Can you ‘fact check’ it and make sure I’ve got the details correct?” And how often do these “fact checks” get sent off as a beat sweetener in the information economy of the beltway?

As I noted the other day, the problem with the New York Times, and really the larger media, has nothing to do with their “cultural progressivism.” It’s about the cozy relationship between reporter and subject, which means we get an inevitably filtered look at what is actually happening in our world.