A question from my personal gadfly, Rachael:
“is Pitts completely unethical or a brilliant journalist? What say you?”
My thought is that the answer, as you might have guessed, lies somewhere between the two poles you offer, Rachael, though I do lean toward “brilliant journalist.” In fact, I think I might clear him entirely if he had disclosed in his article that he had planted the question. Of course, the waters are muddied again because the soldier told some newsweekly–Time, maybe–that he thought the question up himself. That would, of course, absolve Pitts of ethical wrongdoing, but would also strip him of any credit for getting the quote.
In general though, I think the principle you need to follow is that if you can’t get access yourself, there’s nothing at all wrong with using proxies–so long as the proxies get their credit, and you practice full disclosure.