When the Corporate Media Apologizes

By David Swanson

Of the hundreds of corporate and independent media outlets that falsely claimed this week that ABC News had broken a story about NSA spying that I broke at AfterDowningStreet over a year ago, only the guys at McClatchy (formerly Knight Ridder, the same people who have done better reporting on Iraq than any other corporate journalists) have had the decency to put out a correction, and only the Sacramento Bee has posted (though probably not printed) it:

“A McClatchy Newspapers story on Page A13 Friday about two former U.S. military linguists who alleged that the National Security Agency eavesdropped on the private telephone calls of American military officers, journalists and aid workers wrongly credited ABC News and “Democracy Now!” as the first to interview Adrienne Kinne and David Murfee Faulk. Blogger David Swanson wrote about Kinne on July 1, 2007, and about Faulk on May 20, 2008.”

Why did they mention “Democracy Now!”? Because “Democracy Now!” phoned around to media outlets that were reporting the big ABC scoop and claimed that they had broken the story. This is what disturbs me the most. I like Democracy Now! I’ve been a guest on Democracy Now! But I broke this story almost a year before them, and they’ve never covered most of the major news in it. They’ve only covered the bit about the targeting of journalists in the Palestine Hotel, because that was a story they had been interested in and covering for years. And, of course, I’ve been a contributor to wonderful progressive websites like Common Dreams and Truthout, but they’ve almost all simply posted the news from ABC, no corrections, no further reporting, and no apologies like the ones I’ve gotten from McClatchy.

And all McClatchy has wanted to do is apologize. They’ve told me they did nothing wrong because, while ABC may have taken the trouble to google the names of its sources at the NSA and known full well that I’d reported on them before, McClathcy did not do so, and therefore practiced good journalism. This is worse nonsense than it first appears, because what I want McClatchy and other outlets to do is not to mention my name but to report the news that ABC has not reported.

We were lied into a war and we intentionally killed journalists who weren’t playing along. And there are people available to bear witness to those facts. Kim Zetter at Wired was willing to mention the evidence on the Palestine Hotel in her new article, but not the evidence of war lies, especially not the evidence of war lies involving the taboo topic of Israel. Zetter did include mention of a fax from the Iraqi National Congress that I had reported on, and she did her own reporting, which is more than anyone else has done. If a single person at any major corporate media outlet did as good a job as Zetter or Demcracy Now, a lot more Americans would know more about the crimes their country has committed.

So it is important that we somehow communicate this simple fact: A piece of news is not less newsworthy because the Disney Corporation doesn’t cover it.

These are the facts I want reported:

1. WMD Lies

Adrienne Kinne describes an incident just prior to the invasion of Iraq in which a fax came into her office at Fort Gordon in Georgia that purported to provide information on the location of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The fax came from the Iraqi National Congress, a group opposed to Saddam Hussein and favoring an invasion. The fax contained types of information that required that it be translated and transmitted to President Bush within 15 minutes. But Kinne had been eavesdropping on two nongovernmental aid workers driving in Iraq who were panicked and trying to find safety before the bombs dropped. She focused on trying to protect them, and was reprimanded for the delay in translating the fax. She then challenged her officer in charge, Warrant Officer John Berry, on the credibility of the fax, and he told her that it was not her place or his to challenge such things. None of the other 20 or so people in the unit questioned anything, Kinne said. Kinne dates this incident to the period just before the official invasion of Iraq or possibly just after. She says that because the US engaged in so much bombing prior to the official invasion, she cannot recall for sure.

See also Wired.

2. Targeting Journalists in the Palestine Hotel

Many of the people, including Americans, whom Kinne spied on were journalists. These included journalists staying at a hotel in Baghdad that later showed up on a list of targets. Again, Kinne says, she expressed concerns to her officer in charge, letting him know that the military should be informed or the journalists should be warned to move to another location. Kinne says Berry brushed her off. He was, she says, “completely behind the invasion of Iraq. He told us repeatedly that we needed to bomb those barbarians back to kingdom come.” Berry was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer.

See also Wired.

3. More WMD Lies

David Murfee Faulk says that in May 2004 he found an extremely large text file containing grid coordinates for alleged chemical weapons sites in Iraq. Faulk showed it to his supervisor, who was surprised. But he was not surprised that the file existed, only that it had not been deleted. The supervisor said he had believed all such files had been deleted, and that there had been a great many of them. In fact, according to this supervisor, U.S. Special Forces had gone to the locations and found nothing. That’s what usually happens, Faulk’s supervisor told him, when you get something from the Israelis. “Four out of five times it’s complete and total bullshit.”

I asked veteran Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst Ray McGovern what he made of this, and he said that there is “no such thing as a ‘friendly’ intelligence service. Reporting from liaison services always needs to be taken with utmost reserve. That goes in spades for what comes from the Israelis, the more so since they have unique, yes unique, access to the White House and Pentagon, and are thus able to circumvent the intelligence bureaucracy set up to vet and evaluate raw intelligence and prevent unverified and/or tendentious ‘intelligence’ from reaching senior officials, lest they be misled.”

With regard to other pieces of Israeli “intelligence” on Iraq’s mythical weapons of “mass destruction,” McGovern said: “Yes, most of the Israeli ‘intelligence’ on things like chemical weapons in Iraq was of little or no value. Worse still, data like coordinates for suspected chemical weapons-related sites could not be dispassionately evaluated by objective intelligence analysts because the key function of imagery analysis was ceded by the CIA to the Pentagon in 1996. What sergeant was going to tell Rumsfeld that Israeli sources and the ‘intelligence’ from the Israelis or the likes of [Ahmed] Chalabi were certainly not worth what Rumsfeld was paying for. At the same time, if truth was not the objective, but rather reports alleging this or that WMD-related sites, well, the Israelis were performing a useful service for the likes of Doug Feith, who would bundle them up and give them to the ‘Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal’ for passing to the president. Woof! Proof!”

McGovern seemed to find it perfectly possible that “evidence” of the sort that Faulk stumbled upon was voluminous: “The neuralgic search for WMD pointed up the problem. US chief WMD-searcher, David Kay, has told lurid stories of being awakened in Iraq at all hours by people working in the office of the Vice President: ‘Hey we got new coordinates; check them out!'”

McGovern recalled one instance of someone speaking openly about the quality of Israeli “intelligence.” When John Negroponte was Director of National Intelligence, National Public Radio’s Robert Siegel asked him to explain why the Israelis have suggested a much shorter timeline for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. “I think that sometimes what the Israelis will do [is] give you the worst-case assessment,” Negroponte said.


July 1, 2007, AfterDowningStreet.org Breaks Story of NSA Whistleblower Adrienne Kinne

May 13, 2008, Democracy Now picks up the story of Kinne

May 19, 2008, AfterDowningStreet.org Breaks Story of NSA Whistleblower David Murfee Faulk

October 9, 2008, ABC News picks up both stories with a focus on phone sex

October 10, 2008
Congress notices, yawns, scratches its ass, goes back to what it had been doing. Talk shows make jokes about the phone sex.

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