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“Fool Me Twice, New York Times…”: Long Past Time People Started Saying The Washington Bureau Has A Serious Problem?

In my experience, you can fool a golden retriever exactly twice with the old hidden ball trick. Our late dog Big Red was as exuberant an animal as ever lived. I used to say that if he wasn’t wet, cold, and hungry, Red was happy.

Then I had to rescue him from the Arkansas River during a sleet storm. He’d plunged in to chase ducks but couldn’t clamber back up the steep, slippery bank on his own. Coated in mud with icicles hanging from his coat, Red remained optimistic. See, after his walk came supper. His eyes shone like a puppy’s all the way home.

Anyway, that dog would fetch his beloved tennis ball until your arm ached from throwing it. Prank him with a fake toss and he’d charge off and search eagerly before returning with a quizzical look. A second fake drew less assiduous searching. After that, he kept his eyes riveted on your hand. No fooling him anymore.

It will be seen that Big Red would have been overqualified to edit The New York Times. Responding to the Washington bureau’s latest embarrassing front page blunder, Times executive editor Dean Baquet appeared to agree with the newspaper’s public editor Margaret Sullivan that something needed to be done about “the rampant use of anonymous sources” who turned out to be blowing smoke, or worse.

A second senior editor, Matt Purdy, offered an alibi when he claimed, “We got it wrong because our very good sources had it wrong… That’s an explanation, not an excuse. We have an obligation to get facts right and we work very hard to do that.”

Reporters Matt Apuzzo and Michael S. Schmidt were absolved from blame. They’d simply written down what their excellent sources told them.

OK, that was a ball fake.

The above quotes don’t actually appear in public editor Sullivan’s analysis of the latest New York Times bogus blockbuster. They’re actually taken from her July 27 article headlined “A Clinton Story Fraught With Inaccuracies: How It Happened and What Next?”

Perhaps you remember “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email” — at least that was the original headline. Reporters Schmidt and Apuzzo had cited “senior government officials” hinting that the former secretary of state was in immediate legal peril.

Except, uh-oh, “virtually everything about the story turned out to be wrong. Clinton was not a target. The referral was not criminal. And as the story itself noted, the emails in question had most likely not been classified at the time Clinton saw them.”

It was, in short, a total journalistic failure, although you can still hear pundits predicting Hillary’s imminent indictment in the non-existent criminal probe.

(I’ve lost track of how often Kenneth Starr acolytes in the Washington media had Mrs. Clinton measured for an orange prison jumpsuit during the phony “Whitewater” investigation. Check out Joe Conason’s and my ebook The Hunting of Hillary for details.)

The newspaper’s latest embarrassing failure, involving as it does a matter of national security, is far more significant. “U.S. Visa Process Missed San Bernardino Wife’s Online Zealotry,” a December 12 front page headline read. But once again, the Times came up far short.

This time, ace reporters Schmidt and Apuzzo had found unnamed “American law enforcement officials” who claimed that San Bernardino terrorist Tashfeen Malik had “talked openly on social media about her views on violent jihad,” and that feckless US immigration officials had failed to check her Facebook page. The implication was clear: Had they done so fourteen innocent Americans might still be alive.

Once again, however, the secret insiders were wrong. There was nothing open about Tashfeen Malik’s crazed musings. Written in Urdu under a pseudonym, as FBI director James B. Comey subsequently made clear, they’d been sent as private messages not visible to the public. No way investigators could have found them without a search warrant.

Evidently, The Times’ trusted sources (the same individuals?) didn’t know enough about how Facebook and similar social media sites work to be aware of these issues. Reporters and editors seemingly didn’t know enough to ask.

Also once again, the newspaper dragged its feet for most of a week before admitting error. Absent the insistence of Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple, it might never have done so. The Times’ stalling also had the effect of giving Republican presidential candidates time to falsely blame everything on Obama administration’s imagined “political correctness.”

For his part, Baquet, the executive editor, just back from snuffling in the brush for his lost tennis ball, told Margaret Sullivan that he “rejected the idea that the sources had a political agenda that caused them to plant falsehoods.” He did allow as how she was correct that the Times needed more stringent reporting procedures.

Gosh, you think?

Otherwise, isn’t it past time people started saying out loud that the newspaper’s vaunted Washington bureau has a serious problem?

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, December 23, 2015

December 24, 2015 Posted by | Anonymous Sources, Journalism, The New York Times | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Getting To The Source Of The Lies”: The Fabricated Story About Tashfeen Malik’s Public Facebook Postings

A theme emerged at Tuesday night’s Republican debate that went something like this: because of political correctness, the Obama administration has failed to keep us safe from terror attacks. It was applied in reference to the shooting in San Bernardino by several candidates, including Ted Cruz.

It’s not a lack of competence that is preventing the Obama administration from stopping these attacks. It is political correctness. We didn’t monitor the Facebook posting of the female San Bernardino terrorist because the Obama DHS thought it would be inappropriate. She made a public call to jihad, and they didn’t target it.

That is the story that has become embedded over the last week in the right wing mindset. But as FBI Director James Comey said yesterday, it’s not true.

So far, in this investigation we have found no evidence of posting on social media by either of them at that period in time and thereafter reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martyrdom. I’ve seen some reporting on that, and that’s a garble.

There was no major breakdown in security at DHS as a result of political correctness. It’s all about a couple who were inspired by ISIS to go on a killing spree – much as Robert Lewis Dear was inspired to go on a shooting spree at Planned Parenthood by the anti-abortion movement and Dylann Roof was inspired to kill African American church-goers by white supremacists.

But as Kevin Drum reports, there’s more to the story. The question becomes: what was the source for the story about Tashfeen Malik’s public Facebook postings? It was an article in the New York Times titled: U.S. Visa Process Missed San Bernardino Wife’s Zealotry on Social Media. And not only that. As Drum says:

The story was written by Matt Apuzzo, Michael Schmidt, and Julia Preston.

Do those names sound familiar? They should. The first two were also the authors of July’s epic fail claiming that Hillary Clinton was the target of a criminal probe over the mishandling of classified information in her private email system.

Is it merely a coincidence that these two NYT reporters have been fed stories by their sources that are fabricated lies about the dyad the Republican candidates blamed consistently with such disdain Tuesday night – Obama/Clinton? I’m not a conspiracy theorist. But you don’t have to be one to understand why it is important to get an answer to that question.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 17, 2015

December 20, 2015 Posted by | Journalism, Journalists, Reporters | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“And Why Does It Matter?: Why Are We So Obsessed With The Race And Religion Of Mass Killers?

For a few hours on Twitter and cable news on Wednesday night, there was a restless anticipation, as if everybody with a chyron or two thumbs was waiting at some imaginary line on a virtual track, waiting for the starting pistol.

A few hours earlier, everybody knew, two or three heavily armed people had shot up a center that helps disabled children in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and wounding 17 before escaping. The updates started trickling in: Police had surrounded a bullet-ridden black SUV; one person from the car was on the ground, motionless; one male and female suspect wearing “assault-style clothing” were dead, and a third possible suspect had been arrested after fleeing from the scene of the massacre. Politicians were tweeting out calls for gun control (Democrats) and “thoughts and prayers” for the victims (Republicans, mostly).

People were worried about the victims. Were they children with disabilities? Social workers dedicated to helping them live meaningful lives? People from the Department of Public Health trying to enjoy a holiday party at the facility?

But the real question on everyone’s mind was this: Were the killers white people, Muslims, or something else? Lots of talking heads were tiptoeing around that question, but Bill O’Reilly just laid it out.

“We have to be careful here,” O’Reilly told counterterrorism expert Aaron Cohen, a guest on Wednesday’s show. “Very, very careful. If it is a terrorist attack, generated by fanatical Muslims, it becomes an international Paris-type story, with implications for the president of the United States on down. So we don’t want to speculate.” That didn’t deter Cohen, who immediately responded: “My sources have also said that an Islamic name has been released. That is compounded by the fact that the attackers went to a specific place with tactical gear that would allow them to create maximum damage. I believe this is strongly linked to Islamic-motivated international terror.”

The obvious inference is that if the shooting turned out to be “just a local beef in San Bernardino,” as O’Reilly put it, it’s just another mass shooting in America. We play this game every time there is a mass shooting in America: If the assailant has a Muslim-sounding name, we react one way, and if he (it’s almost always a he) is white, we react another way.

Just think about that for a second. As you are undoubtedly aware, mass shootings are nothing new in the United States — there has been, on average, more than one a day this year, and Wednesday was no exception, with one person killed and three wounded in a mass shooting in Georgia. In 2015 alone, mass shootings — defined as four or more people shot — have left 462 people dead and 1,314 wounded.

Yet America’s foreign and domestic policy hinges to an insane degree on a killer’s name and religion.

If the murderer of 20 grade schoolers and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, had been a Muslim from Nigeria, for example, do you doubt there would be thundering calls for eradicating Boko Haram? Instead, since he was a young white male, the U.S. essentially did nothing.

We don’t yet know what prompted Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, to allegedly murder 14 people, and unless they left a note or manifesto, we may never be sure. Law enforcement hasn’t ruled out terrorism, and maybe it will turn out they were radicalized at some mosque or on Twitter and wanted to become jihadis. But if somebody named, say, Robert Dear had crashed his own office Christmas party wearing “assault-style clothing” and murdered 14 of his colleagues or their guests, you can bet your pundit card nobody would be talking about international terrorism.

Motive does matter if we are serious about trying to address the cause and prevent future mass murders. But if it’s a Muslim terrorist, “we” seem to think that lets “us” off the hook. Mostly, we appear interested in which Twitter/TV battle we are supposed to engage in: Is this a “foreigner” problem we can fix with bombing other countries and sealing America’s borders, or a domestic problem we can tackle by enacting new gun legislation? If you disagree with either of those propositions, you can argue the other side.

More serious than this idiocy is the fact that one or two sociopaths can push America into foreign entanglements, if they have one specific type of last name and creed. Freedom of religion is a cornerstone of America’s social contract, as is presumption of innocence. We betray both with this Pavlovian grief bifurcation.

Soon after Wednesday’s shooting, BBC News reporter James Cook described the murder of 14 people in San Bernardino as “just another day in the United States of America. Another day of gunfire, panic, and fear.” That stings. But given America’s evolving reaction to the killings, we probably deserve worse.

 

By: Peter Weber, The Week, December 3, 2015

December 5, 2015 Posted by | Bill O'Reilly, Race and Ethnicity, Religious Freedom, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

   

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