Accuracy in Media

Winning a Pulitzer Prize for a story about CIA “secret prisons” has been quite lucrative for Dana Priest of the Washington Post. She now commands $15,000 – $20,000 a lecture (“only” $7,500 for a speech in the Washington, D.C. area, where she is based) and an official “fan site” has been established in her honor to promote her work. But the article for which she won the prize not only damaged the security of the United States and endangered the safety of American citizens but appears to have been largely based on the work of London-based journalist Stephen Grey.

Grey’s “America’s Gulag” article in the May 17, 2004, issue of the British magazine the New Statesman appeared about 18 months before Priest’s “CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons” was featured in the Post on November 2, 2005. Like Grey, Priest would compare the CIA “secret prisons” holding al- Qaeda terrorist operatives to the Soviet gulags that became known for holding millions of political prisoners. It was a sensational but completely misleading charge designed to smear the U.S. counterterrorism effort.

Yet the Priest article made no mention of Grey’s work.

But beyond the question of possible plagiarism lies the issue of who benefited from the erroneous coverage.

The Post admits it was warned that publication of the Dana Priest story could disrupt or destroy a counterterrorism program absolutely essential to protecting America. And Grey admits being told by knowledgeable officials that the CIA program, which was begun by President Clinton but expanded by President Bush after 9/11, had been a huge success. It had apprehended suspected terrorists in various countries and had forced confessions of terrorist plots from Khalid Sheik Mohammad, the al-Qaeda leader who beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Today, however, a George Soros-funded legal group is challenging the program in court while the liberals who run the U.S. Congress are preparing to kill it legislatively and European Socialists are promoting a United Nations treaty to ban it.

Book Questions Source Of Story

The controversy over Priest’s story has taken a new turn with the publication of an explosive new book, Shadow Warriors, which says that Grey “did all the spadework” and quotes him as saying that his original research “was kind of like a trade secret.”

The book is by noted journalist Kenneth Timmerman, a correspondent for He says that Priest was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for “breaking” the story of secret prisons but he puts the word “breaking” in quotation marks, in order to make the point that she was not the first to disclose this kind of information. It is Grey, Timmerman argues, who was behind not only the main disclosures in the Priest article but “provided key documents and information” to the New York Times and other media about secret CIA operations. Timmerman’s book refers to Priest’s “Unearned Pulitzer” and claims the real intention of Priest and other Post reporters was that of “smearing George W. Bush” and undermining his policies.

One of the main points of his provocative book is that journalists are being used by a network of current and former government officials, many from the CIA, to damage U.S. foreign policy. Timmerman names these officials in his book, calling them “weasels” whose actions bordered on treason.

One of the prominent officials named by Timmerman is Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of CIA covert operations in Europe who surfaced in a CBS “60 Minutes” report last year to complain about the Bush Administration’s handling of intelligence on Iraq. 

Another key player in the network, Timmerman reports, is the Italian socialist Claudio Fava, a former journalist and left-wing member of the European Parliament, who has been leading the calls for official European investigations of what the CIA has been doing on European soil. Fava is a member of the Italian Democratic Left Party, an affiliate of the Party of European Socialists (PES), which heard from Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean at its 7th Party Congress in 2006. Dean talked about “progressives” on “both sides of the Atlantic” sharing the same values.

Timmerman compares Fava’s role to that of Philip Agee, the former CIA agent who went over to the communist side during the Cold War and exposed and disrupted agency operations. Fava’s motivation, Timmerman says, is to “undermine right-wing governments in Europe” that have assisted the U.S. in Iraq or in the war on global terrorism.

In describing the ongoing media attack on the CIA policy of transferring terrorists to secret locations, for the purpose of interrogating them and producing information that will save American lives, Timmerman calls Grey “an authentic investigative reporter” with a liberal bent but says that Dana Priest is a journalist with left-wing connections “who sucked up to government sources and played to their vanity.” 

Timmerman notes that Priest is married to a leftist activist named William Goodfellow of the Center for International Policy (CIP) and that she appeared at one of its events criticizing the Iraq War. As AIM has noted, Goodfellow’s CIP was created with the assistance of the Marxist Chilean diplomat and suspected Cuban spy Orlando Letelier, who was assassinated in Washington, D.C. Even after the truth about Letelier’s Cuban Communist connections emerged in materials found after his death, Goodfellow continued to honor him.

Tabloid-Type Reporting

As we noted at the time, Priest’s tabloid treatment of the controversy included referring to places where terrorists were held as a “covert prison system,” a “hidden global internment network,” a “secret detention system,” and “secret prisons.” She also referred to the CIA using “a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe,” a clear attempt to imply that the U.S. had established a system of gulags. This was a device that Grey had used for major effect.

The Priest story had its intended and expected impact. As noted by Post reporter Craig Whitlock in a follow-up November 4, 2005, article, “In Russia, a number of news organizations reported on the Post story on their Web sites. Some headlines compared the CIA prisons to the Soviet gulag, the infamous network of prison camps. ‘Secret network of jails?heritage of Gulag?’ read the headline on the news site The headline on read: ‘The Washington Post: CIA has created a new GULAG.'”

AIM has consistently held that there was never any proof of CIA “secret prisons” or “gulags” and that Priest was given a bogus “scoop,” probably from disgruntled anti-Bush CIA officials, for the purpose of undermining the administration’s war on terrorism. “The Post should do the right thing and return her Pulitzer,” we have said.

It appears to be the case that CIA flights with suspected terrorists landed in some foreign countries and that about one hundred of them were briefly detained on foreign soil. The names of these countries were kept secret so they would not be exposed to terrorist retaliation and violence. The purpose of the program was to prevent another 9/11 from happening on American soil.

One of these terrorists, Khalid Sheik Mohammad, the admitted mastermind of 9/11, was captured in Pakistan and reportedly subjected to a technique called “waterboarding” or simulated drowning during one of these detentions and confessed to several on-going plots against America that apparently were stopped. The possible end to the rendition and detention program, because of stories from the likes of Grey and Priest, could therefore undermine U.S. efforts to protect Americans from another major terrorist attack.  

Endangering Americans

Michael F. Scheuer, the controversial and outspoken former chief of the Osama bin Laden unit in the CIA who claims authorship of the rendition and detention program, publicly confirmed in congressional testimony that the Priest article had “damaged U.S. national security” and had succeeded in “abetting America’s enemies.”

“You certainly don’t like Dana Priest,” Rep. William Delahunt said to Scheuer. He replied, “Sir, I don’t like anyone that endangers my grandchildren, sir. And she called me both on CIA aircraft wanting me to give her numbers of their registration and called and asked me to identify that she called CIA prisons overseas. I refused to do both, and I advised her that under normal circumstances a CIA officer who revealed those things would be in prison.”

At the April 17, 2007, hearing, which was designed to examine the impact of U.S. counterterrorism policy on “transatlantic relations,” Scheuer said the rendition and detention program was absolutely necessary because many European countries in the European Union (EU) are reluctant to pick up terrorists on their own soil.

He testified, “?it is passing strange that European leaders are here today to complain about a very successful and security-enhancing U.S. Government counterterrorist operation when their European Union presides over the earth’s single largest terrorist safe haven, and has done so for a quarter century. The EU’s policy of easily obtainable political asylum and its prohibition against deporting wanted or convicted terrorists to a country with a death penalty have made Europe a major, consistent and invulnerable source of terrorist threat to the United States.”

Scheuer called Europe a “declining continent” with demographics “going over the edge” and characterized by anti-American policies.

In his dramatic testimony, Scheuer also accused Democratic members of Congress and European Socialists concerned about the Bush policy of rendition and detention of trying to ignore the fact that the rendition program had begun under the Clinton Administration. He declared that “?the intervention by the Europeans was clearly meant to help the Democratic Party because they discussed rendition like it only started in 2001.”

It is noteworthy that Fava himself also testified at the joint hearing, called by the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight, and the House Subcommittee on Europe. Fava was one of three “briefers” and was identified as the author of the “Report on the Alleged Use of European Countries by the CIA for the Transportation and Illegal Detention of Prisoners.”

The other European “briefers” were Jonathan Evans, Member, European Parliament

Chairman, European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the United States; and

Baroness Sarah Ludford, Member, European Parliament, Vice-Chair, Temporary Committee on the Alleged Use of European Countries by the CIA for the Transportation and Illegal Detention of Prisoners.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher questioned the Europeans, saying that while mistakes have been made in the program, “We are at war and we’ve got to make sure that we do not let go 50 terrorists who will go out and plant a bomb in London and kill 20,000 people in order to protect that one person who we arrested accidentally because his name was the same. That’s the type of unfortunate consequence?” When some leftists in the audience protested these remarks, Rohrabacher responded, “?I hope it’s your families that suffer the consequences.”

A subsequent October 18, 2007, joint-session of the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, and the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, was devoted to one of these alleged mistakes. It featured testimony by video from Maher Arar, a Syrian-born, Canadian citizen who was rendered to Syria and released in 2003. He claims to have been tortured. 

“I suspect that he is very much involved in activities that are negative toward Canada and the United States,” Scheuer said, in asserting that the U.S. should not apologize to him. He said the U.S. acted on information provided by the Canadian government.

Lawyers for Arar from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed suit against the U.S. Government challenging the rendition policy but the case was thrown out in February of 2006 by Judge David Trager of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The CCR has asked the Court of Appeals to reinstate the case.

The CCR is supported by major left-wing foundations such as the George Soros-funded Open Society Institute and the Ford Foundation.

Giving Due “Credit”

Jane Mayer also wrote a lengthy February 2005 New Yorker article about the rendition and detention program. But she credited Grey, noting that he had “written a number of stories on renditions for British publications?”

Grey finally got his due in the U.S. media when he surfaced as the reporter/producer on a November 6, 2007, public television special on “Extraordinary Rendition” and suggested the CIA program was continuing. One of the on-camera interviews was with former CIA official Tyler Drumheller, who criticized the program by saying that, “We are an intelligence service, an espionage service. Not jailers?”

In his book, Ghost Plane, Grey admits being told by various officials that rendition was the “most important and effective weapon that has been used in the war on terror.” Nevertheless, he has decided that techniques like “waterboarding” constitute torture and should not be allowed. And he asks, “Would it be so difficult to deal with terror suspects in an open court of law?” 

Regarding Dana Priest of the Post, Grey told AIM that he had “no contact” with her prior to her Pulitzer Prize-winning “secret prisons” story and that he had “hardly worked” that angle before that point.” He added that “?it would be hard to argue that I did her spadework. For the record, I think she richly deserved her Pulitzer.” In the past, Priest has declined to comment on the identity of her sources of information. AIM left a telephone message for Priest, asking whether she was familiar with Grey’s work before she wrote her “secret prisons” story.  She did not respond.

The issue is not whether they had personal contact but whether Priest advanced the story beyond what Grey had already written, and whether their efforts have made Americans more vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

For his part, Grey’s book doesn’t give Priest credit for uncovering very much. In fact, he notes only that Priest made a “specific allegation that Eastern Europe had been used for secret jails.” This is hardly Pulitzer Prize-winning material.

It’s clear that he doesn’t credit her for breaking the “secret prisons” story because he believes he is the one who did so. In fact, Grey refers to his own May 17, 2004, New Statesman article as a “long piece” that uncovered “a whole network of terrorist prisoners.”

So Grey’s claim that he “hardly worked” the secret prison story seems mainly designed to avoid being tough on Priest for borrowing from his work on the subject.

The only hint of any other journalistic work on the subject in the Priest story came in the vague statement that “The contours of the CIA’s detention program have emerged in bits and pieces over the past two years.”

But Grey’s May 17, 2004, 3,600-word article was hardly just “bits and pieces.” Indeed, the publication advertised the piece as a case of how “Stephen Grey uncovers a secret global network of prisons and planes that allows the US to hand over its enemies for interrogation, and sometimes torture, by the agents of its more unsavory allies.”

Grey’s New Statesman piece was given an Amnesty International Media Award in 2005 and the Overseas Press Club of America’s Joe and Laurie Dine award for uncovering “a global gulag of prisons and torture chambers?” 

None of these carried the prestige of a Pulitzer, which is reserved for work appearing in U.S. newspapers. 

In the latest development in this on-going campaign, the state-owned Russian television network Rossiya (RTR) has broadcast “proof” of how the government of Ukraine supposedly helped the CIA transfer and hold al-Qaeda terror suspects. The “proof” was immediately seized upon by Claudio Fava, the Philip Agee-type character who has called for further investigation. Ukraine contributed around 1,600 troops to the coalition in Iraq and has been considered a U.S. ally in the war on global terrorism.

Fava’s purpose, Timmerman writes on, was to “embarrass a staunch U.S. ally in the war on terror?”

RTR is the same Russian television channel that broadcast film footage from James Cameron’s movie The Titanic as “proof” of Russian subs staking a claim to the North Pole.  

The Russia Today website has now run an article about the charges against Ukraine. The same article also appears on Stephen Grey’s website.

But Ukraine has denied the charges.

Now the campaign has been adopted by the liberals who control Congress.

A website called, which describes itself as a left-wing alternative to the Drudge Report, claims that a little noticed provision of the Democrats’ $50 billion Iraq War funding bill, the Orderly and Responsible Iraq Redeployment Appropriations Act, 2008, (H.R. 4156), which passed the House on November 14, would effectively end the program of CIA renditions by prohibiting waterboarding and other counterterrorism techniques. The main purpose of the bill is to force a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.

The bill passed 218-203, with 93 percent of Democrats voting for it and 98 percent of Republicans opposing.

Meanwhile, the United Nations is pushing a global ban on renditions under the guise of the “International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.” The February 7 signing ceremony for the document included Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC can prosecute officials of any nation in the world when it perceives that its court system is not holding them accountable.   

What You Can Do

Send the enclosed postcards or cards and letters of your own choosing to the Pulitzer Prize Board and Washington Post publisher Bo Jones.

Also, don’t forget to order extra copies of the new AIM book, The Death of Talk Radio?

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