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Another Big Scandal for CBS News

Last December the media reported that Iraqi terrorists and their informants were infiltrating U.S. and coalition organizations, Iraqi security units, and political parties. But were the U.S. media infiltrated?

In a startling development, the U.S. military reported that an individual working for CBS News was detained who was injured April 6 when coalition forces returned fire after receiving enemy small-arms fire. This individual has been described differently in press reports. Some say he was a “CBS cameraman.” But CBS calls him a cameraman carrying CBS press credentials or just a freelancer employed by CBS News. These are all ways by which CBS tries to distance the network from this controversial person, whose identity has not been disclosed “for safety reasons.”

“The detained individual was carrying press credentials from CBS News and was standing next to an armed insurgent who was killed during the firefight,” said a dispatch from Armed Forces Press Service. The story went on to say that, “The U.S. military is conducting an investigation into the detained individual’s previous activities as well as his alleged support of anti-Iraqi government activities.”

An official military statement said that, “There is probable cause to believe that (the detainee) poses an imperative threat to coalition forces. He is currently detained…and will be processed as any other security detainee.”

CBS News put it somewhat differently. On the CBS News web site a story said that a cameraman “carrying CBS press credentials” was detained “on suspicion of insurgent activity.” That reference to “suspicion” was not as strong as the U.S. military statement that there was probable cause to believe that the detainee posed “an imperative threat” to the U.S. military.

But a report from CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart suggests there was probable cause. He reported that the U.S. military examined the contents of his camera and found pictures of the aftermath of four separate attacks by insurgents using IEDs, improvised explosive devices, against U.S. forces. The CBS news report said that, “The footage, taken so soon after the attacks, suggest the cameraman had to have foreknowledge that the attacks would take place, officials told Stewart. The scenes and timing of the taping are very disturbing, said one official.”

CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan, reporting from Baghdad, told anchorman Bob Schieffer that CBS News was cooperating with military investigators. 

What’s fascinating about this incident is that, before he was taken into custody, he was mistakenly injured by U.S. forces during the firefight. The Pentagon said forces mistook his camera for a weapon and shot him. He was taken for treatment to a hospital. The Pentagon said that he “appeared to have a weapon” and “was standing near the insurgent?” But when the U.S. military reviewed his film footage that they came to the conclusion that he was not there to report on what was happening but was actively aiding the terrorists. It appears that he was accompanying the terrorists as they prepared ambushes of U.S. forces.

The group, Reporters Without Borders, jumped to conclusions about the incident. The group called the shooting “unacceptable” and said that, “Once again the US forces have targeted a journalist just doing his job.” Just doing his job? The reports indicate he was standing next to a terrorist waving an AK-47 and trying to incite a crowd. This was during a firefight when U.S. forces came under attack. Later, Reporters Without Borders issued a statement calling on the U.S. Army to release him very quickly “if no evidence is produced to support his alleged collaboration with the insurgency.” That’s a big “if,” based on what we already know. 

CBS says this cameraman came highly recommended by one of their “fixers,” who was described as having a trusted relationship with CBS News for two years. A larger investigation into the alleged ties of CBS News to Iraqi terrorists seems to be warranted. The names of these “fixers” and operatives should be immediately disclosed. CBS should come clean. This could be worse than Memogate.