Those in the media devoted to journalism ethics occasionally decry the use of anonymous sources in stories. But that caution was thrown out the window when the Big Media breathlessly jumped on and hyped a book critical of U.S. Iraq policy.
Taking the use of anonymous sources to a ridiculous extreme, the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and ABC World News Tonight all aired interviews with an “anonymous” alleged CIA officer critical of the Iraq war. We never saw his face, only shadows. His name, “anonymous,” was on his new book, “Imperial Hubris.” Reporters didn’t mention it, but the interviews were clearly designed to be a preemptive strike on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is releasing a 400-page report critical of the CIA for its handling of a wide range of intelligence matters.
The orchestrated interviews are one more example of how the media concoct “scandals” to undermine the Bush administration. But using someone under the cover of “anonymous” was both absurd and unethical. In the interview of anonymous by NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell, this alleged CIA officer sounded like left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore, suggesting U.S. foreign policy is driven by oil and that the U.S. has an anti-Arab bias.
He told Mitchell: “I think the substantial amount of polling that’s been done by the Pew Trust and by other very reputable pollsters in the Islamic world indicate that most of the Islamic world believes they know exactly what we’re up to, and that’s to deny the Palestinians a country, to make sure that oil flows at prices that may seem outrageous to the American consumer, but are not market prices in the Islamist’s eyes, supporting Russia against Chechnya.” This is nonsense, of course. Bush has articulated a vision of a Palestinian state, the so-called “two-state solution” of Israel and Palestine, irritating some supporters of Israel in the process.
On CBS News, David Martin identified him as “a serving CIA officer who has spent two decades working in the agency’s counter terrorism center and once headed the unit assigned to track Osama bin Laden.” But on ABC’s World News Tonight, Jake Tapper reported, “Within the intelligence community, ‘Anonymous’ has both supporters and detractors. His detractors note he was removed from the hunt for bin Laden, perhaps freeing up his time to write a book.” He was removed obviously because the hunt was a failure.
Douglas Jehl of the New York Times wrote a story about the book, as did Walter Pincus of the Washington Post. Neither reporter mentioned that the officer has a track record of failure in counter-terrorism. The Times reported, “Former intelligence officials identified the officer to The Times and noted that he was an overt employee of the C.I.A., but an intelligence official asked that his full name not be published because it could make him a target of Al Qaeda.” A target of al Qaeda? The terrorists owe him a debt for failing to bag their boss bin Laden. Still, the American people can’t be told his name and we are supposed to treat him as an expert. We are supposed to trust him and his media backers. Can media bias get any worse than this?