Accuracy in Media

In his story about the Washington Post winning four Pulitzer Prizes, reporter Howard Kurtz said two of the stories involved “breaking open the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and disclosing the existence of secret CIA prisons overseas?” Well, not really. Sorry, Howie. Wrong again.

As we have pointed out, the Abramoff story, by the admission of the Post, was broken open by Abramoff’s competitors, who went to the paper with complaints about Abramoff being too successful. The Post, of course, carried the story, but it was spoon-fed the information by disgruntled lobbyists. That doesn’t take a lot of work.

By contrast, if you want an example of a real investigative story, consider what the National Legal & Policy Center (NLPC) has done in the case of Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), the top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee. NLPC, which has sparked an inquiry into Mollohan’s millionaire status and financial shenanigans through a 500-page complaint to the U.S. Attorney, gave the story to the Wall Street Journal. Numerous media have followed up, and Mollohan stepped down from the ethics committee because of the heat.

And those “secret CIA prisons?” As we have pointed out repeatedly, there’s no evidence they ever existed, and Kurtz should know it.

Dana Priest of the Washington Post, who wrote the “secret prisons” story, claimed that the CIA had created “a covert prison system” in various countries. The story ran under the headline, “CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons.”

But the Post also ran the story, “European Inquiry Fails to Confirm Secret CIA Prisons,” on January 25. A European human rights investigator said that “he was unable to independently confirm reports of secret prisons run by the CIA in Eastern Europe?” Kurtz apparently missed this story. Another European investigator also failed to confirm their existence.

Are we supposed to believe Dana Priest’s anonymous sources? One of them was reported to be a former Clinton official and CIA officer named Mary O. McCarthy, but she is claiming through intermediaries that she had nothing to do with that story. 

Kurtz noted that “the paper drew criticism from the left for withholding the location of the prisons.” This is the mark of a “media critic” who is always sensitive about how the paper appears to those on the far-left fringe.

There never were “secret prisons.” It appears they were places where suspected terrorists were temporarily detained as part of the CIA secret “rendition” program. The Post story distorted the nature of this program. But that was enough to get a Pulitzer, further diminishing the value of this “prize.”




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