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NY Times does it again: More 'Judy Miller' tapdancing (Pt3)

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A front page article "In Nuclear Net's Undoing, a Web of Shadowy Deals" in last Monday's New York Times by David Sanger and William Broad details the destruction of evidence by the US government in a case involving the nuclear black market.

The article highlights again that the New York Times continues to engage in 'Judy Miller reporting' by warmongering and acting as a mouthpiece for the government.

This is the third article in a multi-part series. This article will focus on the NY Times' appalling reliance on government-friendly sources, the lack of any actual investigative reporting, the lack of supporting evidence, and the absence of any dissenting views. (The first piece of the series focused on the players in the AQ Khan / BSA Tahir nuclear smuggling ring, the second article focused on the countries involved.)

Given the New York Times recent history of being used and abused by their anonymous government sources you might think they ought to be a little more diligent when reporting a story such as this, but apparently they haven't learnt their lesson from the recent debacles such as Iraq/WMD or Anthrax/Hatfill.

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David Sanger and William Broad need look no further back than their early reporting on this same story to see how badly they are getting spun - although given their performance, it appears that they don't even care.

As just one example, that previous article was a transparent attempt to spin the story away from the fact that the US government bailed out members of the AQ Khan nuclear proliferation network. The article noted that the AQ Khan had nuclear "blueprints" which are "rapidly reproducible for creating a weapon that is relatively small and easy to hide" which makes these weapons "attractive to terrorists."

Now Sanger and Broad tell us in their current article that these plans are "sketchy and incomplete" which have "little or no value for a terrorist..." There was no correction, no apology, no remorse or embarrassment, and apparently no lessons learned.

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Despite this history, Broad and Sanger again spoke to "five current and former Bush administration officials" - presumably the same sources as their previous article - and gave them the cover of anonymity to again spread transparent nonsense. Apparently Sanger and Broad didn't even wonder why a handful of Bush administration officials were willing to talk to them about these 'classified' operations, and it surely won't occur to them to ask why the Bush administration hasn't opened up a leak investigation either.

Corroboration?
Last month, investigative journalist Joe Lauria joked that American journalists need five sources for something personally witnessed by the journalist. This is true for whistle-blowers, but there is a double-standard when it comes to official government sources. This kid-glove treatment of US officials is remarkable given the lies that we have been fed, particularly over the past seven years.

Did Sanger and Broad actually do anything to corroborate the story apart from speak to the five Bush officials who were all singing off the same hymn-sheet? Did they interview Richard Barlow, expert on Pakistan's nuclear program for his thoughts? Did they ask decorated British customs agent Atif Amin whether the story made any sense? Or former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds? Of course not.

Perhaps Sanger and Broad could have, for example, asked 'Dr Brian Jones, a former defence intelligence WMD specialist,' for his opinion. He was quoted in the Guardian on this very story back in June saying that he was "suspicious that the disclosure might be politically motivated." But that sort of thing would never get published in a US newspaper - unless it was a government source trying to undermine a whistle-blower.

Standard of Proof
If a whistle-blower tries to shed some light on government wrongdoing, then the Corporate Press in the US demands documents and multiple points of corroboration, and even then often don't run the story. They will question his or her motives, or they will argue that it is too difficult to establish the legitimacy of the whistle-blower case, or simply accept the government's denials.

In many cases, this standard of proof is legitimate, but it is applied so inconsistently that it turns the newspapers into organs of the government. The US corporate media will publish just about anything the government says, despite the Bush administration's documented history of lying to the press and the public. On the other hand, it is nearly impossible to get the US press to write about important matters that are not government-approved.

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Again, take the case of Sibel Edmonds. Despite the fact that senators from both major parties reported that the case is credible, despite the fact that the FBI confirmed a lot of the case, despite the Justice Department's Inspector General's report, despite the State Secrets Privilege, despite the fact that there has not been a single substantial denial, despite the corroboration by Phil Giraldi, a CIA agent based in Turkey, despite the corroboration from veteran FBI agents John Cole and Gilbert Graham, the US media still can't report on the story.

I asked Sibel for a quote on this story, she said:
"You see this over and over again, and I'm not just talking about my case. As you know, my organization represents nearly 150 National Security whistle-blowers, and dealing with the US mainstream media, both the networks and print, we have faced the same double standards and bias consistently. Even if you get a high-ranking National Security whistle-blower with an impeccable record and no agenda, the response from the US media is "We need at least 2 or 3 more independent witnesses, as well as hard documents."

The same media reports the government propaganda & agenda-driven leaks as undisputed fact, based on a statement from a spokesperson from one of the agencies; no request for documents, no request for independent witnesses...

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Luke Ryland is a blogger with a particular interest in Sibel Edmonds' case.
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