Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Dana Priest

The source may be anonymous, but the shame is all yours

Andrew Bossone shared this link

“The two main downsides of anonymity, out of many, are two:

1. Anonymous sourcing reduces the pressure on official sources to take responsibility for their utterances. And

2. it promotes the gaming of news outlets, with anonymous sources gravitating to the most pliant reporters and editors. Neither is good for the news.

http://blogs.reuters.com/jackshafer/2014/06/16/the-source-may-be-anonymous-but-the-shame-is-all-yours/

Photo of Bob Woodward, a former Washington Post reporter, discusses about the Watergate Hotel burglary and stories for the Post at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California April 18, 2011. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo
Jack Shafer published this JUNE 16, 2014

Twice over the past two weeks, New York Times reporters got taken for long rides by anonymous sources who ultimately dropped them off at the corner of Mortified and Peeved.

The first embarrassing trip for the Times came on May 31, as the paper alleged in a Page One story that a federal insider trading investigation was “examining” golfer Phil Mickelson’s “well-timed trades” in Clorox stock, according to “people briefed on the investigation.”

On June 11, the Times rowed the story back — citing anonymous sources again, namely “four people briefed on the matter” — calling the original story about Mickelson’s role “overstated.” Mickelson did not, the paper reported, trade shares of Clorox.

Heads bowed, the new Times article explained the error:

The overstated scope of the investigation came from information provided to the Times by other people briefed on the matter who have since acknowledged making a mistake.”

Gotta love the wording. The people briefed made a mistake, not the Times for relying on anonymous sources.

The Times got its second joyride in a June 3 Page One story about Bowe Bergdahl.

A “former senior military officer briefed on the investigation into the private’s disappearance” claimed that before Bergdahl fled his unit on June 30, 2009, he left a note in his tent expressing his disillusionment with the Army and the American mission in Afghanistan, and stated that he was leaving to start a new life.

This marked Bergdahl as a deserter for many in the press.

But the assertion was false, according to a June 6 Page One story in the Times. Again, the Times cited unnamed sources to correct the mistakes of its original anonymous source: These new anonymous sources had read a classified military report about Bergdahl, completed two months after his disappearance.

The report made no mention of a goodbye note in Bergdahl’s tent, which likely means the note never existed.

The Times contacted its original anonymous source — the former senior military officer — for an explanation of how he could have been so wrong. He now recalled having read about the Bergdahl note in a field report, but “was unable to explain why [the note] was not mentioned in the final investigative report.

Instead of condemning the Times for so recklessly depending on anonymous sources, I’d rather praise them for reminding readers why they should discount anything a shadowy unknown source is allowed to say in a news story.

Shielded from public accountability and defended by the journalists who rely on them, anonymous sources pretty much have their way with the New York Times and Washington Post, which tend to rely more heavily on them than other print outlets.

In the past four days, the Post cited unnamed sources in at least 18 pieces and the Times did the same in 17 stories ranging from the Iraq civil war to a smartphone app that predicts what a user will type next.

How did anonymous sourcing become the rule rather than the exception in American journalism?

Journalism professor Matt J. Duffy informs us in a new (and securely paywalled) paper that anonymous sourcing was sufficiently rare in the first three decades of the 20th century that none of the journalism textbooks and guides he examined made mention of the practice.

The first textbook mention Duffy encountered was published in 1955 — An Introduction to Journalism: A Survey of the Fourth Estate in All Its Forms, by Fraser Bond. According to Bond, anonymous sources appeared primarily in foreign diplomatic reporting and in those cases that reporters wanted to attribute information from the president.

The proliferation of anonymous sources appalled journalist and journalism professor John Hohenberg in his 1960 textbook, The Professional Journalist. In the earlier era, Hohenberg wrote, editors generally insisted that the sources of news be identified.

“The presence of an anonymous figure, who could not be described in any way except in relation to what he represented, was almost an affront to many reporters,” he wrote. As the editorial bars to anonymous sources lowered, Hohenberg continued, newspapers allowed their eagerness for news to permit nameless spokesmen, and the practice spread to manure the less prestigious beats.

Duffy regards the Washington Post‘s Watergate coverage (1972-1974) by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward as the watershed moment for anonymous reporting, as anonymous sources crept into practically every reportorial niche, including sports.

All major newspapers have policies about anonymous sources, and largely ignore them and editors largely don’t enforce them vigorously.

In the past decade top editors such as Al Neuharth of USA Today and Leonard Downie Jr. of the Washington Post have criticized the practice, campaigning in their own pages against anonymity.

Press criticsombudsmenpublic editors, and standards editors have howled about anonymous sources, to little avail.

(In 2008, I devised a crowd sourced spreadsheet to collect the more egregious examples of anonymous sourcing, but I soon become overwhelmed by the volume and surrendered. I wish Times public editor Margaret Sullivan the best in her current AnonyWatch project, which tracks “gratuitous, anonymous quotations” in her paper.)

The practice has become so normalized that a single-sourced, anonymous assertion about a desertion-type note can make it on to Page One of the Times with no corroboration.

Anonymity benefits sources by allowing them to feed their versions almost unimpeded to the press if they locate a gullible or corrupt reporter. Anonymity benefits reporters, too, by potentially increasing their byline counts, by giving them “scoops” (however spurious or short-lived), and by signaling their availability to other anonymous sources.

The downsides of anonymity, of course, are too many to list in a column, but here are two: Anonymous sourcing reduces the pressure on official sources to take responsibility for their utterances. And it promotes the gaming of news outlets, with anonymous sources gravitating to the most pliant reporters and editors. Neither is good for the news.

Do anonymous sources have any place in journalism?

Obviously there’s a difference between listening to anonymous sources and masked whistle blowers and putting into print what they say verbatim.

I have nothing against anonymous sources who help guide reporters toward the verifiable — I just draw the line at routinely printing what they say.

Several years ago in New York magazine, writer Kurt Andersen made his case for anonymous sourcing, pointing out that one hundred times as many on-the-record lies make it in to print than anonymous ones.

While this may be true, on-the-record lies are much easier to hunt down and strangle than anonymous ones. In the long run, on-the-record liars injure themselves. Anonymous ones injure journalism.

When the New York Times bestows anonymity upon Tony Awards Administration Committee members for stories, as happened last week, we all know the practice has gone too far.

I concede that it’s nearly impossible to break a national security story without turning to some anonymous sources. (If only each of us had a Snowden stash!) But even then, I put more stock in the journalists that buttress anonymously sourced stories with so many facts they can’t be knocked down.

Among the best journalists plowing this field is Dana Priest of the Washington Post, whose approach I applauded several years ago.

The only good news about anonymous sourcing comes from Duffy’s earlier study (with a co-author) that examined the years between 1958 and 2008 and notes that the practice appears to have peaked in 1978.

“The frequency of unnamed sourcing in 2008 decreased to levels not seen since the late 1950s,” the paper stated. Which is to say that the flood has retreated from the high-water mark but we’re still waist deep in its drift.

My advice: Keep your news nose high, or you’ll drown in this stuff.

******

Journalism prof Matt J. Duffy will be a visiting assistant professor at Berry College this fall. Don’t be a wise guy and send anonymous email to Shafer.Reuters@gmail.com.

 

 

Cloudier than ever: Intelligence agencies in the USA. Part 2

In the previous post I described the various intelligence services clouding decision-making and becoming worse in efficiency since the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

Additional 263 new secret service agencies were created since 2002 to the over one thousand services in existence, not counting the 2,000 private secret organizations supporting the intelligence endeavors.

It turned out that no coordination was instituted, which was the purpose of creating the 263 new agencies:  multiplied redundancy, confusion, rivalry among the agencies, and the siphoning of over 400 additional billions from 2002 to 2009 were the end results, so far.

The Congress still add 20 billion dollars each year for this behemoth of labyrinthine structure.  Cloudiness in responsibilities, unidentified delimitation in authority among the agencies, redundancy in gathering intelligence, and the impossible task of analyzing trillion of pieces of information are the norm.

The Washington Post undertook an investigation into the US intelligence agencies that lasted two years.  Twenty journalists were mobilized along with Dana Priest, twice awarded the Pulitzer on her investigative reporting in the secret prisons of the CIA and in the military hospital of Walter Reed where most of the injured soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are receiving below standard health treatment.

The other renown journalist is William Arkin who served in the military intelligence for four years and is currently working with NGO, Human Rights Watch, and Greenpeace.

The ex-director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, declared: “We thought that if it was worth undertaking it then, it must be worth overdoing it.

The Pentagon Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) increased from 7,500 employees to over 16,500 since 2002.  The budget of the National Security Agency (NSA) doubled.  The number of special units in the FBI jumped from 35 to 106 units.

Robert Gates, Defense minister who administer two third of all the secret agencies declared: “Things have developed so strangely that it is a real challenge to having any kind of idea of how security is functioning. Isn’t this formidable machine just too big for our needs?

Two of the highest officials of the “Super-Users” of the Pentagon’s programs admitted: “I cannot live long enough to nail down what’s going on.”

On his first briefing, one of the highest official was introduced into a tiny room to visualize the maze of a Powerpoint structure of the various agencies; he was not permitted to take notes.  General John Vines said: “The complexity of the (intelligence) system defies any description.”  CIA director, Leon Panetta is terribly worried: “The expenses are so huge that we will end up hitting a wall.”

In most agencies there is at least a room, some of them 4 times the size of a football field, called “Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF)” that only top security people work in; they are the lowest paid and most valued employees: the “Analysts“.

The analysts are recruited from universities as they graduate; they have poor general knowledge, lack language proficiency in more than one, and are supposed to analyzing important intelligence pieces of people, culture, and languages they are not familiar with.

There are special officers in charge of the famous “Special Access Program (SAP)”.  James Clapper declared: “Maybe God can dispose of an overall visibility on the collection of the SAP.”  It is a recurring behavior for high officials using secret intelligence pieces to sidetrack rival officials. For example, an officer is ordered not to divulge certain intelligence to his superior, a 4-stars General.

A few of the created agencies are described.

1. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) started its activities in january 2003 and is directed by the minister of internal security. Originally, this agency was to coordinate and develop a global national strategy to combatting “terrorism”.

2. Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) was created in 2004 with mission of figuring out how to putting order among the 16 agencies specially designed to intelligence gathering (good luck).  Congress didn’t vote on attaching any judiciary or budget to the ODNI.  Consequently, he cannot have any power on the other secret agencies that he was meant to control.  Before Negroponte assumed his activities, the ministry of Defense transferred billions of dollars from one budget into another and the CIA increased the level of security access to preventing this agency from accessing “sensitive” intelligence. When the ODNI started its activities in the spring of 2005, it had 11 employees. A year later, this agency occupied two floors of a building.  By 2008, it settled on the humongous Headquarter of Liberty Crossing.

3. National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) was created in August 2004 and depending on the Bureau of ODNI.

4. US Secret Services (USSS) depends on the minister of internal security with two main missions: fighting financial frauds and assuring the security of the President and the high dignitaries.

The USA has 860,000 people carrying top-secret clarification to access secret service agencies.

The US has 1,271 secret agencies and about 2,000 private societies working on secret programs for gathering and analyzing pieces of intelligence.

The bouquet that clouds everything are the 50,000 published reports per year, on daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis by the various secret agencies.  How many top people in the hierarchy should be hired to exhaust reading all these “serious” reports?

Obviously, redundancy is the norm in these reports and the interesting information are mostly ignored by boredom, exhaustion, and self-sufficiency.

Secrets are not sacrosanct.  We prefer to keep them; that is true”; a sentence from John Le Carre in “A little town in Germany”

“Secrets are not sacrosanct.  We prefer to keep them; that is true”; a sentence from John Le Carre in “A little town in Germany”

The Washington Post undertook an investigation into the US intelligence agencies that lasted two years.  Twenty journalists were mobilized along with Dana Priest, twice awarded the Pulitzer on her investigative reporting in the secret prisons of the CIA and in the military hospital of Walter Reed where most of the injured soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are receiving below standard health treatment.  The other renown journalist is William Arkin who served in the military intelligence for four years and is currently working with NGO, Human Rights Watch, and Greenpeace.

After the 9/11 attack on the twin Towers and the Pentagon, Bush Jr. Administration decided to coordinate the functioning of the semi-autonomous agencies.  It turned out that no coordination was instituted but 263 new agencies were created to multiply redundancy, confusion, rivalry among the agencies, and the siphoning of over 400 additional billions from 2002 to 2009.  The Congress still add 20 billion dollars each year for this behemoth of labyrinthine structure.  Cloudiness in responsibilities, limits in any agency authority, and redundancy in gathering intelligence and analyzing trillion of pieces of information are the norm.

The ex-director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, declared: “We thought that if it was worth undertaking it then, it must be worth overdoing it.”  The Pentagon Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) increased from 7,500 employees to over 16,500 since 2002.  The budget of the National Security Agency (NSA) doubled.  The number of special units in the FBI jumped from 35 to 106 units.

First,  a few data before we embark on this interesting story.  The USA has 860,000 people carrying top-secret clarification to access secret service agencies.  The US has 1,271 secret agencies and about 2,000 private societies working on secret programs for gathering and analyzing pieces of intelligence.  The bouquet that clouds everything are the 50,000 published reports per year, on daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis by the various secret agencies.  How many top people in the hierarchy should be hired to exhaust reading all these “serious” reports?  Obviously, redundancy is the norm in these reports and the interesting information are mostly ignored by boredom, exhaustion, and self-sufficiency.

Second, a few information on the various agencies to set the background for the reported story.  You might think that you heard about the CIA and FBI and I will not bother you about further nasty details on both of these huge agencies.  Suffice to know that the FBI was created in 1908 and is part of the Justice department.  The CIA was created in 1947 and depends of No ministry (strange, isn’t it?)  Do you know that the Department of Defense manages two third of the secret agencies?  For example, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.  Let us focus on the newly created agencies.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) started its activities in january 2003 and is directed by the minister of internal security. Originally, this agency was to coordinate and develop a global national strategy to combatting “terrorism”.

Office of the Director of national Intelligence (ODNI) was created in 2004 with mission of figuring out how to putting order among the 16 agencies specially designed to intelligence gathering (good luck).  Congress didn’t vote on attaching any judiciary or budget to the ODNI.  Consequently, he cannot have any power on the other secret agencies that he was meant to control.  Before Negroponte assumed his activities, the ministry of Defense transferred billions of dollars from one budget into another and the CIA increased the level of security access to preventing this agency from accessing “sensitive” intelligence. When the ODNI started its activities in the spring of 2005, it had 11 employees. A year later, this agency occupied two floors of a building.  By 2008, it settled on the humongous Headquarter of Liberty Crossing.

National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) was created in August 2004 and depending on the Bureau of ODNI.

US Secret Services (USSS) depends on the minister of internal security with two main missions: fighting financial frauds and assuring the security of the President and the high dignitaries.

(to be continued)


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2020
M T W T F S S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

Blog Stats

  • 1,416,693 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 768 other followers

%d bloggers like this: