Saturday, March 25, 2006

NYT: SITE gives Dexy translations, he gives them play -- None dare call it reporting

Dexter Filkins files "Iraq Qaeda Chief Seems To Pursue A Lower Profile" in this morning's New York Times. Files from where? Readers may wonder since it's a front page article without a dateline. So let's give it the byline and dateline it's earned: "By DEXTER FILKINS and RITA KATZ, SITE Institute, March 24."

Without a dateline, but never without experts, wherever he goes, Dexter always packs his cliches and his experts. This time he tells us that "experts believe" and "American and Iraqi officals . . . are divided." An unnamed "American intelligence official" gives him an actual quote.

In paragraphs sixteen and seventeen of the twenty-five paragraph article (check my math), Filkins finally has names. Rita Katz comes stumbling in in paragraph sixteen. Ms. Katz is identified by Filkins as "the director of SITE Institute, which tracks violent Islamist groups" and someone who wrote "an opinion article in The Boston Globe."

Katz, though Filkins doesn't tell you this, has also written at least three times for The National Review. Katz has been sued by several groups who accuse her of falsely labeling them terrorist groups, another fact that Filkins doesn't provide to readers. She is also an Iraqi exile which Filkins forgets to tell readers. He also can't state she is a supporter of the Patriot Act. She has stated that the US had "success" in Afghanistan. (That laughable comment alone should prevent the Times from quoting her.) Despite Bully Boy's famous/infamous statement on his so-called war on terror ("I don't think you can win it."), Katz firmly believes that you can.

Dexy loves Rita. But when he noted her on December 2, 2005, he was able to note that she and her organization were "now working under a United States government contract to investigate militant groups." Today she's just an independent "expert" -- not affiliated with anything but the 'truth.' It's a loose affiliation, not unlike Dexy's affiliation with reporting.

Well Dexy's had go-go boy gone wild times in the Green Zone and apparently never learned the language so he has to depend on Katz and her organization "which provided the translations of his statements . . ." Him being Zarqawi, whose alleged statements are the focus of Dexy's article. She gives him translations (which he can't evaluate) and he gives her quote play. Rita Katz used to be "anonymous" but when she went on 60 Minutes in 2003, she was "Sarah." Anonymous is one thing, false alias, however, should give the press pause. Not Dexy. Dexy runs with the administration doggies.

Hadassah, in a profile on Katz, notes that she "honed her skills while working at the Investigative Project think tank run by counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson." Again, that should give the press pause. From Eyal Press' "Neocon Man" (The Nation):

Steven Emerson, another self-styled terrorism expert, who gained notoriety in the immediate aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing for suggesting that it bore a "Middle Eastern trait."

If Emerson is new to you, check out John F. Sugg's "Steven Emerson's Crusade: Why is a journalist pushing questionable stories from behind the scenes?" (FAIR's EXTRA!) and "Steve Emerson Eats Crow" (CounterPunch).

That is Katz's mentor. Also in Hadassah, she dismisses her mother's contradictions of her own version of life in Iraq and her father, who was not around after Katz turned six, with "It doesn't matter. These are my memories." Which is probably her explanation for her work on terrorism as well. (Note that Katz's father was executed in Iraq and Katz wouldn't learn of that until over a decade later.) (Also note that the "utlra-Orthodox" market is not the only apparent "goldmine" for Katz.)

From Sugg's "The FBI is on My Trail" (CounterPunch):

Emerson's researcher -- until a rupture two years ago -- was the truly weird Rita Katz, who claimed in her book Terrorist Hunter that federal agents were bowled over by her sexual appeal. She also wrote that an individual left Tampa the "next day" after a leader of the Islamic Jihad was assassinated. The truth is that he left almost a half-year before then, but Katz's deception puts a far more sinister cast on events in Tampa. At the very least, it arguably was intended to mislead the public -- and the press.

Neocon, apparently, means never having to say you're wrong or sorry.

Like Emerson, Katz believes the terrorists are among us. Like Emerson, Katz is seen by many as anti-Islam. Fortunately for her Dexy has no qualms about using her (or research she provides him with) for the basis of his thinly sourced story.

The other named source appears only in paragraph seventeen, Bruce Hoffman of the RAND Corporation. Possibly if Hoffman had fed Dexy documents (go-go boys from the Green Zone don't like working), he, like Katz, could pop back up later in the article.

Did the Times verify the translations Katz provided? There's nothing to indicate that they did.

Oh, come on, we're talking about Dexter Filkins, the guy who supposedly was in Falluja during the November 2004 massacre but didn't bother to tell readers about the slaughter, the use of white phosphorus or any number of things. (He did go rah-rah-rah war and that earned him an award. History, and his peers, have already questioned that award.) Dexy swallows everything that's fed to him by administration sources. So today he writes about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, not as a journalist, but as a White House flack. (Is he auditioning for Scotty's job?)

There's no reality here. Filkins writes of facts that aren't facts, never qualifies any of his assertions and continues to be the Judith Miller of the New York Times (a position he's held since before Miller left the paper). Today's talking point, ironically as the White House wants to get the public back behind the illegal war, is that big-bad Zarqawi is on the prowl.

Since he's been reported dead numerous times by the media and since his own importance is questioned even by the administration (which frequently hides behind him), it's amazing to read the "Only from the mouth of Dexy" reporting until you grasp that Dexy's done no reporting. He's using the translations handed to him by a proponent/activist/cheerleader of the so-called war on terror.

Filkins knows nothing (a given for Dexy) yet presents it as fact (ditto). And the Times front pages it because they are oh-so-sensitive about the criticism that continues to mount over their "award winning" "reporter." Amy Goodman and David Goodman have noted a previous Times reporter who helped sell the 'nukes are good weapons' nonsense after the United States dropped the bombs on Japan. I'm not sure if they noted that a brother-in-law of the Ochs family was involved in that as well. (Noted in their book Exceptions to the Rulers, it's not noted in the article.) (From behind the scenes, of course.) Will we, years from now, discover that an Ochs or a Sultzberger is advising the US government on their so-called war on terrorism? Don't be surprised.

In the meantime Dexy's given free reign to rant and rave over some documents he was handed by a questionable organization, documents translated by that organization. This is the sort of thing that brought down Judith Miller. This is the sort of thing that the Times swore never again to. (Yeah, right.) So Dexy is this year's Judith Miller. (With apologies to Francisco -- but Juan Forero can remain "the littlest Judith Miller" -- just think of Dexy as the full size Miller.) 'Til Tuesday had a wonderful song entitled "David Denies" (lyrics by Aimee Mann, music by 'Til Tuesday, on the album Welcome Home) and possibly Mann could redo it as "Dexy Denies"?

Reality, from Dahr Jamail's "The Zarqawi Phenomenon" (

The Bush administration has regularly claimed that Zarqawi was in -- and then had just barely escaped from -- whatever city or area they were next intent on attacking or cordoning off or launching a campaign against. Last year, he and his organization were reputed to be headquartered in Fallujah, prior to the American assault that flattened the city. At one point, American officials even alleged that he was commanding the defense of Fallujah from elsewhere by telephone. Yet he also allegedly slipped out of Fallujah either just before or just after the beginning of the assault, depending on which media outlet or military press release you read.
He has since turned up, according to American intelligence reports and the U.S. press, in Ramadi, Baghdad, Samarra, and Mosul among other places, along with side trips to Jordan, Iran, Pakistan and/or Syria. His closest "lieutenants" have been captured by the busload, according to American military reports, and yet he always seems to have a bottomless supply of them. In May, a news report on the BBC even called Zarqawi "the leader of the insurgency in Iraq," though more sober analysts of the chaotic Iraqi situation say his group, Jama'at al-Tawhid wal Jihad, while probably modest in size and reach is linked to a global network of jihadists. However, finding any figures as to the exact size of the group remains an elusive task.
Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell offered photos before the U.N. in February, 2003 of Zarqawi's "headquarters" in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, also claiming that Zarqawi had links to Al-Qaeda. The collection of small huts was bombed to the ground by U.S. forces in March of that year, prompting one news source to claim that Zarqawi had been killed. Yet seemingly contradicting Powell's claims for Zarqawi's importance was a statement made in October, 2004 by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who conceded that Zarqawi's ties to Al Qaeda may have been far more ambiguous, that he may have been more of a rival than a lieutenant to Osama bin Laden. "Someone could legitimately say he's not Al Qaeda," added Rumsfeld.

This entry's late in going up due to going through the e-mails and a call from Ruth. She is working on her latest report and wanted to discuss a few issues which led to us having a long (and enjoyable) conversation about feminism without either of us realizing that we'd be on the phone for hours. Ruth's latest will go up today. Maria's already sent in her contribution and Kat will offer the lineup for RadioNation with Laura Flanders. In terms of the delay, I'll take responsibility for sleeping an hour extra this morning and for searching desperately through this morning's paper for something to focus on other that Filkins; however, that's what the e-mails are about so we've made him the focus of this entry. Rebecca will be posting today (at her site Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude and has already called this morning to see if I needed her to do an entry here since there was nothing up).

As Mike noted yesterday:

How about the joint entry that Wally and Cedric did today? (Links take you to the post at each of their sights and it's pretty funny so check it out.)

They teamed up for a joint entry yesterday so be sure to check that out. As far as I know, Trina's intending to post today and Betty's working on a Saturday entry as well so check out their sites later today. Also be sure to read Seth's "Gaytime TV? ."

The e-mail address for this site is

[Ava note: I've added the link to Filkins' "reporting" to this entry. And bold faced Francisco's name.]