Last week, the Associated Press (AP) dropped a bombshell story claiming Russian missiles had hit Poland and killed two people.
BREAKING: A senior U.S. intelligence official says Russian missiles crossed into NATO member Poland, killing two people.
A Polish government spokesman did not immediately confirm the information, but said leaders were meeting on "crisis situation." https://t.co/W1hhjwa6ez
— The Associated Press (@AP) November 15, 2022
According to their initial reports, this intelligence came from a “senior US intelligence official.”
I say bombshell, because this report—if true—could easily have been the grenade that launched World War III in earnest. Tensions have already been escalating in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine (which the US is very much unconstitutionally and undemocratically involved in). We’re literally spending billions backing Ukraine, sending them weapons, and God knows what else behind the scenes. (Because again… a lot of this isn’t being done above book.)
Meanwhile, the usual suspects in both the Democratic and Republican parties have been gunning for us to get even more involved. But they’ve lacked any real justification for us doing so, as Ukraine is not a NATO ally and there is no compelling argument for why we should be getting involved in a conflict that poses such a threat to global peace.
Poland, however, is a NATO ally. And if Russia did attack them all allies, including the US, would be obligated by the treaty to militarily defend it from the Russians—getting us involved exactly how the war hawks have hoped.
But turns out, it didn’t happen. These missiles were actually most likely fired by Ukraine.
Not even Associated Press with their completely fictional report on Russian missiles hitting Poland that carried severe consequences for escalating the war
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 22, 2022
In fact, the AP quickly had to back off its reporting. They issued a correction to their story that said:
In earlier versions of a story published November 15, 2022, The Associated Press reported erroneously, based on information from a senior American intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity, that Russian missiles had crossed into Poland and killed two people. Subsequent reporting showed that the missiles were Russian-made and most likely fired by Ukraine in defense against a Russian attack.
Umm, come again? That’s a heck of an oversight.
But then it got even stranger. In a desperate act of damage control, the outlet fired the reporter behind the original story, Jim LaPorta.
SCOOP: The @AP has fired reporter Jim LaPorta, one of the two bylines on a retracted report last week alleging Russian missiles landed in NATO member Poland. The report relied a single anonymous source, a violation of AP's policy.
— Corbin Bolies (@CorbinBolies) November 22, 2022
Interestingly, LaPorta was not the only reporter on the story. In fact, it had a co-byline that also listed John Leicester, who is still employed by the AP. Also still employed are the editors who gave the piece a greenlight, even though it reportedly violated the organization’s own standards of requiring multiple collaborating sources when the original is anonymous. So why was LaPorta scapegoated here?
AP Fires Reporter Whose Anonymously-Sourced and Retracted Story Claimed Russia Killed Polish Civilians https://t.co/fMW5rPbpPx
— Mediaite (@Mediaite) November 22, 2022
‘Above my pay grade.’ Increasingly hard to understand why AP fired reporter without also disciplining editors involved in publishing wrong report that Russia fired missiles into Poland – violating AP’s own rules against using single source https://t.co/qodhr4UAtx pic.twitter.com/fYDlNpF2x5
— Ted Bridis (@tbridis) November 23, 2022
In their news and values statement, the AP lists one exception to that rule, “when material comes from an authoritative figure who provides information so detailed that there is no question of its accuracy.”
That obviously wasn’t the case here. And while the AP should absolutely hold itself accountable for bad judgment and bending its own rule, the real question here is what senior intelligence official gave the reporter fake news?
Important that AP accounts for publishing the false claim that Russia fired missiles into Poland. But the much more important task is finding out why an anonymous senior US intelligence official fed AP that false claim. https://t.co/6YmAn0VDap
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) November 23, 2022
While the AP is clearly blaming their own reporter for not vetting his source well enough here, no one should be satisfied with simply throwing LaPorta to the wolves in this circumstance.
First and foremost, he had little incentive to lie here. Any journalist knows breaking this big of a story, only to have it retracted, would carry severe career implications. Secondarily, when it comes to this kind of reporting, journalists have little ability to vet the information they’re given. Are journalists far too deferential to police and governmental officials in their reporting? Absolutely. But what’s he going to do? Go inspect the missiles himself?
In these kinds of stories, journalists can at best seek to find multiple sources with the same story—which again, did not happen here. But this is a factor we know the intelligence community has a history of taking advantage of.
We probably stopped, right? That doesn't sound like us. We're the Good Guys. https://t.co/BEFZQC4WTF
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 18, 2022
In a famous, older interview, CIA officer Ralph McGehee admitted on camera that his agency uses “disinformation operations” to achieve political end goals.
McGehee was with the agency for 25 years and said in the course of the interview, “The CIA is not an intelligence agency, it’s a corporate action agency. Corporate action being overthrowing or supporting foreign governments. Another part of corporate action is disinformation. And the American people in my estimation are the primary target audience of the agency’s disinformation operation. I view the entire Vietnam War was brought to us and sold to us by agency disinformation operations.”
In response to these remarks, the reporter interviewing him says, “That had to be done, of course, through the press. How else would one reach the American public?”
McGehee says, “it could be a director of agency contacting a publisher…or it could be giving information to a reporter and winning his good will…the agency uses the press in numerous ways to achieve its, what I call, illusion building.”
Our government, and specifically our intelligence community, has lied its way into multiple wars in the past. So, it’s entirely possible they were trying to do the same thing here with this false story about Russia attacking our ally.
While journalists have a code of ethics to protect their sources, there are exceptions to that rule and this is one of them. Congress needs to investigate this story immediately and find out if the intelligence community is giving the press false information in order to entrap us in yet another disgusting war. And the AP needs to cooperate fully to get to the bottom of the mess it helped create.