Reading the ?hot? new New Yorker ?expose? ?which has the rest of the media in a tizzy, and has many Democrats even hungrier for Rumsfeld?s resignation?can lead one to believe that the Defense Secretary had a hand in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.
Reading it more closely, however, leads one to realize that Rumsfeld knew, well, nothing.
Reading it with the author?s credibility problems in mind, and the Pentagon?s seemingly obligatory denials seem more credible.
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has been a trailblazer on the Abu Ghraib scandal, breaking numerous stories. And his latest has tongues in Washington wagging.
In a piece titled ?The Gray Zone,? Hersh lays the blame for the scandal at the feet of Rumsfeld, who, Hersh writes, expanded a secret operations unit into Iraq. In the second sentence of the lead paragraph, Hersh leaves little doubt as to his personal conclusions: ?Rumsfeld?s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of ?te combat units, and hurt America?s prospects in the war on terror.?
The article is quite damning, that is, until the reader gets to the obligatory disclaimer.
Buried 3,300 words inside a roughly 4,500-word article is the following exoneration: ?Rumsfeld may not be personally culpable.? And further down near the end was another: ?The former intelligence official made it clear that he was not alleging that Rumsfeld or General Myers knew that atrocities were committed.?
In Hersh?s line of work, opinion-based reporting, he is absolutely within bounds to attack Rumsfeld with as much tenacity as any rabidly partisan Democrat. But the problem is the treatment then given by the rest of the media.
When mainstream news outlets, such as the Associated Press, reported on Hersh?s latest piece, there was nary a mention of Hersh?s left-leaning bias.
Even more troubling is that there are more than 25 quotes attributed to ?former intelligence officials? and only five to current officials anywhere in government. And all, save for one public official, are anonymous.
Current officials deserve the cloak of anonymity, particularly when revealing information the public has a right to know and the act itself could cost the person?s job. But what is the rationale for keeping nameless all the ?former? officials? There are no jobs on the line, and ?former? officials are routinely quoted on the record in most outlets. Does Hersh think this adds a layer of intrigue if names aren?t there to clutter up a good story?
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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