Mar
01
2008

Letter Exchange

Paraguay’s Tri-Border Area: Who’s Hyping Whom?

I’m not in a position to speak for or about other American reporters or newspapers that have written about the Tri-Border Area (TBA) and its ties to Islamic extremist groups. But since April Howard and Benjamin Dangl refer to one of my articles (New York Times, 12/15/02) in the oh-so-snide first paragraph of their report (“City of Terror: Painting Paraguay’s ‘Casbah’ as Terror Central,” Extra!, 9-10/07), erroneously attributing to me personally the views that were in fact expressed by the numerous intelligence officials I interviewed, I feel obliged to set the record straight and enumerate the cascade of false assumptions […]

Mar
01
2008

Is Undercover Over?

Disguise seen as deceit by timid journalists

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/daysofthundr46

This past February, the famed lobbying firm APCO was approached by a man named Kenneth Case. Case said he represented the Maldon Group, an obscure firm that wished to improve the public image of Turkmenistan, where it had some investments. It was nothing out of the ordinary -- private firms often lobby on behalf of foreign countries, either because they think it will increase the value of their investments or because they are acting as a front for the foreign government. APCO happily met with them, despite the fact that the Stalinist regime of Turkmenistan is one of the most […]

Mar
01
2008

Saddam's 'Secret'

Hussein told CBS about WMDs--but CBS wasn't watching

Of all the strange stories to come out of the media's debacle in Iraq, one of the most Orwellian is the fable in which Saddam Hussein tricked America into invading Iraq by making us believe that he had weapons of mass destruction (Extra!, 1-2/04, 5-6/04). Of all the lies, hypocrisies and half-truths of this war, this one may be the most extravagant: a falsehood whose speciousness doesn't even require any checking--at least for anyone whose memory goes back earlier than March 2003. The latest incarnation of this story appeared in January, when CBS's 60 Minutes (1/27/08) aired an interview with […]

Mar
01
2008

SoundBites

How to Bore Reporters Setting the scene for Hillary Clinton's famous "tearing up" in New Hampshire, reporters Faye Fiore and Peter Nicholas of the Los Angeles Times (1/10/08) revealed more about the press corps than they did about the candidate: "For more than an hour, the discussion was so wonkish that campaign reporters fiddled with their BlackBerrys and fought the urge to nod off. The 'intimate chat' included such polysyllabic critiques as 'I will immediately begin to reverse this sense of arrogance and unilateralism and preemption that the Bush administration has propagated.'" Seriously, it's pretty hard to discuss Bush administration […]

Mar
01
2008

Rediscovering Somalia

Press downplays U.S. role in renewed crisis

Barundi peacekeepers prepare for deployment to Somalia--Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/US Army Africa

After years of paying scant attention to Somalia, U.S. media suddenly rediscovered the war-torn African nation in 2006 when a coalition of Islamic courts and their affiliated militias imposed peace on feuding warlords and began enforcing religious law. A U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion soon loomed, and the Bush administration made the preferred story line clear. "The Council of Islamic Courts is now controlled by Al-Qaeda cell individuals, East Africa Al-Qaeda cell individuals," announced Jendayi Frazer, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs (Voice of America News, 12/14/06). "The top layer of the courts are extremist to the core. They are […]