Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 24, 2008

The "Video" and on Granting Anonymity

Yesterday's LAT: CIA to describe North Korea-Syria nuclear ties, today's NYT: Video Links North Koreans to Reactor, U.S. Says and today's WaPo: N. Koreans Taped At Syrian Reactor

A video taken inside a secret Syrian facility last summer convinced the Israeli government and the Bush administration that North Korea was helping to construct a reactor similar to one that produces plutonium for North Korea's nuclear arsenal, according to senior U.S. officials who said it would be shared with lawmakers today.

Turns out - there is no video:

A US official, requesting anonymity, told AFP: "There are still photographs of the facility as part of the video, but it's a video presentation, like a Powerpoint presentation. It's not a video of the facility."

They have got nothing on a nuclear Syria-NoKo connection but rumours and the dubious pictures of the box on the Euphrates Israel allegedly bombed. I wrote about The Building of a Nuclear Syria Meme and later Seymore Hersh reported on the issue. He confirmed my thoughts:

  • There was no 'nuclear target'.
  • Syria has no 'nuclear program'.
  • Most of the 'official' accounts about the issue were pure propaganda.
  • The press was lied to and lied itself.
  • David Albright's photo analysis was influenced by Israelis and dead wrong.

Back to the false "video evidence" claim.

What will the New York Times and the Washington Post do now?

Both have been briefed by "senior U.S. officials" that a video with evidence will be shown to Congress. There is no video but only stills of dubious origin.

Wouldn't it be appropriate to now publish the names of the "senior U.S. officials" who lied to the reporters? Why is anyone granted anonymity even after it is obvious that the person lied?

Customers' trust in a media is a serious economic asset. These lying anonymous sources consciously devalue that asset. They hurt the media company's stock price.

Shouldn't there be consequences for doing so?

The media should put a simple condition on granting anonymity. If something is said under granted anonymity that turns out to be a lie, the anonymity is automatically lifted and the circumstances and sources of the interview will immediately be published.

Simple, fair and effective.

Posted by b on April 24, 2008 at 01:57 PM | Permalink


Readers should put a simple condition on anyting from an anonymous source: not grant it any credence until someone is willing to put thier name behind it in the odd chance that it is false, incoreect, incomplete or intentilnally misleading.

No journalist uses sources like this unless they have an agenda to push, and no reader pays attention to sources like this unless they are looking for confiramation of their preconceived notions.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Apr 24, 2008 2:23:07 PM | 1

I agree. (Although your second, "no video" source is also anonymous. Just sayin'.)

Posted by: Cloud | Apr 24, 2008 2:54:30 PM | 2

I can't help wondering why they're flogging this dead horse. Is it to give some sort of fake credence to the story about Israel having taken out a nuclear weapons installation with their bombing raid on Syria a few months back? In order to validate Israel's bona fides when they launch the first strike in the Iran war? (After which, predictably, Iran would retaliate in some way, and then the U.S. would, predictably, hit 'em with all we've got on the pretense of defending our ally?)

It seems to me that this is the most likely way for Bush's little Iranian adventure to start, probably before the election. It would totally confound the Dems and probably cost them the election -- since both Obama and Clinton have so overcommitted to deterring Iranian aggression and defending Israel from Iran. How could they object? Bush manipulated Democrats into Iraq, and he'll manipulate them into Iran. Child's play, really.

Posted by: Madison Guy | Apr 24, 2008 3:50:23 PM | 3

I doubt there is any clearly defined strategy attached to this 'revelation'. The purpose of these 'hearings' is to provide a platform for the zionists and fellow travellers to expound their racist poison from. For 'Washington lawmakers to sing for their AIPAC supper prior to entering extremely expensive election campaigns, and most importantly these hearings add to the noise and confusion in the minds of the citizenry as they strain to get a handle on "what is really happening in the ME".

Just like the Iranian briefcase scam, when NYT claimed Iran's nuclear blueprints had been left in a briefcase abondoned in a hotel lobby, if any particular event such as an invasion or a new round of sanctions, a minor nuclear attack or yet another series of Iranian diplomats being kidnapped by amerikan hitmen, is attached to this outrageous claim, then the lack of evidence, that there is no 'real' video, that the shape of the building only vaguely matches that of a Korean reactor, would be apparent for all to see.

So instead this story about the Syrian reactor will be repeated with no explicit action taken by amerika in 'retaliation' for it, until in 5 or 6 years it becomes as gospel as Iraqi drones. The real drones which didn't appear till much later couldn't have got onto the stage without the pretend ones preparing the way.

One never knows the correct response to this amerikan lying. Too much contradiction makes those opposing the empire appear like that bird which reckoned the sky was about to fall in, even worse it increases the circulation of the lie. On the other hand too little rebuttal leaves few traces of contemporaneous contradiction when 5 years on amerikan warmongers are treating the existence of a Korean/Syrian reactor as gospel.

Of course no one ever points out the obvious. If Syria and Korea want to build a nuclear reactor, who the fucks business is that besides Koreans and Syrians?

Incidentally this whole North/South Korea bullshit is just another lie. One of the first constructs of the new amerikan empire post WW2. The other part of Korea in the South is sometimes in independent Korea but mostly like now, it is just a colony of the amerikan empire, and has little real status as a sovereign nation.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Apr 24, 2008 5:26:43 PM | 4


Get over your paranoid, outdated prejudice about sunglasses! They don't necessarily hide anything. Perhaps it was sunny out and he forgot to take them off for the picture.

Posted by: WR | Apr 24, 2008 7:56:01 PM | 5

I've been incommunicado for a spell for several reasons and should probably not be getting my dander up during my convalescence to respond to this. The bar snacks offered up here might run counter to the soft, bland diet I've been instructed to observe but I've never been known to be an overly cautious sort.

In b's measured response to the allegation of a NoKo-Syria nuclear exchange, he wisely points out that there is no evidence at all that Syria was ever a benificiary of NoKo technology. He points out that this is obviously an attempt to build a "nuclear Syria" meme in the same vein that Iraq was painted to have had received Nigerian yellowcake and is equally bogus. What interests me is that it is predicated upon a "nuclear North Korea" meme that apparently does not need to be constructed from whole cloth.

In a revisionist twist, everyone now seems to be forgetting that the infamous "nuclear test" by NoKo in October of 2006 was a complete dud and, as of 2007, "The United States (did) not recognize North Korea as a nuclear weapons state". Suddenly, this assessment has turned 180°and we now not only accept that a "nuclear NoKo" not only exists, but that they are sufficiently advanced to help other states to proliferate.

Nigeria might actually possess unrefined, yellowcake uranium that is at least capable of being sold to someone. There is presently zero evidence that the People's Democratic Republic of Korea has the technology or even initiative to produce a nuclear arsenal to share with anyone. If absence of proof is what these speculations are based upon, it is equally likely that we should worry about NoKo selling its vast reserves of leprechaun gold to Togo.

As for DebsisDead's slightly off-topic assertion at #4 that South Korea has "little status as a sovereign nation", I don't even know how to respond beyond how I have responded in the past. Yes, current president Lee Myung-bak is a modern-day incarnation of Vidkun Quisling, but that, by itself should not relegate the world's tenth largest economy to the status of complete subservience. Even America's dubious Heritage Foundation's numbers can not definitely make the claim that South Korea is a vassal state... as much as they might dearly love to. The perceptions of SoKo as it existed at the end of 1953 seem to persist in everyone's minds, and it definitely works to their advantage that this is so.

Posted by: Monolycus | Apr 24, 2008 8:46:43 PM | 6

One never knows the correct response to this amerikan lying...

Yes, a sticky pickle. And it doesn't help that this administration squeezes off SO MANY blatant loads of hooey. But you've described the dilemma perfectly, Debs is dead. Well put.

Also, if I'm not mistaken, the Israeli air strike against Syria's supposed nuclear facility happened last September, about a month after the very strange and unsettling snafu that put six (seven?) nuclear armed missiles in transit from North Dakota to Louisiana.


Posted by: | Apr 24, 2008 9:47:50 PM | 7

Oops, that's me at 7, screwing up text-tags again.

Posted by: Lizard | Apr 24, 2008 9:50:08 PM | 8

quick interjection just to clarify a very minor point in monolycus' argument - niger & nigeria are two separate nations. the faked yellowcake documentation was from niger, not nigeria, and people hailing from the former are referred to as nigeriens while those from the latter are nigerians. it's a common mistake, esp in u.s. media at the time of the earlier allegations. for a humourous take on the general confusion, the onion nailed it in this faux news clip -- Situation In Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex

Posted by: b real | Apr 24, 2008 9:51:14 PM | 9

@b real #9: You are correct. Thanks for that.

Posted by: Monolycus | Apr 24, 2008 9:56:23 PM | 10

Ummm, Togo ... arghlll!

Totally OTT, wouldn't it be interesting if the truly compassionate conservatives
passed their hats, (or passed off a CDO), whatever, to give vouchers to anyone who
would like assistance from the recently laid off Wall Street "professionals", to
help them do their taxes like real men, instead of rolling up the pink 1040EZ's.

Think how many $100B's taxes we unwittingly give away to IRS-DOD-DHS-FEMA golum!
How do you know TurboTax isn't tied to an IRS squeeze back-door? Or H&R Block?
What if you had someone who really knows how to cheat on their taxes doing yours?

I mean, really put the screws on the IRS, every possible tax exclusion, back
tax credit, forward tax reversion, long term new markets tax credit program.
Say you agree to give up half of whatever they find, to create some new market,
then you're free to do whatever you want with the rest, after they boost your
credit rating, for having lower tax exposure than you claimed on your mortgage.

Free money would be flying like confetti in a Wall Street ticker tape parade!
Screams of pure glee around the country, as our tax $'s break out of IRS prison.

Not only give a huge boost to housing and to retail with those tax savings, maybe
even avoid the recession, to finally achieve that fabled avowed (never executed)
plan to "strangle the baby and drink the bath water", when they kill off Big.Gov.

I suppose communalism and cooperation to save WS's own regal skins is verkempt.
"I stole mine, too bad you got caught" meme. Republicrooks and Gingrichyrich's.
But wouldn't that be a hoot!? Private vouchers, to save taxes, to kill government,
with a fully private coordinated national tax preparation program: "F--k F-d"??

Imagine the next president in 2009, ready to roll up their sleeves and give big
tax breaks to their supporters and slush fund backers, then create another huge
branch of some bogus government regulatory right out of Stalin's Little Red Book,
along with an 8% jump in the Fed budget because, after all, Fed needs it, then...

...then April 16th, 2009 rolls around. Tax revenues off by 20%?! Can you imagine?!
Weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth in Congress. Lieberman prostrate on the floor.
No new $18B Submarine to Nowhere. No special digital tel-comm giveaway deal. No
discretionary $100B's for Gulf War 4. Panic! All Out Government Panic! No Taxes!!

A long line of AIPAC black SUV's, heading for Reagan International, on to Hebron.
Oh my g-d, oh my g-d, the sheeple cut off our taxes! We can't grift our pensions!
We'll have to get a job, work with our hands, show up and punch a clock, oh my g-d!
I would pay $2500 for a ringside seat on the day when the Fed announces those shortfalls.

There you go! Auction off closed circuit C-SPAN ringside seats for next April 16th,
then use those auction revenues to hire the laid off Wall Street brokers to 1040X
every single American's 2007 and 2008 tax returns, for every conceivable writeoff.
In less than one year. Coordinated national private effort. Fed monkey off our backs.

You may now return to your BushCon-DoD-NoKo-Syria-Iran Bashathon, and this time
next year, we can all flail ourselves with brambles, because Rome didn't listen.

Know'm sayin'? PAC, not pissy.

Posted by: Homer Weyerhauser | Apr 24, 2008 11:47:03 PM | 11

Lizard @ 7 - your recollection is correct

The whole event makes my nerves twitch ...

Posted by: Siun | Apr 25, 2008 1:03:43 AM | 12

siun, i wanted to thank you for your incredible posts @ fdl. i had a little problem posting there last time and arrived way too late, but thank you, a million times. it is a great service you do for the community.

Posted by: annie | Apr 25, 2008 1:18:02 AM | 13

The NYT has the "video" - a slideshow with "computer models" of the "syrian reactor".

U.S. Sees N. Korean Links to Reactor

worse than Powell's UN show ...

Posted by: b | Apr 25, 2008 1:21:40 AM | 14

the US government, and their eager stenographers in the major media, routinely lie though their teeth about pretty much everything. shocking!

Posted by: ran | Apr 25, 2008 1:27:25 AM | 15

This was a top news item on Danish Radio at 6AM. But to give them credit they did mention that the authenticity of the photos was disputed -- on the other hand it dropped out of the 7AM 'cast.

As for

The media should put a simple condition on granting anonymity....Simple, fair and effective.

Great idea, but I doubt that it is simple. Look what happens to whistleblowers who are not only speaking the truth but are named -- they get flamed, sometimes framed or even sometimes strangely dead.

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Apr 25, 2008 1:31:21 AM | 16

Monolycus, long time ... come back baby come back.

my take on this affair is a very dangerous 'throw everything on the wall and see what sticks". total lies they keep dragging back and nobody will remember the controversy, they will remember israel took our syrias nukes, or some sort of BS. ratcheting up the justifications, as soon as it dies down they drag it back. this is sick. they will stop at nothing. debs pretty much nails it.

Posted by: | Apr 25, 2008 1:33:46 AM | 17

twas me

Posted by: annie | Apr 25, 2008 1:34:37 AM | 18

Yeah it's up there with Powell's presentation. The NYT committed one of the well known sins of debating in it's closing para (if I knew more about debating I'd be able to name the crime). It said

" “I’d say the score is Kim Jong-il eight, and Bush zero,” said Graham Allison, a Harvard professor and author of “Nuclear Terrorism,” who was in Washington on Thursday to testify about Iran’s nuclear program. “And if you can build a reactor in Syria without being detected for eight years, how hard can it be to sell a little plutonium to Osama bin Laden?”

Maybe some debater can identify the correct terminology for this fallacious attempt at an academic brown-nose.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Apr 25, 2008 1:53:15 AM | 19

cia's mighty wurlitzer,

Posted by: denk | Apr 25, 2008 1:57:04 AM | 20

They bay at the moon, they strut and stutter on the World stage, they shriek with fear trembling from the dangers abroad that the World must help them confront:

The administration said it withheld the pictures for seven months out of fear that Syria could retaliate against Israel and start a broader war in the Middle East.

Yes the mighty Syria sends shivers up their spines and they must alert the World to the grave and impending danger. The mighty US whose economy is 367 times that of Syria is afriad. The mighty US whose country is 52 times larger than Syria is afraid. The mighty US whose population is 15 times greater than Syria is afraid. The mighty US which spends 726 times more on its military than Syria is afraid. The mighty US that spends more in 2 days in Iraq than Syria spends in an entire year on their military is creating fear in American hearts.

Somewhere in the background lies George W Bush sitting with his finger on 10,000 nukes nervous that Syria may take them out at any minute. Surely the World must be alerted to this momentous peril. George must gather another coalition of the willing. George must reinstate General Powell and quickly present the evidence to the UN security Council. The evidence was so dire that they had to destory it to save the World from seeing it for themselves. George the Destroyer Bad To The Bone.

I make a rich woman beg, I'll make a good woman steal
I'll make an old woman blush, and make a young woman squeal

If they can't get Madame Torturer to convince them with bullshit whatever pray tell is left?

Posted by: Sam | Apr 25, 2008 6:01:51 AM | 21

Debs at 19:

a lie, among other things.

Posted by: IntelVet | Apr 25, 2008 8:09:52 AM | 22

Resistance is futile:

If North Korea, which tested a nuclear device in October 2006 with plutonium produced at its Soviet-era reactor, makes the declaration, the United States will remove it from a terrorism blacklist and allow Pyongyang to tap into international finance.

Fiction I say fiction:

North Korea, which lists Syria as one of its few close allies with diplomatic and civilian exchanges, has yet to comment on the new U.S. claims, but it has denied any involvement in nuclear proliferation, calling the Syrian nuclear connection "fiction."

N.Korea nuclear talks to survive Syria charge: Seoul

In the trying to pressure North Korea to finger Syria show starring the US government. Come clean pilgrim.

Posted by: Sam | Apr 25, 2008 8:13:51 AM | 23

(cross posted at Washington Note, )

Someone in the media (Amanpour) is actually asking the right questions; is the US provoking a crisis with North Korea, with Syria as the excuse.

I’m sure some policy "realists" and liberal hawks might think that any pressure on North Korea is good. And the necons of course think it is the sworn duty of the US to police everyone’s’ (except the US and Israel) nuclear ambitions.

But two things: 1) we are no longer in control and 2) we lack the moral credibility of a slug to tell very many to do anything.

Can we imply from the timing that this is the beginning of the next “crisis”, the one necessary to have before the election?

How many day/ months/ before Israel takes out an Iranian installation, and the Cheney gang retaliates to the inevitable Iranian response? While St John sings “Bomb, bomb Iran” as loudly as he can; Hillary’s wet dream of “obliterating” Iran comes true with her enthusiastic backing; and Obama just goes along for the ride and not to ruffle AIPAC.

Wake up Congress! Instead of hosting this charade, attend to the real issues facing this nation. But no. Tough times demand distracting the American people with ginned up foreign crises.

We get the government we deserve. Hard to believe, but true, that Americans have sunk so low as to allow what we’ve got now.

Posted by: DonS | Apr 25, 2008 10:17:53 AM | 24

Thanks so much for getting these frame grabs. Excellent job! You did everyone a great service. Thanks again.

Posted by: | Apr 25, 2008 8:40:42 PM | 25

yo, debs, thanks for reminding us about the smoking laptop. Gareth Porter has written quite a few times debunking this, but it's got to the point where the proliferation danger is in the proliferation of deliberate misquotations by people in the media from other people in the media, a process which they seem to approach like a team sport.

In relation to the Syrian whatever, I noticed a typical example in a crawling text on Fox News - I think it said "alleged Israeli raid on Syrian nuclear reactor" instead of "Israeli raid on alleged nucelar reactor." This sounds childish and trivial, but when the entire mass media tag team is doing it, it has a cumulative mass psychological effect.

Posted by: Rowan Berkeley | Apr 27, 2008 5:24:36 AM | 26

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