By Mark Wachtler
September 10, 2014. Los Angeles. (ONN) Glenn Greenwald, the journalist from The Guardian in the UK that Edward Snowden entrusted with his leaked treasure trove of US government documents, has struck again. This time, Greenwald’s news outlet titled The Intercept has published information exposing a former LA Times reporter, now working for AP, as a secret CIA agent. The Tribune Company, which owns the LA Times, immediately responded saying the reporter violated company policy.
Ken Dilanian, AP reporter and CIA operative. Image courtesy of GreanvillePost.com and C-SPAN.
Ken Dilanian is a well known Washington DC reporter whose expertise centers around national defense and the intelligence community. But he moonlights for the CIA, running stories past their propaganda division and even changing stories at the Agency’s request. The Intercept has published emails from Dilanian while he worked for the Tribune Co. at their Los Angeles Times paper that clearly show the journalist promising his CIA handlers to publish stories that show the US government in a good light.
‘A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication,’ the report from The Intercept begins, ‘Email exchanges between CIA public affairs officers and Ken Dilanian, now an Associated Press intelligence reporter who previously covered the CIA for the Times, show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the Times.’
With the Obama administration’s extra-judicial killing of American citizens with drone strikes, including an American child, the White House has taken a lot of criticism over Obama’s targeted killing program. Videos and pictures of Iraqi and Afghan wedding parties being blown up by US drones have also had a negative PR impact. Pictures of hundreds of blown up kids scattered all over the streets of the Middle East, thanks to US drone strikes, just don’t look good. Apparently, it is the CIA’s job to make sure American media corporations present those stories to the American people in a government-friendly way.
“I’m working on a story about congressional oversight of drone strikes that can present a good opportunity for you guys,” Dilanian is quoted telling the CIA in one email. He went on to inform the Agency that his story about drone strikes would be, “reassuring to the public.” During his writing of another story, he repeatedly sent revised drafts to the CIA for their review. At one point he asks the Agency, “Does this look better?”
The emails span only a few months during 2012. But they reveal an extremely close working relationship between the Tribune Company’s Ken Dilanian and the CIA. At one point, he pitches a story to the Agency, “Not only would such a story be reassuring to the public, I would think, but it would also be an opportunity to explore the misinformation about strikes that sometimes comes out of local media reports. It’s one thing for you to say three killed instead of 15, and it’s another for congressional aides from both parties to back you up. Part of what the story will do, if you could help me bring it to fruition, is to quote congressional officials saying that great care is taken to avoid collateral damage and that the reports of widespread civilian casualties are simply wrong.”
In another series of back and forth emails, Dilanian suggests writing a news story that contradicts other media outlets that reported on a US drone strike that had killed over a dozen innocent bystanders. The draft that the LA Times reporter ran past the CIA insisted that there was only one fatality in the same drone strike, that of the intended target. “Would you quibble with this?” he asked while submitting that version to the Agency for their approval.
The Intercept went back and showed how the CIA approved that false version of the US drone strike, quoting Amnesty International who debunked Dilanian’s version. The group showed why the US government needs a propaganda machine. According to Amnesty, the CIA’s first drone attack on that particular target killed 5 innocent victims. The second attempt killed 4 innocent victims. And neither time was the CIA’s target even present.
Other email samples show just how cozy the relationship between the LA Times/Tribune/AP reporter and the CIA was. At one point, a new CIA handler was introduced to Ken Dilanian via email. “I am looking forward to working with you, Ken,” the CIA agent wrote in March 2012. “Hooray!” Dilanian emailed back, “Glad to have you guys.”
Tribune condemns, Associated Press approves
A report from the Los Angeles Times, the same paper Ken Dilanian was working for while also working for the CIA, humorously omitted that fact in their published account. Instead, the LA Times report calls Dilanian, ‘A former staff writer for the newspaper chain that includes the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.’ It goes on to refer to him as a ‘Tribune employee’.
The Tribune Company’s Washington bureau chief, David Lauter, disapproved of the revelations saying, “We have a very clear rule that has been in place for quite a few years that tells reporters not to share copies of stories outside the newsroom. I am disappointed that the emails indicate that Ken may have violated that rule…We don’t have reason to believe that any of the stories we published were in any way inaccurate.”
Ken Dilanian’s current employer, Associated Press, publicly praised their reporter’s habit of running stories past the CIA for approval. The AP’s Director of Media Relations, Paul Colford, said, “We were satisfied that any pre-publication exchanges that Ken had with the CIA before joining AP were in pursuit of accuracy in his reporting on intelligence matters.”
To read the full report and view the actual emails, visit The Intercept.
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