WaPo Fact Checking: Accurate but Fake Edition

In the clickbait WaPo, under the categories “Analysis” and “Fact Checker”, Glenn Kessler has an article published on Thu 2018-08-02 titled “The zombie claim that won’t die: The media exposed bin Laden’s phone“.

I wasn’t going to click.  I didn’t want to click.  Liberal “fact checking” generally takes the form of partisan nit-picking and deliberate misunderstanding, and I wasn’t in the mood.  I had a few minutes to spare that morning before prepping for the workaday world, so I clicked on the piece anyway, and I found that this one falls under the category of, oh, what shall we call it?  How about, “Accurate but Fake”*.  As in, the claim is accurate, but they’ll call it fake because it makes them, or their side, look bad.  See for yourself; the WaPo takes issue with the following:

“One of the worst cases was the reporting on the U.S. ability to listen to Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone in the late ’90s. Because of that reporting, he stopped using that phone and the country lost valuable intelligence.”

— White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, remarks at a news briefing, Aug. 1, 2018

The WaPo goes on:

“Sanders made these comments while pushing back at suggestions that President Trump tolerates his supporters menacing reporters at his rallies. She said that he supports a free press but that there also is responsibility on the part of the media.  “The media routinely reports on classified information and government secrets that put lives in danger and risk valuable national security tools,” she lectured. “This has happened both in our administration and in past administrations.” Then she dropped the bin Laden example.”

It’s a shame Sanders wasted the opportunity to cite the numerous other times when our media have published classified information, doing direct harm to the interests and security of the United States. The NYTimes comes to mind in particular, having revealed secret military bases, operations, and intelligence gathering tools.  Just so we’re clear, we’re talking unprosecuted violations of the Espionage Act.

“We hope she was not suggesting reporters were responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.”

No, of course she was not suggesting that, but the WaPo would like to suggest (*wink* *wink*)  that’s what she really meant. Further, the WaPo does hope that she would suggest exactly that, or better yet, make an outright accusation, so that the WaPo could then indignantly and haughtily claim to acquit itself and all other press from such a scurrilous charge, and they could then go on to make their own counter-accusations as they wrap themselves in the blanket of victimhood. Ugh, the disingenuous snark of the WaPo.

The WaPo helpfully explains:

“Like a zombie, this false claim won’t die.”

“The Facts
Sanders is repeating this bogus talking point: The news media published a U.S. government leak in 1998 about Osama bin Laden’s use of a satellite phone, alerting the al Qaeda leader to government monitoring and prompting him to abandon the device.”

The article goes on at some length on the history of this claim; how the Washington Times was accused of leaking information about how ObL was using cell and satellite phones, which turned out to be public knowledge, and so forth, and so on, at substantial length, it goes on, and on. And on.

None of it is relevant.

Also WaPo:

“It was not until Sept. 7, 1998, that a newspaper reported that the United States had intercepted his phone calls and obtained his voiceprint. U.S. authorities “used their communications intercept capacity to pick up calls placed by bin Laden on his Inmarsat satellite phone, despite his apparent use of electronic ‘scramblers,’ ” the Los Angeles Times reported.”

And there we have it. It’s one thing for ObL to know that it was no secret he was using cell and satellite phones, but it’s quite another for him to learn that they can be tracked by location, unscrambled and recorded by American intelligence.

The WaPo says this “vicious leak that destroyed a valuable intelligence operation” doesn’t count, because ObL “communication to aides via satellite phone had already been reported in 1996 — and the source of the information was another government, the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan at the time.” It’s safe to say that the ObL didn’t take that tip seriously, and understandably so. The Taliban weren’t in a position to speak with any authority on their knowledge of secret U.S. intelligence gathering.

It probably rang a bell, though, when the Washington Times article was published on Aug. 21, 1998, just one day after the U.S. launched a cruise missile attack on ObL. After that, ObL phone comms went dark. The WaPo insists that “causal effects are hard to prove”, and conflates the reporting of ObL cell/satellite phone use with tracking and comms intercepts.

This WaPo “Fact Checker” analysis actually refutes itself.

The WaPo conclusion, and I kid you not: Four Pinocchios

Slab Hardrock conclusion: Fake News.  Go broke, WaPo.  I’m looking forward to their next round of layoffs which can’t come too quickly.

* This is a play on “Fake but Accurate“, another scandalous example of NYTimes journalistic malpractice.


NYTimesplaining: Add Liberal, More Liberal

Following the passing of Justice Antonin Gregory Scalia of the SCOTUS there’s been no shortage of incandescent hypocrisy as Liberals demand that the Senate must put to a vote POTUS Obama’s forthcoming nomination for a successor. That’s a Constitutionally reasonable demand, albeit one which is at odds with the Senate’s tradition of deferring the nomination to the next POTUS in an election year.

On that, I’ll say this: Liberals will always take whatever position suits their interest in terms of the benefits it provides them, and will provide whatever historical precedents, legal justifications, and ethical arguments can be had to buttress their case. As I wrote on EoT in “The Pretext of Principles“, as their self-interests dictate a swing from one polar extreme to the opposite, so do their historical precedents, legal justifications, and ethical arguments follow suit, and never expect them to remind you of their positional shift by explaining why they’ve changed their mind.

My answer to them is this: You First. The restoration of respect and civility in our governing process must depend a demonstration of good faith and trust-building measures. The right-wing cannot play by rules which the left always changes to their own benefit. If the left will forego their naked partisan self-interest then they may look to the right-wing to follow suit. It’s simple game theory: reciprocity in-kind.

Moving along, I was amused this morning (2016-02-18) to find an article front page and center in the NYTimes (“The Potential for the Most Liberal Supreme Court in Decades“) which helpfully explains how the political alignment of the SCOTUS could be shifted leftwards by a leftist nominee by leftist POTUS Obama.  No, really, this is front-and-center news for The Gray Lady:

NYTimes - 2016-02-18 9-07A - Front Page

[Note also the typically race-baiting grievance-mongering story beneath it – Oh, NYTimes, don’t ever change. Stay exactly the same, keep losing market share, bleed out, and die.]

Also included in the article are graphs, which make it so much more sciencey!

NYTimes - 2016-02-18 - Scalia's Seat Could Become Much More Liberal
To recap, a more liberal SCOTUS judge to replace the conservative Scalia would make the court more liberal – see below!

NYTimes - 2016-02-18 - The Court's Center Would Also Become Much More Liberal
Way to scoop Weekly Reader. To be fair, they do their best to accommodate their content to the intellectual capacity of their readership.  Hey, if you wanted clickbait cartoons & puppets, you should have gone to the HuffPo (clickbait also sold separately in the WaPo).

Both of the above charts are premised on the the supposition that the ideology of SCOTUS judges can be quantified numerically.  If that wasn’t laughable enough, the University of California, Berkeley (!) website for both the data and the GIGO algorithmic analysis provides this LOL YMMV caveat, “Because estimation takes place using simulation, it is likely you will get slightly different results between runs and across different platforms.”

[Note also the article in the lower left of that front-page screenshot, “Mainstream G.O.P. Field Faces Brutal Delegate Math“, which reminded me of the 2016 New Hampshire primary in which Sanders had a landslide 22pt victory over Clinton but ended up getting about the same number of delegates (delagates + superdelegates).  How did the NYTimes headline that robbery?  By focusing on Clinton and her struggles.  No, really: “After New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton Struggles to Find Her Footing” (NYTimes – 2016-02-10).]