Glenn Greenwald | The Intercept | Source URL
NBC News and MSNBC specialize in repeating and disseminating what U.S intelligence officials tell them to say and then calling that servitude “reporting.” Those two networks really are the all-but-official outlets for CIA messaging. And this status has led their brightest on-air stars to broadcast a series of extremely consequential stories that turned out to be humiliatingly wrong.
This stenographic and highly jingoistic practice of mindlessly reciting the whispered claims of anonymous “intelligence officials” is what notoriously led the New York Times and other leading U.S. media outlets to deceive the country into believing Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz’s fairy tales about Iraqi WMDs and Jeffrey Goldberg’s tales about Saddam’s alliance with Al Qaeda.
But while many of those outlets apologized for that behavior and vowed to avoid it in the future, NBC and MSNBC have committed themselves to it with greater vigor than ever, as evidenced by the increasing prominence of their national security reporter Ken Dilanian, whose entire career has been defined by repeating what the CIA tells him to say – and has thus been plagued by one embarrassing false story after the next.
On Friday, veteran national security reporter William Arkin announced his departure from those networks, blasting them as stenographic servants of the security state agencies and pro-war propaganda. Noting that ex-generals and CIA officials dominate the NBC/MSNBC airwaves, Arkin wrote: “in many ways NBC just began emulating the national security state itself – busy and profitable,” adding: “the national security leaders and generals we have are allowed to do their thing unmolested.”
We now have what might be the most vivid, reckless and dangerous illustration yet of how NBC and MSNBC functions. If their behavior weren’t so journalistically shameful and destructive, this would be darkly humorous.
Last September – on the symbolically meaningful date of September 11 – NBC and MSNBC breathlessly trumpeted what they regarded as a major exclusive scoop: that Russia is “the main suspect” in what the network called “mysterious attacks” that led to “brain injuries” in U.S. personnel in Cuba.” They put CIA loyalist Ken Dilanian on the air to explain – based, needless to say, on the script given to him by intelligence officials who, as always, are shielded from accountability by them with anonymity – that “sophisticated microwaves or another type of electromagnetic weapon were likely used on the U.S. government workers” and that it was Russia which likely engineered the attack. Watch their dramatic scoop in all of its glory:
It would be impossible to parody that. Permit me to highlight my favorite line from Dilanian: “The other interesting thing that we’re reporting here is that one of the technologies used to injure these American spies and diplomats was some kind of microwave weapon, that is so sophisticated, that the Americans don’t even fully understand it.” Yes: those poor American CIA officials who are such innocent naifs that they are not even aware of the latest developments in villainous technological weaponry.
Throughout the day, MSNBC hyped its exciting scoop about the mysterious attack on the U.S. “diplomats” (peace-seeking “diplomats” in Cuba presumably do things like create fake Twitter networks to lure young Cubans into receiving U.S propaganda encouraging them to destabilize their own country).
One six-minute segment led by Andrea Mitchell – who began the report by announcing that “intelligence officials now believe that Russia is the leading suspect, and it was no accident.” – featured Bush/Cheney Deputy National Security Adviser Juan Zarate (who now, needless to say, works for NBC News as an “analyst”) along with reporter Josh Lederman, who said Russia’s guilt is “now more than just a theory. They’re the main suspect.” And, he said, Russia’s guilt is “backed up by” interceptions of Russians’ communications.
As this discussion unfolded, the graphic on MSNBC’s screen was crafted for its most sensationalistic expression: Russia is the “main suspect” in the “brain injury attacks” on American diplomats:
Mitchell then invited Zarate to explain the real significance of this story, and the former Bush/Cheney official-turned-NBC-analyst obliged: “The Cold War never ended for many in the Cuban government, including parts of the Russian government, including President Putin.” Zarate warned that this attack is just part of Moscow’s increasing aggression, including in South America, “yet another vector of attack from the Russia.”
Mitchell, with her sternest voice tone, underscored how villainous this all was: “This is not an accident. This is not a microwave listening device gone bad. This is an attack — against American diplomats and intelligence officers, and this was targeting.”
That night, on NBC News’ nightly broadcast, Mitchell condensed all these scary developments for the network news audience:
So for the last four months, thanks to NBC News’s eagerness to mindlessly repeat whatever CIA officials tell them to say, Americans were led to believe that Russia purposely caused serious “brain injuries” in dozens of U.S. “diplomats” – spies acting under diplomatic cover – through dastardly electromagnetic or microwave weapons that are so sophisticated and devious that not even the most advanced Pentagon scientists could understand what new horrific horrors the Kremlin had inflicted on peace-loving Americans.
Some media outlets expressed skepticism of NBC’s claims. Buried way down deep in an 11,000-word November article in from the usually hawkish-on-Russia New Yorker was this note of caution:
In September, NBC News reported that U.S. intelligence agencies considered Russia to be the main suspect, citing evidence from communications intercepts. But intelligence officials, in interviews with The New Yorker, insisted that they still had no evidence of Russian complicity.
So while NBC claimed that U.S. intelligence agencies had intercepted communications between Russian officials where they acknowledged their guilt for this attack, those same agencies insisted to the New Yorker “that they still had no evidence of Russian complicity.” Did any of that make MSNBC or NBC go re-visit their story and tell their viewers of this rather significant doubt raised by the New Yorker? Do you even need to ask?
Instead, NBC and MSNBC used hours of airtime and numerous pages to spread highly inflammatory claims across their numerous media platforms, all blaming Russia for an extremely serious attack on the U.S. – all because their CIA masters told them to do it. This is what NBC and MSNBC are, their function and mission: