Across the Bay

Monday, July 02, 2007

Zero Credibility

To follow up on my previous post, here's an interesting piece that reiterates the now-open secret about who exactly were Sy Hersh's sources, namely Michel Samaha and Farid Abboud. Samaha was included in the recently-released presidential proclamation barring entry into the United States of Syrians and Lebanese deemed to be undermining Lebanon's sovereignty and democratic institutions:

the American move is, more importantly, a first step that can be extended to other Lebanese figures who do have stakes in the U.S., and who, thorough their alliances or actions, have perpetuated the Lebanese crisis.

The case of Michel Samaha is the most interesting. In the gallery of Syrian operatives, he is echelons above the rest. It was he who used his friendship with the American journalist Seymour Hersh to help get out Hersh’s controversial story in The New Yorker last March that the Hariri camp was financing Sunni Islamist groups in Lebanon. It was Samaha who, along with the Lebanese ambassador in Washington, Farid Abboud, and others with ties to the old regime, helped organize several of Hersh’s Lebanese interviews for that article. According to one reliable source, Abboud called some of Hersh’s interviewees ahead to ensure that everyone was on the same page when meeting with the journalist. And it was Samaha who reportedly handed Hersh the plum of his visit: a meeting with the secretary general of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah.
Sources play journalists for saps, and Hersh has gotten great stories by channeling the leaks of those playing him. However, if a source is being targeted by the US government for, in this case, advancing Syria’s agenda, then it makes sense for Hersh’s employer to explore if Samaha unduly shaped the journalist’s copy, and if Hersh went too far in allowing this. That Samaha and Hersh are close, that Hersh relies heavily on anonymous sourcing and that specific accusations in his Lebanon piece about alleged Lebanese government aid to two Sunni Islamist groups went virtually unsourced, that Hersh relied on Samaha for a major interview with Nasrallah, and that Hersh arrived in a divided Lebanon plainly in the embrace of one side in the dispute, all suggest that a second look at his final article might be advisable, for accuracy’s sake.

The rumor is that Hersh is preparing a new piece on Lebanon. We look forward to reading it. But we hope The New Yorker reads it too, at least carefully enough to ensure that its prize journalist has not been – we are confident, unwittingly – turned into an agent of influence.

The Hersh piece, which effectively foreshadowed Syria's plan to destabilize Lebanon through Fateh al-Islam months before the fighting broke out (quintessential Syrian modus operandi, by the way), was used profusely by Syria's and Hezbollah's propaganda outlets in every single piece they put out during the first week of the fighting (including a piece by the regime's second English-language flack, Sami Moubayed) as an integral part of a media campaign covering the terror campaign.

In other words, Hersh was part and parcel of a Syrian terror campaign against a sovereign state; an irresponsible tool at the disposal of terrorist gangsters.

As for the last graph quoted above, see again my post on this.