Aaron Klein has responded to Gawker over our report on the unusual and undisclosed closeness between Klein and "Jerusalem21," the nom de wiki of the Wikipedia contributor around whom Klein built an article to claim that references to the birth certificate issue on Barack Obama's Wikipedia page were being swiftly deleted:
First, I am not "Jerusalem21," but I do know the Wikipedia user (he works with me and does research for me), and I worked with him on this story, which focused on investigating allegations I had received from others of Wikipedia scrubbing Obama's page. I wanted to personally oversee whether indeed criticism of Obama was being deleted. For your information, often investigative journalists engage in exactly this kind of testing – like seeing if they can bypass mandatory disclosures while donating to a candidate (several newspapers did this prior to the November election), or if they can register a dog to vote in Illinois. Thus, even if I had personally edited Obama's page as a test to investigate allegations of scrubbing, this is entirely legitimate journalistic practice.
Then again, reporters typically fully disclose the extent of their involvement in such stunts in their articles -- something Klein did not do until we reported on it and it spread across the Internet (Pandagon, Wired's Threat Level, Gawker/Valleywag). His obviously close relationship to "Jerusalem21" should have been disclosed.
Of course, even Klein's begrudging disclosure here is not sufficient. How do we know for sure that "Jerusalem21" is not Klein? Why take Klein's word for it? After all, the only thing "Jerusalem21" edited at Wikipedia before this is Klein's own bio -- where we know any criticism of Klein is swiftly deleted -- and Klein is still obscuring "Jerusalem21's" real identity, for which he has not given a reason.
Klein further defends his story: "My article from yesterday noted what is clearly a major trend at Wikipedia and is a very legitimate piece. ... Do not simply and misleadingly update your article just by stating that I know 'Jerusalem21' and leaving in the defamatory portrayal that I somehow invented a controversy, when indeed there is indisputably a much wider, documented trend."
But as we also noted, Klein failed to provide proper context. In neither of his articles -- his original one, plus a follow-up -- did Klein mention that a separate Wikipedia page exists regarding Obama birth certificate conspiracies. Nor does he acknowledge that other Wikipedia pages are similarly monitored by editors and critical claims deleted -- like Aaron Klein's.
Klein sent a similar response to Threat Level. As blogger Kevin Poulsen sums it up:
What's missing from this treatise on investigative journalism is the reporter's obligation to disclose when he's engineered events on which he's reporting. In a follow-up e-mail, Klein acknowledges that he should have made that disclosure, but suggests he's guilty of nothing more than an accidental omission in a hastily written story.
"It just slipped my mind," he writes.
That's a lot of mind-slippage. You'd think at some point in the writing, Klein would have a revelation, slap his head and say, "Silly me! Here I am writing about my researcher following my instructions, and I'm making it sound like I don't even know the guy! Glad I caught that."
Further, if Klein is so proud of this story and his association with "Jerusalem21," why did remove all references to "Jerusalem21" after the fact? As Threat Level noted, as of early afternoon on March 10, Klein's original article "was scrubbed clean of the name Jerusalem21, who's now referred to only as 'one Wikipedia user.'" There is no notice on the article to indicate that it has been altered from the original -- another thing a real, conscientious journalist would do.
Fortunately for you (though perhaps less so for Klein), we saved a copy of the original. We're pretty sure Klein's follow-up originally referenced "Jerusalem21" as well, but that's been scrubbed too.
Given that Klein is still obfuscating about "Jerusalem21" and has significantly changed his article(s) after publication without informing readers he did so, why trust Klein on anything?