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Sunday, December 9, 2007
AIM Still Trying to Smear WaPo Reporter
Topic: Accuracy in Media

More than two years after the Washington Post's Dana Priest first reported on the existence of secret CIA-run prisons for suspected terrorists, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize, Accuracy in Media is still attacking her reporting and engaging in personal attacks on her.

A Dec. 4 AIM Report -- unbylined, but probably written by Cliff Kincaid, Priest's chief AIM nemesis, as we've previously reported -- starts by going the personal-attack route, citing her speaking fees to assert that winning the Pulitzer "has been quite lucrative" for priest. AIM goes on to claim that Priest's story plagiarized the work of British journalist Stephen Grey, who had reported on the secret prisons a year and a half earlier.

AIM then swiftly undermines its own accusation:

Regarding Dana Priest of the Post, Grey told AIM that he had "no contact" with her prior to her Pulitzer Prize-winning "secret prisons" story and that he had "hardly worked" that angle before that point." He added that "…it would be hard to argue that I did her spadework. For the record, I think she richly deserved her Pulitzer." In the past, Priest has declined to comment on the identity of her sources of information. AIM left a telephone message for Priest, asking whether she was familiar with Grey's work before she wrote her "secret prisons" story.  She did not respond.

And, in true ConWeb fashion, AIM decided that what Grey told them is irrelevant:

The issue is not whether they had personal contact but whether Priest advanced the story beyond what Grey had already written, and whether their efforts have made Americans more vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

For his part, Grey's book doesn't give Priest credit for uncovering very much. In fact, he notes only that Priest made a "specific allegation that Eastern Europe had been used for secret jails." This is hardly Pulitzer Prize-winning material.

It's clear that he doesn't credit her for breaking the "secret prisons" story because he believes he is the one who did so. In fact, Grey refers to his own May 17, 2004, New Statesman article as a "long piece" that uncovered "a whole network of terrorist prisoners."

So Grey's claim that he "hardly worked" the secret prison story seems mainly designed to avoid being tough on Priest for borrowing from his work on the subject.

AIM also replayed Kincaid's old semantics card -- that although the facilities in question were secret and people were imprisoned, they weren't really secret prisons -- bashing Priest's "tabloid treatment of the controversy" by "referring to places where terrorists were held as a 'covert prison system,' a 'hidden global internment network,' a 'secret detention system,' and 'secret prisons.'" AIM added: "She also referred to the CIA using 'a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe,' a clear attempt to imply that the U.S. had established a system of gulags." It's also a clear attempt to establish the fact that the CIA, uh, used a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe. It's a fact that even AIM itself doesn't dispute. Why shouldn't it be reported? And why does AIM apparently think such a simple, uncontested fact should be suppressed?

Posted by Terry K. at 11:22 AM EST

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