ITWASSOOTED: A U.S. 'Propaganda' Program, al-Zarqawi, and 'The New York Times'

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A U.S. 'Propaganda' Program, al-Zarqawi, and 'The New York Times'

By Greg Mitchell

Published: April 10, 2006 3:00 PM ET

NEW YORK Midway through Thomas Ricks’ Washington Post scoop on Monday detailing a U.S. military “propaganda program” aimed at convincing Iraqis that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has a very prominent role in directing violence in that country, there is one specific tip on how the plan may have also targeted American reporters and audiences.

Ricks found that one “selective leak”--about a recently discovered letter written by Zarqawi--was handed by the military to Dexter Filkins, the longtime New York Times reporter in Baghdad. Filkins's resulting article, about the Zarqawi letter boasting of foreigners' role in suicide attacks in Iraq, ran on the front page of the Times on Feb. 9, 2004.

“Leaks to reporters from U.S. officials in Iraq are common, but official evidence of a propaganda operation using an American reporter is rare,” Ricks observed. He quoted Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the U.S. military's chief spokesman when the propaganda campaign began in 2004: "We trusted Dexter to write an accurate story, and we gave him a good scoop."

Filkins, in an e-mail to Ricks, said he assumed the military was releasing the Zarqawi letter "because it had decided it was in its best interest to have it publicized." He told Ricks he was skeptical about the document's authenticity then, and remains so now.zarcoweee dead?
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