July 17, 2017

Despite June ‘Clarification,’ AP’s False ‘All 17 Agencies’ Trump-Russia Claim Remains Ubiquitous

On June 30, the Associated Press issued a “Clarification” acknowledging that stories published on April 6, June 2, June 26 and June 29 had incorrectly “reported that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have agreed that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election to benefit Donald Trump.” One has to wonder why the AP even bothered. That “Clarification” has failed to affect the content of a key, still-present June 22 story the wire service “somehow” failed to identify. Further, the AP issued another story on June 30 — that’s right, the same day it issued its “Clarification” — which contained, and still contains, the same “all 17 agencies” error.

The “Clarification” itself only weakly admitted that “Not all 17 intelligence agencies were involved in reaching the assessment.” There is no genuine evidence that any agency other than the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency, which AP acknowledged were the only agencies which collected information leading to the assessment, were at all involved in the assessment.

The June 22 story by Vivian Salama which the AP’s “Clarification” failed to identify, and which is still present at APnews.com, is — imagine that — largely about President Donald Trump disputing the “all 17 agencies” claim:

AP062217on17IntelAgencies

This story is arguably more important than the four AP claims to have “clarified,” because it is about President Trump directly and correctly taking on the “all 17 agencies” myth.

The AP ridiculously compounded its error by publishing a June 30 story by Salama and Ken Thomas — also still present and uncorrected at APnews.com — containing the very error AP had supposedly “clarified”:

AP063017on17IntelAgencies.jpg

Beyond that, searches I performed in preparing a July 3 post at my home blog showed that AP did not actually change the content of the June 26 story it had “clarified,” as the “all 17 agencies” myth remained in a very late paragraph. Though that story has since been pulled from AP’s main national site (as is typical after two weeks), it remains, uncorrected, at APnews.com.

It seems inconceivable that Salama, Thomas, and AP failed to remember that June 22 story and to inform readers that it also fell within the scope of their “Clarification.”

It also seems virtually impossible that the AP considered its “Clarification” a genuinely important matter, given that it published yet another story containing the “all 17 agencies” myth the same day the “Clarification” was issued.

That July 3 post at my home blog also demonstrated that the June 22, June 26 and June 30 stories were present in uncorrected form at quite a large number of subscribing outlets’ websites. Though some of those links have since expired, I repeated the searches I did two weeks ago on Monday evening, and found that these stories are still present in a combined hundreds of places, as follows:

  • A Google News search on the headline of the June 26 story (“Trump Eager for Big Meeting With Putin; Some Advisers Wary”; in quotes, showing duplicates) returned roughly 180 items. A random clickthrough to 18 of the results indicated that the “all 17 agencies” error was still present in 12. Three other stories were brief versions of the full original, and never contained the erroneous reference in the first place, while three other links had expired. Thus, three weeks after its original appearance, and 17 days after the wire service’s “Clarification,” it appears safe to say that the error supposedly “clarified” is still present at over 100 sites still carrying that June 26 story.
  • As to the June 22 story still present at APnews.com, it is also still present in many other places. A similarly constructed Google News search on that story’s headline returned over 80 results. A random clickthrough to 15 of the listed stories showed that the “all 17 agencies” myth was present in 11; the other four links had expired. Nearly a month after this story’s publication, it is likely still present at 50 or more AP-subscribing web sites.
  • To no one’s surprise at this point, that June 30 story published just after the “Clarification” is still present in many places. A Google News search on that story’s headline returned roughly 100 items. It would be safe to say that at least 60 of those links are still good and contain the “all 17 agencies” myth. Among them: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the UK Daily Mail, the Seattle Times, Fortune.com (same story, different headline), the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Times, and even Townhall.com.
  • Though in smaller numbers, the June 2 and April 26 stories can still be found at some AP-subscribing sites, predictably uncorrected.

If the AP really cared about making its “Clarification” known and about correcting the historical record, it would have issued a content-related announcement similar to the “Picture Kill” the Reuters wire service was forced to order in 2006 when it because obvious that it had allowed altered photos from conflict areas in the Middle East to be published. Such an announcement from AP would have demanded that subscribers replace the stories involved with versions the wire service supplied not containing the “all 17 agencies” myth, accompanied by an explanation to readers concerning the correction — excuse me, “Clarification” — that had been made to the original.

The AP’s failure to follow through on its “Clarification” in any meaningful way, turning it into a de facto Pretend Clarification, has clearly had a negative impact. For example, the AP’s sloth more than likely contributed to some broadcast journalists’ continued insistence on July 6 that the “all 17 agencies” myth was still true when Trump correctly noted that it was indeed a myth that day during his visit to Poland. Two of them included Katy Tur at MSNBC and Jim Acosta at CNN. Tur quickly pulled a tweet with that claim, while Acosta, as Kristine Marsh at NewsBusters noted that day, did not acknowledge his error that day.

This post hasn’t addressed the underlying and still-present inadequacy of the AP’s “Clarification” and of the related June 29 “correction” at the New York Times. While both outlets concede that only three agencies were involved in issuing the Trump-Russia assessment, neither has acknowledged that its drafting was done while violating numerous long-standing intelligence community protocols and procedures, and that the resulting “assessments” are extraordinarily shaky and inconclusive. Two important articles found elsewhere have more detail on that issue and its ultimate effect on the assessment’s reliability than can possibly be summarized in this post:

  • May 12, Fred Flietz at FoxNews.com — “More indications Intel assessment of Russian interference in election was rigged”
  • July 12, Scott Ritter at American Conservative (yes, that Scott Ritter) — “Throwing a Curveball at ‘Intelligence Community Consensus’ on Russia; Definitive assessment was not what it proclaimed to be.”

Finally, as if we need more proof that establishment press journalism is dead, here’s a question: Now that we know that the October and January Trump-Russia assessments were not the work of and were not formally endorsed by “all 17 intelligence agencies,” why isn’t anyone asking why the heads of the agencies which were not involved haven’t strongly objected to the claims that they did?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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