Many observers in the U.S. would contend that the Washington Post jumped the shark a long time ago, but I disagree strongly. I think it’s a fantastic and trustworthy source of news and current events.
Earlier this week, the WaPo published this story. The basic point of the story was that Mullah Omar, the one-eyed Taliban leader who makes a guest appearance in The Kite Runner, suffered a heart attack and was taken to the hospital in Karachi by the ISI. Sounds believable enough, except for the sourcing, which was a touch — how should I say? — suspect.
The intelligence network, operating under the auspices of a private company, “The Eclipse Group,” said its source was a physician in the Karachi hospital, which was not identified in the report, who said he saw Omar struggling to recover from an operation to put a stent in his heart.
“While I was not personally in the operating theater,” the physician reported, “my evaluation based on what I have heard and seeing the patient in the hospital is that Mullah Omar had a cardiac catheter complication resulting in either bleeding or a small cerebral vascular incident, or both.”
Just to be clear, one unnamed anonymous source fed this “information” to an organization called The Eclipse Group, whose “reports are available by invitation only” on its web site. That anonymous unnamed source conceded that (s)he wasn’t actually directly involved with Omar. I am also unable to load up said website at this time, but, you know, that’s not weird at all.
Anyway, the organization with the non-loading/invitation-only website took this information gleamed from the one anonymous source who wasn’t in the operating theater, and then put out this information, which was then put up on the WaPo, and which was then, presumably, swallowed hook, line and sinker.
Wait, it gets better. Today, the NYT has a story on this “Eclipse Group” and it contains some brilliant nuggets, like
Hatching schemes that are something of a cross between a Graham Greene novel and Mad Magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy,” Mr. Clarridge has sought to discredit Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Kandahar power broker who has long been on the C.I.A. payroll, and planned to set spies on his half brother, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in hopes of collecting beard trimmings or other DNA samples that might prove Mr. Clarridge’s suspicions that the Afghan leader was a heroin addict, associates say.
Typical of his pugnacious style are his comments, provided in a 2008 interview for a documentary now on YouTube, defending many of the C.I.A.’s most notorious operations, including undermining the Chilean president Salvador Allende, before a coup ousted him 1973.
“Sometimes, unfortunately, things have to be changed in a rather ugly way,” said Mr. Clarridge, his New England accent becoming more pronounced the angrier he became. “We’ll intervene whenever we decide it’s in our national security interests to intervene.”
“Get used to it, world,” he said. “We’re not going to put up with nonsense.”
In postings in India, Turkey, Italy and elsewhere, Mr. Clarridge, using pseudonyms that included Dewey Marone and Dax Preston LeBaron, made a career of testing boundaries in the dark space of American foreign policy. In his 1997 memoir, he wrote about trying to engineer pro-American governments in Italy in the late 1970s (the former American ambassador to Rome, Richard N. Gardner, called him “shallow and devious”), and helping run the Reagan administration’s covert wars against Marxist guerrillas in Central America during the 1980s.
His dispatches — an amalgam of fact, rumor, analysis and uncorroborated reports — have been sent to military officials who, until last spring at least, found some credible enough to be used in planning strikes against militants in Afghanistan. They are also fed to conservative commentators, including Oliver L. North, a compatriot from the Iran-contra days and now a Fox News analyst, and Brad Thor, an author of military thrillers and a frequent guest of Glenn Beck.
This guy basically sounds like a cross between Ace Ventura pet detective and the people behind World Net Daily. And now he sits in California, hoping for Hamid Karzai DNA samples to fall through, writing reports based on emails he gets from his agents sitting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are picked up by one of the three main newspapers in the U.S. You really can’t put a price on this stuff.