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Wednesday, February 14, 2007


"Sadr has fled Iraq"

Reports, such as this one from AP, have it that Muqtada al-Sadr has "fled" Iraq and is now in Iran. How do we know this? Here's the sourcing: "a senior U.S. official...speaking on condition of anonymity." Every single piece of "information" contained in the AP article is sourced to a single, anonymous, U.S. official. Given that pathetic sourcing, here's AP's desperate attempt to add credibility to its government press release article:
Sadr's departure was reported by several television networks Tuesday.
Right. Based on a phone call from the exact same anonymous U.S. official.

Some news sources, like Reuters, actually had the audacity to contact al-Sadr's representatives to obtain a denial of this "story." But even that article led with (and was headlined by) the unsupported claim of "U.S. officials." When the author gets around to mentioning the denials, however, he couldn't resist this attempt to lessen the credibility of them:

"He is now in Iraq," Nassar al-Rubaei, head of the Sadrist bloc in Iraq's parliament, told Reuters without giving details.
For some strange reason, that "without giving details" qualifier didn't appear in connection with the "U.S. officals," even though they wouldn't even provide the detail of their own name. Not to mention that the second al-Sadr associate mentioned in the article did "give details":
A second aide who declined to be identified said Sadr was in the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf but had reduced his public appearances for "security reasons."
Reuters also bothers to go to the trouble of citing two anonymous U.S. officials, as if the fact that there were two anonymous officials instead of just one in any way provides some kind of independent confirmation of the assertion.

Could the standards of reporting be any lower? Sadly, I suppose they could.

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