The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Did National Magazine Award Winner Scott Horton Spin a Guantanamo Myth?

Posted on | May 23, 2011 | 4 Comments

The award considered the “Pulitzer for magazines” went to Scott Horton of Harper‘s for an article asserting that three detainees at Guantanamo Bay were tortured to death in 2006. U.S. officials say the suspected terrorists committed suicide in a sort of jihadi publicity stunt.

Alex Koppelman explores the possibility that the award-winning article promoted a hoax, noting that several investigative reporters — including Sy Hersh, Brian Ross of ABC News and Jim Miklaszewski of NBC News — all researched the same story, and spoke to the same sources, and concluded that the death-by-torture allegations were at best unproven:

A New York Times reporter was also approached by the parties who’d been pushing the allegations of homicide and cover-up at Guantánamo, a person close to the situation says.
Only after the big guys passed was the story shopped to Horton. He won for reporting, but in fact the story fell right into his lap, factual flaws and all.
“We couldn’t really believe it when the piece came out,” one of the reporters who looked into the story says. “I can’t believe Harper’s, I really can’t.”

(Via MediaGazer.) The “investigative” story that falls into a reporter’s lap — handed to him pre-packaged, as it were — is more common than people outside journalism suspect. This was the basic narrative of David Brock’s big Anita Hill scoop: Brock was supplied with a research dossier by Republican staffers for the Senate Judiciary Committee, and parlayed that “gimme” into a reputation as an ace investigative reporter. Or at least that’s what my sources say.


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