Homeland Security

The Railroading of Mike Flynn -- Anonymously

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

In their effort to overturn the results of the 2016 election, the Sore Loser Left has hit upon an Alinskyite strategy of taking down major figures in the new administration one at a time, by smearing them, “raising questions,” and spreading gossip. The first victim was the Obama-appointed Lt. General and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency Mike Flynn, who served briefly as national security adviser under Trump until felled by the weight of a manufactured “controversy” for which there was, and still is, no evidence.

But don’t take it from me — take it from Eli Lake, one of the best reporters in the business:

Flynn has yet to be charged with a crime. If there is evidence that he betrayed his country, it has yet to be presented. None of the many news stories about Flynn’s contacts with Russians and Turks has accused him of being disloyal to his country. And yet a decorated general has already been tried and convicted in the press.

None of this would be happening without some very dirty business from the national security state. It’s a two-pronged campaign. First there are the whispers. Anonymous officials describe in detail elements of an ongoing investigation: intercepts of conversations between Russian officials about how they could influence Flynn during the transition; monitored phone calls about how Flynn had lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to his colleagues; how Flynn failed to disclose his payment from the Russian propaganda network on his official forms. This prong of the campaign is at least factual, but the facts don’t speak for themselves.

The second and more insidious element here is the innuendo. Yates never says Flynn was a spy for Russia. But her public remarks to Congress and the media appear designed to leave that impression. As she told Lizza, Flynn was “compromised by the Russians.” This sounds far more sinister than Flynn’s explanation when he left his post in February. Back then he said he had forgotten elements of his discussion with the Russian ambassador that covered a wide range of issues.

This whole sad, sorry, sordid episode will go down in history as journalistic malfeasance of the highest order. But the media — relying almost entirely on anonymous sources whom they only allege and assert actually exist — has tasted blood. In short order, they also went after Monica Crowley, then Sebastian Gorka, then Steve Bannon — full disclosure: all three are friends of mine — and now Jared Kushner, with the ultimate goal of taking down the president himself.

Here are the relevant passages from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Ethics handbook regarding the use of anonymous sources:

1. Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.

The most important professional possession of journalists is credibility. If the news consumers don’t have faith that the stories they are reading or watching are accurate and fair, if they suspect information attributed to an anonymous source has been made up, then the journalists are as useful as a parka at the equator.

To protect their credibility and the credibility of their stories, reporters should use every possible avenue to confirm and attribute information before relying on unnamed sources. If the only way to publish a story that is of importance to the audience is to use anonymous sources, the reporter owes it to the readers to identify the source as clearly as possible without pointing a figure at the person who has been granted anonymity. If the investigating police officer confirms John Doe has been arrested, the officer is a “source in the police department” and not even a pronoun should point to the gender.

2. Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.

The information-gathering business is a give-and-take practice with a lot of public officials. Some are willing to provide information only when it benefits them.When someone asks to provide information off the record, be sure the reason is not to boost her own position by undermining someone else’s, to even the score with a rival, to attack an opponent or to push a personal agenda. Media outlet practices vary, but journalists should not overlook the danger of legal problems and credibility damage from publishing anonymously sourced information that is not confirmed by public records or credible sources. Before journalists allow themselves to be used by an anonymous source they should be sure to question whether the news value warrants whatever the source hopes to accomplish.

Journalists should never take information off the record without the approval of a supervisor and an understanding of the news outlet’s policy. Some organizations do not allow anonymous sources except in the most vital news stories. Journalists also should make sure they and their source are talking about the same agreement. Does off-the-record mean the information can never be used, can be used if another source confirms the information on the record or public records substantiate, or simply the information can be used as long as the source’s name is not used (a city official, an employee of the football team, etc.) And publishing information without verification from multiple sources, even if they are all off the record, is a dangerous practice.

Now ask yourself: do any of the stories recently published by the New York Times and the Washington Post conform to these guidelines? Of course not.

Back to Eli Lake’s summation:

It’s too soon to say whether Mike Flynn is facing a witch hunt. There’s no evidence coming from current and former government officials, just jokes and innuendo. He has not been charged with anything. The specific legal violations he is alleged to have committed — such as failing to register as a foreign agent for a contract with a Turkish businessman — do not amount to betraying his country. And yet our elites have already convicted a decorated general of being a bumbling traitor. What if they’re wrong? Is there an emoji for that?

As former Labor secretary Ray Donovan famously said, after being cleared of corruption charges back in 1987: “Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?”

Good question. But don’t ask the Leftist media and the Deep State: they couldn’t care less.