Top Western media outlets published a false report claiming Russia attacked Poland with a missile. This fake news originated with an anonymous US intelligence official, whose unsubstantiated accusations were mindlessly regurgitated by the press.
On November 15, two people in Poland were killed in a missile attack that crossed over Ukraine’s western border.
NATO and Polish officials later admitted that this missile was likely fired by accident by Ukrainian authorities. But soon after it happened, many Western media outlets blamed Russia.
Given that Poland is a member of the US-led NATO military cartel, a Russian attack on its territory could have triggered a direct US military entry into the proxy war in Ukraine, potentially risking World War III between two nuclear superpowers.
One of the main culprits in amplifying the false claim that Russia had attacked Poland was leading US news agency the Associated Press (AP).
The AP reporter who published the fake news, James LaPorta, had been fed the story by a US spy.
The website Semafor obtained internal communications between LaPorta and his colleagues using the chat app Slack.
A screenshot of the messages shows that a “senior American intelligence official” had told LaPorta that “Russian missiles crossed into Poland,” killing “at least two people.” The anonymous US spy also claimed that “missiles entered Moldova.”
LaPorta said the unnamed source in the US intelligence agency had been “vetted by Ron Dixon,” referring to the vice president of news and head of investigations at the Associated Press.
AP editor Lisa Leff asked if the website could publish the claim, or if it needed “confirmation from another source and/or Poland.”
LaPorta replied, “that call is above my pay grade.”
The AP correspondent based in Warsaw, Poland, Vanessa Gera, chimed in, arguing they should publish the fake story, because, “I can’t imagine a U.S. intelligence official would be wrong on this.”
The AP’s deputy news director for Europe, Zeina Karam, ultimately approved the fake story. She wrote, “Yes, should be ok, I see source vetted by @rnixon,” in reference to the vice president.
Karam previously served as AP’s news director for Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.
Lisa Leff, the AP editor, subsequently sent out the news alert, stating that a “senior U.S. intelligence official says Russian missiles crossed into NATO member Poland, killing two people.”
By publishing the fake news, the AP set off an international scandal that could have triggered a direct US military attack on Russia.
To try to save face, the AP fired LaPorta on November 21.
But the Associated Press told the Washington Post that it does not plan on punishing Gera, Leff, Karam, or any of the editors who obediently echoed the unsubstantiated claim of an unnamed US spy.
This controversy shows how cozy mainstream corporate media outlets are with US intelligence agencies, and how anonymous spies feed them claims that are often false, but that serve Washington’s foreign-policy interests.
LaPorta himself previously worked for the US military. The Post noted that he is a “former U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan, [and] he joined AP in April 2020 after several years as a freelance reporter.”
But he was too close to his US government sources, and he got burned.
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