Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Shocker: Neoconservative journalist unapologetically wrong, again

In late 2009, The Washington Times published an exclusive piece by national security reporter Eli Lake that made a sensational claim: Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), was acting as unregistered foreign agent on behalf of the regime in Tehran. The charge, picked up by all the usual suspects in the neoconservative press, was as convenient as it was stunning: Parsi had given lectures to the CIA and met with top American officials to discuss his belief that engagement with the Iranian government was preferable to sanctions and military action.

Parsi's views made him a target of right-wing hawks. Middle Eastern expats living inside the Washington beltway are supposed to help sell wars, after all, not campaign against them.

Lake's evidence that Parsi was acting "as an agent of a foreign power, in this case . . . Iran," as he quoted former FBI official Oliver Revel? The smoking gun that would cause a former FBI special agent to tell Lake that, "Were I running the counterintelligence program at the bureau now, I would have cause to look into this further"? The exclusive document showing Parsi's "lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic,” in the words of another quoted source? Nothing more than an e-mail from Parsi to an Iranian diplomat congratulating the latter on meeting with a House Republican and noting that other lawmakers may be interested in a meeting as well.

No bank statements showing Parsi's group received funding from Tehran. No pay stub from the ayatollahs. Nothing, really

A year and a half later, you'll no doubt be surprised to learn, Parsi is a free, unindicted man. Chalk another one up for neoconservative "journalism."

To mark Parsi's curiously continued freedom, I took to Twitter to ask Lake about it, curious how he would spin it. His response was novel.

That's right: the same reporter who stacked his piece with damning quotes from law enforcement officials suggesting Parsi was an agent for Tehran, adding as the only caveat that "the case is not definitive," now, a year and a half later, won't even acknowledge he made the claim. Instead, Lake suggests his November 2009 piece -- picked up by the likes of former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum, who said it raised "real questions" about which country Parsi was really working for -- was but a ho-hum look at whether NIAC filled out the write tax forms.

That whole unregistered foreign agent serving the tyrants of Tehran bit -- the part that got the piece cited by every major conservative outlet as proof those who disagreed with them on U.S. policy toward the Middle East were, as they long suspected, evil sons of bitches of dubious loyalty? Eh, um, *clears throat*, well I . . . you're stupid.


  1. I wouldn't say stupid so much as deeply dishonest. Lake is a very smart reporter who does some important work (did he break the Obama US citizen assassination program? Or am I confusing that with another story?), but he's clearly happy to provide journalistic cover for some of the most despicable neocon attack memes, then turn around and play stupid if held to account for his deliberately reckless reporting.

  2. Walter,

    It pains me to say it, but yes, Lake has done some good reporting. Broke clocks and all that. And I wasn't saying he was stupid -- that's what he called me ("illiterate") when I simply asked why he thought Parsi hadn't been charged as a foreign agent.

    But Lake's all too willing to give the latest neoconservative memes a thin journalistic veneer, as he did with Trita Parsi and NIAC. After a few more snide attacks ("You are embarrassing yourself" "I wish all my haters were as clownish"), you may be surprised to hear Lake now concedes the obvious: his piece was not just about IRS disclosure rules, but whether Parsi was an agent of the mullahs. Better later than never, I guess.

    So yeah: occasionally good reporter, but one eager to push the latest and most repellent right-wing attacks, and then to play cute afterwards with the standard "I just report what I hear (from the people I choose to call)" schtick.

  3. Oh okay I misread you, sorry. But yeah, I think the fact that he's not an idiot makes what he does so much more evil - I mean, Michael Goldfarb and David Frum are almost kind of endearing in how dumb and earnest they are.

  4. almostinfamous1:34 AM

    Hey charles, since you are engaging a lot of writers on twitter, you should look at using this tool. good luck in your battles!