Friday, November 7, 2014

Of Fast and Furious and Sipsey Street Irregulars in Sharyl Attkisson's new book, Stonewalled.

Sharyl didn't send me a pre-pub copy for review of her new book Stonewalled but -- overcome with curiosity -- I went to Books-A-Million and, gritting my teeth at the expense, I bought a copy.
Here are some relevant excerpts from her chapter on Fast and Furious.
I first heard about the story when someone anonymously sent my producer a copy of the letter that Senator Charles Grassley had written to the Justice Department outlining the alleged facts and asking about the controversy. . .
(Long-time readers will recall that Grassley was handed the information by the out-going ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, my own Senator Jeff Sessions, whose office had to be dragged kicking and screaming into checking out the whistleblower's allegations over a period of two weeks by yours truly. With the whiistlerblower's safety hanging in the balance, it was the longest two weeks of my life.)
We found that a lot of the background regarding this emerging controversy was anonymously posted by ATF insiders on the blogs of gun rights activists Mike Vanderboegh of Sipsey Street Irregulars and David Codrea of So my producer and I contacted Vanderboegh and Codrea, who were in direct contact with some of the principal players. We asked the bloggers to pass along my name and number in hopes that their sources would be willing to talk to me. After a few days passed with no luck, I registered with the forums of the blogs and posted a public notice. It said that I was interested in pursuing a possible story for CBS News and needed insiders to contact me. It worked. . .
(That is a true statement, and accurate as far as it goes, but it is not the whole story, as this screenshot of David's email at the time makes plain. We passed down the request through the email "Desert Telegraph" with our recommendation that the whistleblowers talk to Sharyl.)
(One of the reasons that we endorsed Sharyl's request was that she seemed extremely sensitive about protecting the whistleblowers' identities. You could not say that about every so-called journalist.)
The importance of handling sources delicately should become clear when i tell you that, while I may have broken a lot of Fast and Furious news, I wasn't actually the first network news reporter following the trail. Early on when my producer and i contacted the bloggers Vanderboegh and Codrea, they told us that an investigative reporter from NBC had already called them. But he ticked them off.
(It's never been much of secret that the guy she's referring to was Michael Isikoff of NBC and Newsweek, although Sharyl is discreet enough not to mention his name in her book.)
"He's an asshole," Vanderboegh told me more than once. "He demanded our contacts' names and phone numbers. Hell no, we're not handing over names and phone numbers to some asshole, pardon my French!"
(Isikoff's attitude could be summed up as "OK, the professionals are here now. You give us what you know and we'll figure out where you're lying." Knowing Isikoff's political biases, I was skeptical of his motives from the beginning but we dutifully passed his request down the Desert Telegraph. And it wasn't me who first characterized Isikoff as an "asshole," it was one of the whistleblowers. He let us know, after speaking with Isikoff: "Don't send any more shit to us from that arrogant asshole. . . He's probably working for DOJ.")
I realize that the blogger's could well be saying the same thing about me pretty soon. The gun rights crowd is, by nature, mistrustful or reporters. So are the ATF agents whose confidence I need to gain. You can't lie to them. You can't mislead them. They can smell insincerity a mile off. And you most certainly can't cold-call them and demand names and numbers of their confidential contacts. But if you do your research and show that you genuinely want to understand the facts, and if you're blessed with a liitle bit of luck, you might end up with the goods. . .
(Attkisson spends the next pages talking about her direct contacts with John Dodson and, after her first story appeared, the White House's attempts to steer her away from the story.)
Along with (White House damage control press flack) Schultz, Media Matters is in touch with me about Fast and Furious and things start out friendly enough. They recently received a $1 million donation from George Soros, the multibillionaire funder of left-wing causes. On one occasion, they cal to peddle the idea of a story that discredits Fast and Furious blogger Vanderboegh for his militia ties and other perceived transgressions. It's a propaganda campaign to divert from the damaging facts: controversialize critics to try to turn the focus on personalities instead of the evidence.
Media Matters emails me the summary of an extensive investigation their researchers have done on Vanderboegh's personal life. It's pretty impressive for the time and effort they've put into it. Propaganda groups know that if they do all the work and make it easy, some writers will print a version of their story. With Media Matters' proposed Vanderboegh story, all a writer really needs is a few comments from relevant players and it's ready to go.
But it's not journalism and it's not how I operate.
It's not that I mind getting the idea. Good ideas can come from almost anywhere. Special interests can contribute valuable information for a story. But they shouldn't be researching and writing it for you. The Huffington Post and Mother Jones are among those who ultimately do publish stories about Vanderboegh. I wonder if it's because of a spark planted by Media Matters. Maybe it's just coincidence.
When I prove to be noncompliant, and continue covering stories considered potentially damaging too the Obama administration, Media Matters will strike me from their list of valuable media contacts -- and make me a target of their aggressive campaign to smear and controversialize with false information. If one were to believe the liberal blog, in an overnight transformation, I went from being a trysted journalist whom they wanted on their side, to a shoddy reporter. Fortunately, few are swayed by the narrative.
(I'll have more when I review the entire book.)


Matthew Bracken said...

She comes across as a straight shooter, Mike. I'll have to spring for the book too. Thanks, to both you and David!

eddy 3 said...

We got to get you a kindle.

Scott J said...

Even though our friendship makes me a sort of eyewitness to what you've described here it's still sort of wild to see it published in her book.

IMO it gives you a legitimacy boost you've never had with those outside the gun rights and patriot community.

The eye of Mordor is probably going to look at you harder than ever now.

Anonymous said...

For the most part the pen is mightier than the sword - but occassionally the ink runs out ... and the continuing narative needs must be writ in blood.


Anonymous said...

Just one more piece of evidence confirming that the people behind all this, have a plan and objectives and are working in concert to make it happen. Happenstance and coincidence are not factors here.

Their objectives have nothing to do with truth,fact or serving the interests of this country or it's people.

In fact, it is very much the reverse.

cognitive dissonance said...

When we were kids, we were all taught about the First Amendment and journalism. Sharyl Atkisson is what we pictured - relentless, unbiased, scrupulous, courageous.

Among the many disappointments of adulthood is the realization that our lesson on journalism was just another lie. Sharyl is not just an anomaly, but a singularity.

I wonder if she would admit that Mike and David are better journalists than anyone else she ever worked with?

Anonymous said...

Bought the Kindle version and plat to read it for myself.

(BTW, Matthew, I liked EFAD trilogy and Cay so much that I bought hard copies!)

Mike I was PO'd by your PP post that I'm headed to the PO to re-up.

God Bless,