'Bloggerman' Blows the Call on Wayne Madsen
Skepticism is good. Sloppy journalism is bad. No matter who commits it.
By Brad Friedman on 11/29/2004, 3:31pm PT  

I'm happy to admit, along with everyone else on this particular beat these days, that we're all glad to see Keith Olbermann, currently the virtual-sole voice in the corporate media, willing to seriously follow the troubling stories of voting irregularities in Election 2004.

That said, while he's been doing a fine job of helping to keep the story out there, I believe he has largely screwed the proverbial pooch when it came to his blog story on Saturday in regards to the reporting of Wayne Madsen.

Madsen, "a self-styled investigative journalist", as self-styled investigative journalist Olbermann referred to him, has claimed in two different articles, so far, (Here, then with a few more specifics here) that there was an extensive and sophisticated vote rigging operation at play in Election '04.

The operation, Madsen alleges, was funded by Saudi and other overseas interests via a sophisticated web of Bush-friendly banks, trusts, holding companies and corporations. The starting point for all of this, he reports, is a $29.6 million check of which Madsen claimed to have been given a copy.

On the ground, the scheme is reported to have included the use of retired FBI agents posing as active FBI and/or Homeland Security Dept. agents in Ohio, Florida, Texas and California supplying false security/terror-related information to local election officials leading to "lock downs". These "lock downs" supposedly then allowed the "agents" and/or cyber technicians unfettered access to central tabulating computers where vote tallies could then be goosed to achieve the desired outcome. The goal in Ohio and Florida, of course, being to take the states for Bush and in Texas and California to prop up Bush's number to receive the popular majority that would supply the "broad national mandate" you have likely heard the Bush Administration wildly overstating at various times in the last four weeks or so.

Despite having been sent many notes about Madsen's articles over the last several days, I have yet to mention them on this blog at all until now. I've been attempting to get independent verification or confirmation for such stories before I add them to what I consider to be a rather solid body of evidence here indicating "electile dysfunction" of various possible magnitudes. In other words, I've been trying to confirm these stories as well as possible before reporting on them here, since so many have come to use this blog as a trusted reference source over the weeks since November 2nd.

Madsen's public reporting so far had, to my mind, contained a few too many vagaries as of yet to be added to the preponderance of evidence being compiled here. At least not until I was able to either get more specifics, or speak to him directly with some of my questions. That's precisely what I did yesterday in a thirty-minute or so phone call...

I chatted with Madsen and peppered him with any number of questions about what he'd reported so far and what he is still in the process of investigating. I was able to get respectable answers to the bulk of concerns I had, and indeed, he was able to supply more specifics that he was not yet willing to put on the record for several reasons. Amongst those reasons were the justifiable concern of jeopardizing his on-going investigation, and --- until he was able to collect corroborating evidence and get a few more people to go public with their allegations --- he suggested it would be unwise, or worse, dangerous to name too many specific names.

Nonetheless, in Olbermann's critique, Madsen's reporting is taken to task for a number of things. Amongst them, Olbermann discusses the "discouraging journalistic fact" that Madsen "has distanced himself...from the purported original source of the information". Here's Olbermann's exact charge...

Mr. Madsen also strains logic in one very important area. It is his claim that “the leak about the money and the rigged election apparently came from technicians who were promised to be paid a certain amount for their work but the Bush campaign interlocutors reneged and some of the technicians are revealing the nature of the vote rigging program.”

There's a discouraging journalistic fact here. Mr. Madsen has distanced himself further from the purported original source of the information (his “informed sources” “reportedly” got this from the “technicians”), to the point where this information is now, at best, third-hand.

Such a charge might have been fair enough, except for one grossly "discouraging journalistic fact": Olbermann never bothered to contact Madsen before blogging what turned out to be a fairly scathing critique!

In other words, Olbermann himself did precisely what he faulted Madsen for! Namely, having "distanced himself from the purported original source of the information"!

It was rather simple to contact Madsen by phone or by email. I was able to do so, and I'm hardly the hot-shot Cable/Network journalist suddenly making a name for myself as the sole voice in the MSM willing to cover this particular beat! I'm quite certain had Olbermann rang, Madsen would have taken the call.

Had he done so, a number of the reasonable questions and concerns that Olbermann posed in his article might have been answered to his satisfaction.

By way of example, Olbermann writes...

If untold numbers of operatives really were dispatched to polling places around the country to enact the most nefarious political plot in this country's history, why would the ring-leaders reveal to any of them any of the following:

  • The total amount spent on the plan (Madsen drops the $29 million dollar figure in the first sentence)?
  • The primary source of the carefully laundered cash (Madsen sites [sic] “Five Star Trust”)?
  • Madsen spoke to some of those questions when we talked (which was prior, by the way, to my having seen Olbermann's article) explaining that his information was not necessarily coming from "the ring-leaders" in the matter. Had Olbermann bothered to check it out, he would have learned more about the source of that check, which itself revealed both the "$29 million dollar figure" and the source being "Five Star Trust".

    As I've said, I share Olbermann's skepticism for this and any other of the myriad unverified stories floating around on the net. I also recognize the need to debunk specious, unevidenced or insupportable storylines. Had he taken the time to do "the journalist's job" on this one, as he has in the bulk of his other reporting on this matter, his report on Madsen might have taken a different tone. While I remain leery of the scope of Madsen's story for now, he was able to provide, via our phone call, a few more potentially encouraging specifics which would be inappropriate to report at this time.

    Given Olbermann's unique role in this matter, it's all the more important that he get his stories right before filing them. At this point, should Madsen's further investigation turn up harder, more conclusive evidence, it will most likely be Olbermann's own words, as the sole MSM voice reporting on these concerns, that will be used by the opposition in order to debunk and/or discredit Madsen. That would be a terribly damaging irony should more conclusive details come out down the line on all of this. But one that anybody familiar with the tactics of whom we are dealing with here ought to be able to spot a mile down the road.

    I had a similar experience myself when covering the curious claims of Jeffrey Fisher here just over a week ago. He had offered a similarly complex, and occasionally vague, description of electoral malfeasance widely discussed on the net. I had avoided mentioning that story at all until I was able to speak to some of the key players in his tale. After speaking to one of them, I was certain that Jeff Fisher was either a con-man or simply out of his mind. Fortunately, before reporting the story, I spoke to Fisher himself who was able to provide a few details that offered some perspective.

    The final result was a story still skeptical of Fisher's claims, but one that --- at the very least --- offered his side of the issue and a few mitigating details to my original thesis of Conspiracy Theories Gone Wild.

    While I'm certain Olbermann finds a need to demonstrate his skeptical "debunking creds" to the many who have suggested in writing and elsewhere that it is he who has gone loony in his drive to report one of the greatest under-reported stories of our time, he also needs to measure that against one undeniable fact: He is indeed in "The Big Show" now and needs to cross all of this T's and dot all of his I's before going "to print" whether it be on his MSNBC show or on his blog.

    He has himself reported previous items in this matter that he has later had to retract or modify for the record. He would be wise to avoid such instances in the future, inasmuch as he would be wise to check and double-check his facts directly from his "original sources of information".

    Hopefully I've made it clear that I am on Olbermann's side in all of these matters. He has done some top-flight reporting on these issues, including a new blog item that he filed this morning on more troubling concerns out of Ohio (which I hope to touch on later today). But sloppy journalism is sloppy journalism no matter where we find it, and the items he's dealing with now are too important, and too time-sensitive, to afford such mistakes.

    For my part, when I have evidence that may further advance the Madsen story, I will report it to you here. Furthermore, if I come across further evidence to debunk Madsen's claims, I will also report that to you here. I hope to have a few more clues on all of this later in the week.

    It should also be mentioned, by way of full disclosure, that Olbermann and I, ironically, have a bit of unrelated personal conflict which has no professional bearing on the beat that we both find ourselves on. The details are unnecessary, but I wish to be open about the fact itself, however, so that it may be taken into the proper consideration here. That said, it is my continuing feeling that he is doing a bang-up job in general, and anything I can do to support his work to that end, I am happy to do.

    Also, I should mention, so as his pot won't be able to call my kettle black in this matter, I did the due diligence I accused him of not doing. I contacted him through a private email address to get his comment on all of this before posting this item. As of this time, I have yet to hear back from him. If I do, in any substantive way, I will be more than happy to let you know in an update here.