Network's 'investigative correspondent' used 'electronic means' to connect with terrorists...
By Brad Friedman on 11/11/2009, 11:04am PT  

How many times does he have to get these stories wrong before ABC News cans their hapless and constantly wrong "investigative correspondent" Brian Ross? We suspect he'll be allowed to keep screwing up, again and again and again, so long as his screw-ups result in lots of media attention. Little wonder Ross is one of the only broadcast network news stooges invited on Bill O'Reilly's show, again and again and again.

Gawker's John Cook takes apart Ross' big "scoop" yesterday, which swept both the wingnut and non-wingnut media alike --- cooking up the alleged Fort Hood shooter Army Major Nidal Malik "Hasan's Contacts with al Qaeda".

Those "contacts with al Qaeda"? Um, not so much, as Cook details. Turns out that Hasan's "attempt to reach out to al Qaeda" were, in actuality, three emails sent to the imam of the mosque that Hasan attended in Virginia in 2001, back when two of the 9/11 hijackers, reportedly, also attended the same mosque. The cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, has since moved to Yemen where he has reportedly spoken out in favor of al-Qaeda.

The emails sent to him by Hasan? Whatever they were about, Ross doesn't know, and the FBI, who reportedly did know, apparently didn't find they warranted any action be taken.

Oh, and the "people" connected to al-Qaeda who Hasan allegedly "attempt[ed] to reach out to"? Ross now admits there was just one --- singular, not plural --- and it was al-Awlaki.

Here's our favorite passage from Cook's excellent evisceration of Ross' yet-again irresponsible coverage, proving (by ABC News' own standards) that Ross himself may well be an al-Qaeda terrorist!...

But without knowing what the e-mails are about, can it really be known that Hasan's communications were "attempts to reach out"? The FBI didn't consider them as such. Ross didn't know the contents of the e-mails when he described them that way, but felt perfectly justified in doing so based solely on the knowledge that Hasan had sent the e-mails.

We asked Ross if he had tried to contact Al-Awlaki in reporting the story:

"Yes."

So you reached out to al Qaeda, then?

"To al Qaeda? No. I reached out to him. Oh. I see what you're saying."

The sub-header to Ross' story, by the way --- which the sub-header to this article is meant to mirror --- is "Army Major in Fort Hood Massacre Used 'Electronic Means' to Connect with Terrorists".

Ross, it must be noted, is also the one who similarly stirred up the wingnuts and non-wingnuts alike with his completely incorrect report that the 2001 anthrax attacks --- terrorist attacks on American soil, after 9/11, which killed four people, despite widespread, deluded, misinformed wingnut amnesia --- were tied to Iraq. Ross reported at the time, during the build-up to a war in Iraq based wholly on similar lies, that the strain of anthrax used in those attacks, according to "four well-placed and separate sources," contained a "potent additive...known to have been used by only one country in producing biochemical weapons - Iraq."

He was wrong.

His unnamed sources for that report, likely the same unnamed sources he used for his cooked up "Hasan's Contacts with al Qaeda" report, were wrong then and he's never either bothered to retract the story, or named the "unnamed sources" who misled him, to our knowledge. Glen Greenwald appropriately took both Ross and ABC News apart last year for that incredibly irresponsible and inaccurate report, as the media, in the summer of 2008, was similarly misreporting the facts behind the suicide of the FBI's dubiously alleged anthrax killer, U.S. scientist Bruce E. Ivins.

As Cook notes, in describing a litany of stories which Ross has also gotten wrong:

His problem, as we've said before, is that he has shitty sources. And he just repeats what they tell him. Which is how you get from "Hasan sent e-mails to his former imam, who now preaches in support of Al Qaeda. We don't know what the e-mails were about, but they didn't raise alarms at the FBI" to "Hasan tried to make contact with people associated with al Qaeda" to the headline's blunt, and thoroughly unsupported, reference to "Hasan's Contacts with al Qaeda."

Please go read John Cook's full report and help spread the word about it before conventional wisdom fully sets in, despite the fact that it likely already has, thanks once again to ABC News and their atrocious, continuing --- though profitable --- embarrassment, Brian Ross.