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Who Is Murray Waas?

By Matthew Yglesias

"Who Is Murray Waas?"

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The story was juicy enough to prompt an inquiry from the House Judiciary Committee. In response, the Justice Department issued a letter taking aim at Waas’ piece. “The Attorney General was not told that he was a subject or target of the…investigation, nor did he believe himself to be,” the letter said, leaving Washington to choose between Waas’ credibility and that of the Bush Justice Department.

The idea that a person would seriously write this in the course of an article that’s supposed to make Murray Waas look bad should be taken as a sign that the author in question has gone insane. And, indeed, by all accounts I’ve heard the reason Erik Wemple decided to write a mind-bogglingly bad hit-piece on Waas is that the two of them are embroiled in a long-running feud of some sort.

The resulting article is just shamefully bad. I don’t like to use the word “fisking” but suffice it to say that the conclusion deserves extensive excerpting plus interstitial commentary:

An intriguing but mysterious tidbit is buried at the end of this story, where Waas discusses a Pentagon report citing links between Hussein and Al Qaeda—a document that apparently pleased the hawks in the Bush administration. Waas reports that Cheney had a few comments on the intelligence, which he wrote in “barely legible handwriting” in the report’s margin: “This is very good indeed … Encouraging … Not like the crap we are all so used to getting out of CIA.”

In short, Waas had a nice scoop. Or as Wemple and his henchman Jason Cherkis spin it:

At least two experienced White House reporters have chased after the Cheney scribbling. The pursuit in both cases came to a dead end. “Yeah, I did spend a couple of days at least trying to track that down,” says a journalist formerly on the Bush beat. “I was encouraged by someone in a position to know to treat it with great skepticism.”

In short, we’re supposed to believe that Waas’ story (which, full disclosure, was published in National Journal which is a part of the Atlantic Media Company) is false because Wemple and Cherkis say they talked to a reporter who tells them he stopped investigating the story on the say-so of someone in the Bush administration. What’s more, Wemple and Cherkis found “as least two experienced White House reporters” willing to kind of insinuate that Waas made the story up as long as they didn’t need to, you know, go on the record and put their names and reputations on the line.

Wemple and Cherkis continue:

So how did Waas get this killer stuff? Did he get copies of the documents? Or did a source (or sources) tell him about them? He won’t say, insisting that he’d be outing his sources if he explained how he got the information.

Here that kids. Murray Waas is the kind of shady journalist who doesn’t reveal his sources. Even worse:

Do Waas’ editors know where he’s getting his information? When queried on that matter, Green responds via e-mail, “We do not discuss our sources beyond what we publish for our readers.”

Shocking! Not only a reporter who doesn’t reveal his sources, but an entire publication that acts the same way!

I wonder, does The Washington City Paper regularly burn sources?

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