New Questions Raised on CBS Spy Report

CBS’s Leslie Stahl recently reported an apparent scoop: the FBI suspects that a mid-level Pentagon employee specializing in Iranian affairs conveyed classified documents to the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, and further that two of the lobby’s employees may have passed those documents to Israel. While Israeli officials and AIPAC strongly denied any involvement in spying on America, CBS promised there would be imminent arrests.

However, more than five weeks after the story broke (click here for CAMERA’s earlier report on these allegations), not a single person has been charged, nor is it clear that any sensitive information was compromised. Questions have also begun to be raised about the lead investigator in the AIPAC case, senior FBI counterintelligence officer David Szady, who has a history of investigating the wrong suspect in espionage cases, and who has also been accused of targeting Jews who work for American security agencies. ( Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Official heading AIPAC probe linked to anti-Semitism case, Sept. 20, 2004)

Ironically enough, while Stahl relied on Szady’s investigation for her flimsy AIPAC “scoop,” almost exactly one year before it was Stahl who exposed Szady’s incompetence on 60 Minutes. The segment recounted the story of CIA agent Brian Kelley, who had been wrongly charged by Szady with doing the spying for the Soviets that was actually carried out by the FBI’s own Robert Hanssen. Stahl put Szady on the 60 Minutes hot seat, ending her interview with this exchange:

STAHL: I get the impression–and correct me if I’m wrong–that you didn’t learn anything, you wouldn’t do anything different. That’s the impression you’ve left. You’d do it the same way.

Mr. SZADY: Well, how would you not?

STAHL: But the Justice Department couldn’t disagree more. Last week, it issued a scathing review of the case, blaming Szady and his fellow mole-hunters for missing obvious clues.

As for Brian Kelley, he’s been fully exonerated and is back at work at the CIA teaching fellow spy catchers about the mistakes that were made in the Hanssen case. (60 Minutes, Aug. 24, 2003)

While Szady might not have learned anything from his failures in the Kelley case, it seems that Stahl and CBS also didn’t learn anything, relying on Szady for their AIPAC spying story even though just one year earlier they had helped to demolish his credibility.

Why would a supposedly responsible news organization discredit an investigator one year, and then rely on him for exactly the same type of information the next year? Could it be that when the accusations involve Israel or Jews, that’s proof enough for CBS?

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