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NSA Nutjob: Anatomy of a Fake 'Observer' Story

NSA Nutjob: Anatomy of a Fake 'Observer' Story

For those desiccated journalists old enough to remember, the scandal-plagued presidency of Bill Clinton was the golden age of enterprising conspiracists, imaginative cranks, and swivel-eyed charlatans. Back then, before the Internet allowed for the easy dissemination, repetition, and debunking of sinister nonsense, a certain amount of skill was required to spread conspiracy theories. For Clinton’s tormentors, the most reliable route for dodgy information was the sympathetic foreign reporter. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the Washington correspondent for Britain’s august, right-leaning broadsheet The Daily Telegraph, dutifully “raised questions” about the suicide of former White House staffer Vince Foster and the president’s supposed involvement in a cocaine-smuggling ring. The stories were then laundered back into the mainstream American news media (”According to a report in London’s Daily Telegraph...”).

The Telegraph was—and is—a great newspaper, which is why Evans-Pritchard’s dive into the anti-Clinton fever swamps so annoyed the White House. The Guardian, one of the Telegraph’s left-leaning competitors on Fleet Street, is also a great newspaper, as is its sister publication The Observer. (Both papers are owned by the Guardian Media Group and share a website but have separate editorial staffs). So it’s troubling that The Observer splashed a front-cover story Sunday on the NSA, “Revealed: Secret European Deal to Hand Over Private Data to Americans,” citing a single source named Wayne Madsen.

Shortly after going to press, and after a flood of tweets from outraged readers like me, The Observer realized that the story’s author, Jamie Doward, failed to conduct even the most perfunctory Google search on Madsen. That would have revealed him to be a paranoid conspiracy theorist in the tradition of Alex Jones, on whose radio show he often appears.

Recovered from my own perfunctory Google search, here are a few of Wayne Madsen’s greatest scoops: Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik was an Israeli agent who murdered 69 people on behalf of his handlers in Tel Aviv. The attacks of 9/11 were masterminded in Israel and Washington, D.C., as a “false flag” operation. The 2000 terrorist attack on the USS Cole was also a “false flag” operation, executed  by—you guessed it!—the Israelis.

When not mumbling about the perfidious Jews, Madsen is enlightening readers on President Obama’s gay past (he wore “clear nail polish” and was a habitué of Chicago bathhouses), speculating that a “White House S&M ring order[ed] special videos from Abu Ghraib,” and reporting that President Bush’s “feces and urine are classified top secret” and “captured” from special toilets and “flown back from Europe.” (This last story is available on the Holocaust-denial website Rense.com, incidentally.)

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