NY Times details how spies for rent tricked reporters with the Dossier


The NYT published an article detailing how Fusion GPS and other private spy agencies manipulated journalists into believing in the fraudulent Steele Dossier, and how often this corrupted relationship drives deceitful news.

The article, Secret Sharers: The Hidden Ties Between Private Spies and Journalists, was written by Barry Meier, a former NY Times reporter.

He explains that the private spies have taken over the news — in a bad way.

“Today, private spying has boomed into a renegade, billion-dollar industry, one that is increasingly invading our privacy, profiting from deception, and manipulating the news.”

“When Mr. Trump, an ex-MI6 agent, and two former reporters were thrown into the mix, the ingredients were in place for a media debacle of epic proportions. And in a news business that is fragmented and hyperpartisan, a similar fiasco may lie dead ahead,” Meier wrote.

We can’t duplicate the entire article but this section is informative if you believe it.

‘Journalism for rent’

Mr. Simpson loved holding court with reporters, regaling them with war stories and presenting himself as a journalistic wise man. At a conference of investigative journalists in 2016, he said he and Mr. Fritsch had started Fusion to continue their work as reporters who righted wrongs.

“I like to call it journalism for rent,” he said.

Fusion GPS, like its competitors, belonged to a wider web of enablers — lawyers, public relations executives and “crisis management” consultants — who serve the wealthy, the powerful and the controversial. For their part, private intelligence firms take on jobs that others don’t know how to do or don’t want to get caught doing.

Information gathered by private investigators is often laundered through public relations firms, which then shop the material to journalists. Jules Kroll, who created the modern-day private intelligence industry in the 1970s, broke that mold by leaking information directly to reporters. Mr. Simpson took it a step further. He sold Fusion GPS to clients by emphasizing his connections at major media outlets and assured journalists that he was really still one of them.

“People who have never been a reporter don’t understand the challenges of printing what you know, right, because you can’t just say what you know — you have to say how you know, and you have to prove it,” Mr. Simpson remarked at the 2016 conference. “When you’re a spy, you really don’t have to get into a lot of that stuff.”

Fusion GPS also mined a field that other private intelligence firms avoided — political opposition research. And when Mr. Trump emerged in 2016 as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, lawyers for Hillary Clinton’s campaign hired Fusion to dig into ties between Mr. Trump and Russia.

In the fall of 2016, Fusion GPS invited selected reporters from The Times, The New Yorker and other news organizations to meet Mr. Steele in Washington and receive briefings on what he had uncovered about the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. As is often the case in the world of private intelligence, the meetings came with a catch: If news organizations wrote about the dossier, they had to agree not to disclose that Fusion GPS and the former British agent were the sources of the material.

Mr. Steele said his information about Mr. Trump and his associates had been gathered by an unnamed, highly skilled operative with Kremlin connections referred to as his “collector.” In memos, the ex-agent referred to his collector’s informants using code names like “Source A” and “Source B.”

It was easy for many journalists to believe that Mr. Trump would do anything to win, even — given his stance with President Vladimir Putin — collude with Russia. And while Mr. Steele said that his information needed to be confirmed, he left little doubt that he was right.

“He described Trump as a kind of Manchurian candidate,” recalled one reporter who met with him.

Mr. Steele had talents. And as with many private spies, his past was his big selling point. But his purported achievements were hard to examine since they were by nature secretive.

Investigative journalists normally rely on court records, corporate documents and other tangible pieces of evidence. But the dossier took them down a very different path, one into the shadow lands of intelligence, a realm where documents don’t exist and where reporters often can’t independently confirm what their sources are saying.

At the end of the article, he asks if news agencies will learn their lesson from the dossier debacle.

“The short answer is no. To learn from the dossier episode, news organizations would have to examine their ties to private intelligence agents, including why they so often granted them anonymity. But as long as the media allows private spies to set the rules, journalists and the public will continue to lose.”

It’s an interesting article you might want to read. Not sure I’m buying that The NY Times and other outlets were conned. Although they could be that bad.

We think it’s more a matter of the journalists seeing it as a way to destroy Donald Trump and Republicans, not caring what the truth is. Even when the facts were clear, they didn’t report them and Robert Mueller used them to compile his report, acting as if they had some merit.

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