Anonymous Sources & the Truth

Socrates George Kazolias–Paris, 11 March 2023:

Seymour Hersh’s latest bombshell alleging the United States blew up the Nord Stream pipelines in September, 2022, once again raises the question of anonymous sources and how can they be trusted?

Everything is being done to try to discredit Hersh, or better yet, just ignore his story. The Mainstream Media (MSM) hide behind what they practice every day, that is quote anonymous government sources, in order to censor Hersh and keep his reporting from reaching the public. The controllers of what you have a right to know, ask how can we believe accusations coming from people who refuse to be identified?

After all, didn’t the press blindly follow anonymous leaks, all of them false, from government officials to build public opinion for the invasion of Iraq? Perhaps the most famous manipulation of information was Judith Miller’s reporting, in the New York Times on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

We later learned that her informant was Vice-President Dick Cheney’s number two, Scooter Libby, who, himself, was convicted of the federal crime of revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame, as an act of revenge against the agent’s husband. Fortunately for Libby, President Bush pardoned him. (more on the Plame Affair here)

The lies Libby fed Miller came in very useful. Dick Cheney even famously said on one occasion not to take his word for it, just read it in the New York Times, omitting to tell us that the New York Times was quoting a lie his boy Libby, Cheney’s number two, had fed Miller.

And so, lies repeated by the press, based on anonymous sources, led to the deaths of up to a million Iraqis within the first six years of invasion and occupation (here and here). “Never again will we allow ourselves to be misled like that!” said the MSM.

A Long History of Anonymous Lies

But this wasn’t the first time the media were caught repeating anonymous ‘official’ source lies to promote government propaganda in favor of war. It happened during the first Gulf War in 1991, and especially with the live, open-mic, coverage of NATO and coalition press conferences with no filters. Live cable news was brand new and allowing talking-heads direct access to the public without journalistic control was a cheap way to fill air time. (1.) Then, the MSM continued as megaphones for US/NATO aggression in Bosnia, Serbia, Libya, and Syria to name but a few.

The media constantly give us their ‘Mea Culpa’ and then go on and repeat the lies again, as they are today in their biased, one-sided, and even falsified, coverage of Ukraine.

So, are we to reject all press reports using anonymous sources? The hypocrisy lies in who is using them: NYT or Seymour Hersh?

I have always told my students to never accept information ‘off the record’ and be very careful with ‘deep background’ as you can go to jail if you refuse to reveal your source to a judge. Judith Miller went to jail for 85 days for refusing to say who her source was until Liddy grew a pair, and admitted it was he. And Miller was fired from the New York Times for her sloppy work which has forever tainted the image, not just of Miller, but of the Gray Lady.

Why should people believe you when you use anonymous sources? Well, perhaps because your name is Seymour Hersh or Bob Woodward.

Who do You Trust?

During the Watergate investigation, editor Ben Bradlee, and reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, kept the identity of their source secret and he remained unnamed for a long time. It wasn’t until 2005, at the age of 91, and shortly before his death, in 2008, that Mark Felt, who was Associate Director of the FBI at the time of the Watergate scandal, freed Woodward from his promise and admitted he was ‘Deep Throat.’

On May 31, 2005, Vanity Fair reported that Felt, then aged 91, claimed to be the man once known as “Deep Throat”. Later that day, Woodward, Bernstein, and Bradlee released a statement through The Washington Post confirming that the story was true.

How could we believe the Washington Post had been telling the truth without sourcing their information? Well, to begin with, because the Nixon administration, beyond denying the allegations, threatened every day to sue the Post but never did. As a matter of fact, the Post begged them to sue so they could subpoena information in discovery and get something ‘on the record.’

And here we are with Seymour Hersh; a man who, when he says something he got on ‘deep background,’ I believe heart and soul. Hersh has proven himself with background sources over and over again, and not only with the Mai Lai massacre; whether it be Abu Ghraib prison tortures and executions, CIA domestic spying, the real story on the killing of Osama Ben Laden, CIA black holes for torture and, yes, I believe him on his Syrian poison gas stories too — all of which were conveniently swept under the rug. The man that The New Yorker and the New York Times once championed as one of America’s best investigative reporters had to go to London to get published for his reporting on Syria because the American media were no longer in the mood to buck the system.

No, Hersh will not be charged with libel or slander because his sources are telling the truth. The last thing Biden and his ‘mad hatters’ of war mongers want is a public trial. Seymour Hersh gets at least three independent confirmations before running a story. Has Hersh made mistakes? Yes, but minor. One I believe was wrong, was in a New Yorker article which mentions a black site in Mauritania. But maybe he was right and I got it wrong.

Anonymous Sources are Heroes

There are those who claim anonymous sources are worthless; that they are cowards because they won’t go public. They say if they haven’t got the courage to do what is right in the light of day, then they should just shut up.

Daniel Ellsberg 2020 (Wikipedia)

Daniel Ellsberg probably saved tens of thousands of lives by leaking the Pentagon Papers which convinced even pro-Nixon voters it was time to get out of Vietnam. He got caught, lost his job at the Rand Corporation and faced prison, none of which was his intention. A Vietnam combat Veteran, a Marine First Lieutenant, he felt the lies had to stop and the war had to end.

Besides helping to bring the war to an end, Ellsberg’s leak led the Supreme Court to rule in The New York Times Co. v. United States that the press had the right to publish stolen and secret documents without prior restraint when it is in the public interest and that the press cannot be prosecuted for obtaining such documents as long as they did not participate in its theft.

Chelsea Manning certainly didn’t want to get caught but saw American War Crimes as something that had to be exposed so that public opinion would put an end to them.  Among the thousands of documents Manning gave Wikileaks was collateral murder; the 2007 war crime by a helicopter gunship crew firing on civilians outside the battle zone in Bagdad in which two Reuters reporters were also killed.  The United States had maintained they knew nothing of the deaths, which included killing civilians and children who came to help the wounded.

Manning went to prison. Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, risks the death penalty for ‘espionage’ and the list of whistle blowers who have risked all to right wrongs is long indeed.

No president jailed more whistle blowers than Barrack Obama, by the way.

My answer to those who call whistle blowers “cowards” is that these people are taking great risks to do what is right. There is no reason they should deliberately risk life and liberty to help us keep corrupt power in check. I want to know and I’m glad there are people willing to spill the beans and reporters brave enough to face the onslaught of the state.


  1. I am dead against the live broadcast of press conferences. By allowing politicians and government officials to speak directly to the pubic, the journalist ceases to be the filter that helps people sift the fact from the lie and the important from the fluff. The journalist has become no more in these cases than the guy holding the microphone. Once the lie has been told, it will be too late to go back and make a correction, especially on developing stories, like war.
  2. This from FAIR on who is authorized to used anonymous sources while Hersh is not: “The New York Times (3/7/23) on Tuesday ended its month-long boycott of veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh’s February 8 story claiming the US destroyed the Nord Stream gas pipeline.The Times didn’t challenge Hersh’s story. It barely mentioned it. Instead, the Times reported “new intelligence” that “suggests” a pro-Ukrainian group was responsible.