BY JONATHAN VALANIA Recently released emails indicate that prominent national security reporter Ken Dilanian — formerly with the Los Angeles Times (2010-2014), currently with the Associated Press (and from 1997-2007 the Philadelphia Inquirer*) — shared stories prior to publication with CIA press office seeking their approval, according to a story up on The Intercept. Now, it is not uncommon for national security reporters to vet facts with government functionaries prior to publication, but the emails indicate Dilanian went much further than that, not only sharing stories prior to publication (a big no-no in almost every newsroom) but he also entered into discussions about how the CIA could bend public opinion of drone strikes their way.
On at least one occasion he re-wrote a lede as per their dictates. He also reported as fact, in the pages of the Los Angeles Times, a CIA claim that there was no collateral murder in a 2012 drone strike on Al Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi. An Amnesty International report disputes that sanitized version of events, citing eyewitnesses that claim upwards of 15 people, including Afghan tribesmen unaffiliated with Al Qaeda, were killed in the drone strike. Obviously, a drone strike that only kills the bad guys is much more palatable to the American people than a drone strike that kills 15. But that’s not journalism, that’s propaganda.
There’s no telling how much of his national security reporting was compromised by the CIA press office, or for how long, because the emails only cover a few months in 2012. The emails were released by the CIA as per a FOIA request by The Intercept for Agency email exchanges with journalists. Dilanian acknowledges sending stories to the CIA prior to publication and now says it was wrong. It was also in violation of the L.A. Times’ ethical guidelines. Perhaps that explains why the L.A. Times misleadingly refers to Dilanian as a “Tribune reporter” in its reporting on the scandal (SEE ABOVE). Tribune Publishing is the L.A. Times’ parent company. However, Dilanian’s Linkedin page clearly says he was a Los Angeles Times reporter (SEE BELOW). Shameful all around. This is not a good day for journalism.
*Obligatory local angle