When blogger Richard Silverstein isn’t expressing support for the end of the Jewish state, defending terror groups like Hamas, or engaging in smears and reckless attacks against his opponents, he’s often busy peddling false “scoops“ based on little or no evidence.
These “scoops” by Silverstein (who’s an occasional contributor to ‘Comment is Free’) at a blog he calls ‘Tikun Olam’, have at times been cited by the BBC, Der Spiegel, The Daily Telegraph, and the New York Times.
His post claimed to be based on information from a high-level Israeli source detailing an upcoming Israeli attack on Iran.
However, the “secret document” he had “obtained” was a near verbatim quote from a Hebrew web forum entry which had appeared online days before his post, and which itself was based on mere speculation from open-source information.
Another example of a faux scoop was revealed on Feb. 13, 2013, when Silverstein reported about the identity of a prisoner (previously known as Prisoner X) who was being held in an Israeli jail and later committed suicide. Silverstein’s 2013 post – reporting that the mystery prisoner was an Australian-Israeli Mossad agent named Ben Zygier – proved that his original Dec. 2010 “scoop”, alleging that a secret prisoner was a former Iranian Revolutionary Guard general named Ali-Reza Asgari, was completely false.
Now, for the latest:
A few days ago, we were contacted by an Israeli who’s aware of Silverstein’s penchant for publishing “scoops” based on little or no research or fact-checking. He explained how he recently fed Silverstein completely made-up stories, selling them as “scoops”, to see if he would bite. Here’s one of the emails (a snapshot we were provided of the original) our source sent to Silverstein on Oct. 9, purporting to have secret information on news regarding the Israeli drone which crashed on Oct. 8.
That same day, Silverstein reported the following, quoting verbatim his “anonymous Israeli source” in a post titled “Israeli Drones Fallin’ from the Skies Like Flies: Third UAV Sabotaged by Hacking.”
The UAV didn’t crash, the UAV control center lost communication due to heavy interference in the COM link. After few very long minutes at which the re establish comm procedure failed, the CCC (control center commander) ordered the self-destruction of the UAV. There was lots of drama as it appeared the UAV had a mind of its own or that someone gained positive control.
Then, on Oct. 13 the Israeli “source” sent him the following concocted tale, purporting to represent secret information on another Israeli drone failure.
And, two days later, in a post titled ‘Iran Hacks Azerbaijan’s Israeli-Made Drone Fleet‘, Silverstein wrote that his “Israeli source” revealed that “the Iranians have hacked Azerbaijan’s Israeli-made drone fleet as well.” Silverstein then quoted directly from the email he received:
Using [a nearly identical drone] to the fallen Hermes 450, several months ago IAF…drones also failed in Azerbaijan. [They were] using the Azery Hermes control units with some temporary modifications [paralleling those of] Israeli drones signals. The training exercise failed after similar concerns of successful Iranian penetration were raised.
Again, Silverstein immediately published completely fabricated information.
Well, evidently, shortly after these two posts, he was being ridiculed on the Israeli forum ‘Fresh’, and finally realized he had no choice but to admit that he published erroneous information. In a post titled ‘The Art of the con’, Silverstein wrote:
After the latest crash, I received an anonymous e-mail from someone purporting to be an insider who knew about the crashes and the reasons for them
This is extremely misleading. The ‘source’ didn’t establish his credentials.
The Israeli security forum, Fresh, began to post material about the story with a link to my post. At a later point, a forum Admin posted a notice that I had received an e-mail from a source they knew and they predicted what the message said and what I would write in my post. If I had seen that Fresh posting I would’ve known of the fraud earlier and stopped using this source.
Again, you have to wonder why Silverstein even considered this anonymous person to be a “source” in the first place.
my earlier reporting on Israeli drone failures derives from a trusted source, as I noted. In order to dampen the potential for scandal of a major military system facing repeated failures, the IAF or others involved with Israeli intelligence wanted to discredit those reports. That would mean any subsequent reporting by me or others on this theme would be immediately brought into question. It would also tend to discredit any future reporting I did on any subject involving Israeli national security or intelligence.
This being said, this has taught me lessons and also ‘enriched’ my view of Israel’s intelligence apparatus and its methods. First, no stories will be published here from anonymous sources.
He then tries to turn it around, and place the blame on Israelis.
Readers ought to give some thought to why Israelis feel the need to perpetrate hoaxes. They need to put up a smokescreen that conceals truths that are perceived as damaging to Israeli interests. One of the ways they deem effective is to engage in deception that discredits an enemy. But the use of deception on as wide a scale as Israel uses officially, forces outsiders to discount anything they hear from such sources.
First, the suggestion that this particular hoax was orchestrated by Israeli officials is comical. Silverstein’s “source” in the stories he cited didn’t even attempt to establish his security credentials, nor did he explain how the “inside information” was obtained in the first place.
Moreover, it should be noted that CiF Watch, as with other blogs and news sites, similarly receives emails from readers claiming they have inside information. However, as we take our mission and our credibility seriously, we don’t simply copy and paste text from anonymous emails into blog posts and legitimize the information as a “scoop” by a “secret source” without first meticulously corroborating the claim.
Richard Silverstein not only devotes his blog to smearing the Jewish state – while defending even the most openly malevolent extremists – but routinely spreads wild claims and, at times, false information under the veneer of promoting “liberal” values and social justice.
The strange phenomenon of mainstream media sites taking Silverstein’s rumor mill seriously was best summed up by the following cheeky Twitterer back when the BBC cited Silverstein’s “scoop” about Israel’s “secret” Iran attack plans.
What next @BBCNews? Incisive Middle East analysis from man with sandwich board reading ‘end is nigh’ on street corner?
— Sharkiya East (@Sharkiya) August 15, 2012
Of course, at least the crazy guys on the corner with a sandwich board don’t typically claim to be ‘serious journalists’ dedicated to promoting truth, justice and Jewish values.