Hubbard and Shane: Misdirection or clueless?

I wrote a letter to the Public Editor of the New York Times.


Funny thing I noticed in an article today:

In the story, “Pre-9/11 Ties Haunt Saudis as New Accusations Surface” (, the authors write:

“A search of news stories from that period turned up no references to a visit by the Saudi intelligence chief to Oklahoma that year.”

Well, I was born in the morning, but it wasn’t yesterday morning.

I do not think it is credible to think that the intelligence chief of a nation-state would have a fully public travel itinerary. Certainly in the US our intelligence and military leaders travel to other countries regularly without public announcement. The statement as written presents itself as a fact, but a lack of newspaper stories has nothing to do with whether the visit happened or not.

What concerns me is not the problematic line itself, but the obvious implication that the writers and editor(s) simply assume this is a valid statement. I’m curious: Would it be better for the writers and editor(s) to be clueless about such a basic way of the world, or would it be better for them to be intentionally providing misdirection to support a specific position unstated in the article?

Who knows what’s really going on with Moussaoui — he might be crazy, he might be settling scores, he might be telling whole or partial truths. But to assume that a Saudi intelligence chief traveling to Oklahoma would require a news story to support this assertion… well, I’m not sure who these writers are writing for, but it does not appear to be to inform the public in the pursuit of truth.

I can get speculation, public relations, spin, and anonymous source stenography anywhere online. I expect more from “real journalists,” and from the New York Times.

Michael J.