David Ignatius

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  • The Media Aren't Buying Trump’s Claim That Intelligence Officials Criticized Obama During Confidential Briefing

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE

    Media figures immediately denounced Donald Trump’s claim during NBC’s Commander-In-Chief Forum that during an intelligence briefing, CIA officials expressed disappointment in President Obama and his handling of foreign affairs.

    In August, Trump began receiving intelligence briefings, which NBC News described as a description of “how US intelligence agencies see a variety of global issues.”

    During the forum, moderator Matt Lauer asked Trump if he had learned anything about strategy to combat ISIS or anything that would make him reconsider his promise to defeat the terror organization quickly. Trump replied that he did not learn anything like that during the briefing but he did learn that President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry are “total disaster[s]” and that Obama “did not follow … what our experts said to do.”:

     

    MATT LAUER (MODERATOR): Did anything in that briefing, without going into specifics, shock or alarm you?

    DONALD TRUMP: Yes, very much so.

    LAUER: Did you learn new things in that briefing?

    TRUMP: First of all, I have great respect for the people that gave us the briefings. They were terrific people. They were experts on Iraq and Iran and different parts of -- and Russia. But yes, there was one thing that shocked me. And it just seems to me that what they said, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry, who is another total disaster, did exactly the opposite.

    LAUER: Did you learn anything in that briefing, again, not going into specifics, that makes you reconsider some of the things you say you can accomplish like defeating ISIS quickly?

    TRUMP: No. I didn't learn anything from that standpoint. What I did learn is that our leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow what our experts and our truly -- when they call it intelligence, it's there for a reason. What our experts said to do.

    Trump’s claim was met with immediate skepticism. On MSNBC, former CIA Director Leon Panetta said he would be “very surprised” if the interaction Trump described took place and said it would be a “violation of [intelligence officials] responsibility.” Media figures described it as “untruthful,” and “hard to believe.” Furthermore, The Washington Post’s David Ignatius said the intelligence community would not make policy recommendations and that they would be “deeply upset” by Trump’s comments.

  • FBI Memo Confirms Clinton Email Classification Story Has Little To Do With Her Private Server

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media have frequently sought to scandalize Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server as secretary of state by connecting the server to retroactively classified emails she sent or received. But recently released FBI documents regarding the department’s investigation into Clinton’s use of the private server conclusively show that the interagency classification dispute would have occurred regardless of whether she had used a State Department email account and resulted in large part from career State Department officials sending information in good faith that was later deemed classified.

  • Fox News Is Wrong: Trump Is A Terrorist Recruiting Tool

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Fox News is attempting to downplay Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s remarks that President Obama is a founder of ISIS by likening them to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s comment that Trump “is being used to essentially be a recruiter” for terrorists. However, numerous national security experts have explained that Trump’s rhetoric is “the best thing the Islamic State has going for it” and Trump’s rhetoric has actually been featured in terrorist propaganda.

  • Right-Wing Media Run With Another Baseless Comparison With Clinton Emails

    ››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

    Media spuriously likened Hillary Clinton’s email use to the case of Bryan Nishimura -- who was criminally charged with mishandling classified information -- after FBI Director James Comey announced the bureau would not recommend criminal charges against Clinton. Media figures seized on Nishimura’s 2015 charges to erroneously characterize Comey’s announcement as a double standard, but, as with the debunked comparisons of Clinton’s email use to David Petraeus’ and John Deutch’s cases, legal experts note that unlike Clinton, Nishimura knowingly mishandled classified information.

  • A Comprehensive Guide To Benghazi Myths And Facts

    ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN & OLIVIA KITTEL

    After nearly four years of right-wing myths about the September 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound and CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya, and as Republicans and Democrats on the House Select Committee on the attacks release their reports, Media Matters has compiled a list of more than 50 myths and facts regarding the origin of the attack, the security surrounding the compounds, the Obama administration’s handling of the attack during and after its occurrence, attacks on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other lies and misinformation regarding the Benghazi attack.

  • MSNBC's Morning Joe Edits Out David Ignatius' Debunking Of Clinton Email "Scandal"

    Ignatius: "I Couldn't Find A Case Where This Kind Of Activity Had Been Prosecuted... Legally There Is No Difference Between [Clinton] Using Her Private Server And If She'd Used State.gov"

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON & CRAIG HARRINGTON

    Morning Joe Is Desperate For A Clinton Scandal

    During an appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius thoroughly debunked arguments that Hillary Clinton should be charged with a crime as a result of her use of a private email system while serving as secretary of state. When MSNBC re-aired the first hour of its program later in the morning, the bulk of Ignatius' debunking had been edited out.

    On the September 4 edition of Morning Joe, co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski continued their efforts to stoke controversy around Hillary Clinton's email practices while serving as secretary of state. Both Scarborough and Brzezinski suggested that guest David Ignatius was simply "getting tired" of the wall-to-wall media coverage directed at Clinton after the columnist authored an August 28 op-ed in The Washington Post arguing that "this 'scandal' is overstated." Ignatius responded by explaining that experts he spoke with dismissed as far-fetched claims Clinton committed a criminal offense.

    But during the rebroadcast of the segment, Morning Joe cut away from Ignatius' explanation mid-sentence. During the initial broadcast, Ignatius said (emphasis added), "As I talked to a half dozen of lawyers who do nothing but this kind of work, they said they couldn't remember a case like this, where people informally and inadvertently draw classified information into their phone conversations or their unclassified server conversations, where there had been a prosecution."

    When the segment re-aired, Ignatius is heard saying, "As I talked to a half dozen of lawyers who do nothing but this kind of work, they said they couldn't remember a case like this," before the show skipped forward to a remark by co-host Mika Brzezinski about Clinton aide Cheryl Mills.

    Significantly, the rebroadcast failed to include the conclusion of Ignatius' thought, which is that Clinton's email practices do not amount to a prosecutable offense, according to several expert attorneys he talked to. Here are Ignatius' unedited remarks (emphasis added):

    JOE SCARBOROUGH: David, so you have over the past week or two turned a bit in some of your editorial, in some of your op-eds, you've said you would rather hear Hillary's policy positions than more talk about the servers, you said you don't think she faces any criminal prosecution. You haven't exactly said nothing is here, move along, move along, but you've certainly --

    MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Getting tired of it, which is what they're hoping.

    SCARBOROUGH: -- Yeah, I mean aren't you playing into what the Clinton sort of scandal response team wants, which is so much stuff comes at you that at some point you just say, "Come on, let's just move on."

    DAVID IGNATIUS: Joe, I've tried to respond as a journalist but in particular I've tried to look at what is a real prosecutable offense here. There are violations clearly both of administrative procedure and probably technically of law and how classified information was handled. As I talked to a half dozen of lawyers who do nothing but this kind of work, they said they couldn't remember a case like this, where people informally and inadvertently draw classified information into their phone conversations or their unclassified server conversations, where there had been a prosecution.

    [CROSS TALK]

    SCARBOROUGH: But this isn't happenstance. This is a very calculated move to say if you want to communicate with the Secretary of State, as Edwards Snowden said, whether you are a foreign diplomat or a spy chief from another country or a leader of another country, which they all did, you've got to come to this unsecured server, whether it is in Colorado or wherever it is, and there is a standard in the U.S. Code under prosecutions for this sort of thing which is gross negligence. It's not a know or should have known -

    [...]

    IGNATIUS: This issue comes up surprisingly often because there is an administrative problem where people do these things and their security officers summon them and warn them and issue reprimands and it goes in their file and it's a serious personnel administrative problem. My only point is I couldn't find a case where this kind of activity had been prosecuted and that's just worth noting as we assemble our Clinton e-mail - and more thing, Joe, legally there is no difference between her using her private server and if she'd used State.gov, which is also not a classified system. The idea that, oh this would have been fine if she used State.gov, not legally, no difference.

    Here is how Morning Joe re-aired the segment:

    Scarborough, a former Republican member of the House of Representatives, has a long history of hyping the supposed Clinton email "scandal" despite all evidence to the contrary. He recently claimed that Clinton intentionally timed a press conference to coincide with a mass-shooting in Virginia and falsely claimed that Clinton whitewashed a foreign country's ties to international terrorism in exchange for a charitable donation to her family foundation.

    A reader tip contributed to this story. Thank you for your support and keep them coming.

  • Media Debunk False Comparison Of Hillary Clinton's Emails To Former CIA Director's Improper Access Of Classified Materials

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    News outlets are calling out a misleading conservative media claim that Hillary Clinton's email use mirrors the improper acts of former CIA Director John Deutch, who intentionally created and stored top secret material on unsecure systems. By contrast, "State Department officials say they don't believe that emails [Clinton] sent or received included material classified at the time," which is why experts conclude the Deutch case does not "fit[] the fact pattern with the Clinton e-mails."

  • Media Debunk Misinformation Surrounding Clinton's Use Of Private Email

    ››› ››› LIS POWER

    More media outlets are debunking misinformation surrounding Hillary Clinton's use of private email, dismantling three main talking points used to accuse Clinton of malfeasance by highlighting that Clinton used her email in a "common" manner, that her situation isn't criminal, and that her handling of email is not comparable to what retired Gen. David Petraeus was convicted of.

  • Wash. Post's David Ignatius Explains The "Scandal" Missing From Clinton's Email Use

    Blog ››› ››› ALEXANDREA BOGUHN

    Washington Post opinion writer David Ignatius checked the "overstated" uproar over Hillary Clinton's email use as secretary of state, citing national security legal experts who roundly dismiss the idea that any criminal mishandling of classified information occurred.

    In an August 28 post describing "The Hillary Clinton e-mail 'scandal' that isn't," Ignatius cited legal experts and agency officials to explain how Clinton's use of a private server is "not something a prosecutor would take to court" and how transmitting unmarked, then retroactively classified emails does "almost certainly not" constitute a crime:  

    Does Hillary Clinton have a serious legal problem because she may have transmitted classified information on her private e-mail server? After talking with a half-dozen knowledgeable lawyers, I think this "scandal" is overstated. Using the server was a self-inflicted wound by Clinton, but it's not something a prosecutor would take to court.

    "It's common" that people end up using unclassified systems to transmit classified information, said Jeffrey Smith, a former CIA general counsel who's now a partner at Arnold & Porter, where he often represents defendants suspected of misusing classified information.

    [...]

    Clinton's use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state has been a nagging campaign issue for months. Critics have argued that the most serious problem is possible transmission of classified information through that server. Many of her former top aides have sought legal counsel. But experts in national-security law say there may be less here than it might appear.

    First, experts say, there's no legal difference whether Clinton and her aides passed sensitive information using her private server or the official "state.gov" account that many now argue should have been used. Neither system is authorized for transmitting classified information. Second, prosecution of such violations is extremely rare. Lax security procedures are taken seriously, but they're generally seen as administrative matters.

    [...]

    Informal back channels existed long before e-mail. One former State Department official recalled the days when most embassies overseas had only a few phones authorized for secret communications. Rather than go to the executive office to make such a call, officers would use their regular phones, bypassing any truly sensitive details. "Did we cross red lines? No doubt. Did it put information at risk? Maybe. But, if you weren't in Moscow or Beijing, you didn't worry much," this former official said.

    Back channels are used because the official ones are so encrusted by classification and bureaucracy. State had the "Roger Channel," named after former official Roger Hilsman, for sending secret messages directly to the secretary. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had a similar private channel. CIA station chiefs could send communications known as "Aardwolves" straight to the director.

    Are these channels misused sometimes? Most definitely. Is there a crime here? Almost certainly not.

    Ignatius also knocked down conservative media's oft-repeated refrain that Clinton's email use was akin to David Petraeus' crimes, noting how intent to mishandle classified information is central to culpability:

    Potential criminal violations arise when officials knowingly disseminate documents marked as classified to unauthorized officials or on unclassified systems, or otherwise misuse classified materials. That happened in two cases involving former CIA directors that are cited as parallels for the Clinton e-mail issue, but are quite different. John Deutch was pardoned in 2001 for using an unsecured CIA computer at his home to improperly access classified material; he reportedly had been prepared to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. David Petraeus pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in April for "knowingly" removing classified documents from authorized locations and retaining them at "unauthorized locations." Neither case fits the fact pattern with the Clinton e-mails.

  • Newsflash: People believe lies that aren't debunked

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    Last week, the Washington Post reported on a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll:

    The poll found that misconceptions about the legislation persist, including the "death panel" falsehood propagated by opponents of the legislation.

    "A year after the town meeting wars of last summer, a striking 36% of seniors said that the law 'allowed a government panel to make decisions about end of life care for people on Medicare', and another 17% said they didn't know," Kaiser Family Foundation chief executive Drew Altman wrote.

    Brendan Nyhan argues that "motivated reasoning appears to play an important role in the persistence of the misperception ... 55% of seniors with an unfavorable view of the law believed in the death panel myth, while only 17% of those with a favorable view did so."

    I would argue that something else surely plays a role: The failure of the media to consistently and clearly explain that the "death panels" claim was false. Sure, most major news organizations made that clear at least once. But they didn't do so consistently.

    Let's take the Washington Post, for example, since it reported on the persistence of the myth.

    Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz has praised his paper's "death panels" coverage, writing on March 22: "One stellar moment for the press was the refusal to perpetuate the myth of 'death panels.' ... journalists at The Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and ABC News, among others, said flatly that this was untrue." And Post political reporter Perry Bacon said in June 21 Live Q&A: "If you recall, the death panels issue got traction in conservative media, even as papers like ours did not cover it very much."

    But this year alone, Post readers have encountered more than a dozen references to "death panels" that failed to explicitly state that such panels didn't exist. The following articles and columns mention the "death panels" claim without stating its falsity:

    "The doctor is (finally) in; Medicare administrator must usher in low-cost, efficient care," David Ignatius, July 9

    "A patriot's second act," Dana Milbank, June 3

    "Under the new health-care law, what will happen when providers' morals conflict with patients' rights?," Rob Stein, May 11

    "History shows that Democrats aren't exactly the boys of summer," Al Kamen, March 26

    "44: Grassley touts provisions he authored in health bill he voted against," Michael Shear, March 24

    "Three points for conservatives," E.J. Dionne, March 23

    "The Republicans who stirred the tea," Dana Milbank, March 22

    "Would Reagan vote for Sarah Palin?; He's their hero, but Palin and the tea partiers need to understand his true legacy," Steven F. Hayward (AEI) March 7

    "Political theater with a point," Kathleen Parker, March 3

    "Obama ready to advance on health care; In radio address, GOP compromise still offered but has limited shelf life," Anne Kornblut, February 28

    "Trig and political calculus," Kathleen Parker, February 14

    "How can apple pie suddenly turn bad?; To learn what's gone wrong with health-care reform, go back to 1994," Abigail Trafford, February 2

    "Funding for health-care interest groups often fuzzy," Dan Eggen, January 7

    "Leader without a cause," Richard Cohen, January 5

    Yes, some of those are opinion columns, including one written by an AEI staffer rather than a Post employee. That isn't a relevant defense: Opinion columns have the ability to influence readers, too -- otherwise, why would they exist? And the Washington Post is responsible for everything that appears in its pages.

    And, to be sure, some of those references are critical of the "death panels" rhetoric. The March 23 E.J. Dionne piece, for example, read:

    In its current incarnation, conservatism has taken on an angry crankiness. It is caught up in a pseudo-populism that true conservatism should mistrust -- what on Earth would Bill Buckley have made of "death panels"? The creed is caught up in a suspicion of all reform that conservatives of the Edmund Burke stripe have always warned against.

    But it didn't say the "death panels" claim wasn't true. (To Dionne's credit, his July 26 column was explicit: "There were no 'death panels' in the Democratic health-care bills. But this false charge got so much coverage that an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll last August found that 45 percent of Americans thought the reform proposals would likely allow 'the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly.' That was the summer when support for reform was dropping precipitously. A straight-out lie influenced the course of one of our most important debates.")

    No such credit is owed to Kornblut's February 28 news article, which simply stated "Death panels became part of the debate last summer, after prominent Republicans, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, claimed the government would set them up to decide who could live or die." Or Kamen's misleading statement that "the tea partiers got their operation in gear at the usually dull town hall meetings with lawmakers, berating them for supporting those death panels." Really? "those" death panels? Which death panels are "those"?

    Washington Post readers shouldn't be surprised to learn that many people still believe in "death panels" -- not when the Post has repeatedly mentioned the death panel claim without debunking it.

    Incidentally, Washington Post reporters and editors won't answer this simple question: Does the Post think it is sufficient to occasionally debunk falsehoods, or does the paper believe it should do so every time it prints those falsehoods?