Factual Plagiarism: The AP, NY Times, Washington Post & Washington Times Stole Their Work from Narco News This Week
The News Organizations Used an “Internal ICE Memorandum” on the Reyes Kidnapping Without Citing the Source
By Al Giordano
Publisher, Narco News
June 29, 2008
On Monday, June 23, Narco News broke the story of the kidnapping and subsequent release, in Mexico, of a relative of US Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas). In our ongoing coverage, on June 25, this newspaper published an internal memorandum by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security.
The memo was posted onto the Internet by Narco News. It stated:
On June 22, 2008, ICE Assistant Attache Juarez reported that kidnapping victim Erika Posselt was recovered by Mexican officials. Ms. Posselt was immediately transported to the El Paso Port of Entry (POE) and paroled into the United States for security reasons.
In the section titled “BACKGROUND,” the ICE memorandum stated:
On June 19, 2008, the Assistant Attache Juarez was contacted by a Congressional Aide (CA) for Congressman Silvetre Reyes of the 16th District of Texas. Congressman Reyes’ aid advised that Erika Posselt, a Mexican national and relative of Congressman Reyes’ wife, had been kidnapped in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Subsequently, the ICE Assistant Attache Juarez requested and received the full assistance of the ICT SAC El Paso office, and coordinated a meeting in El Paso, TX with the Chihuahua State Police to recover the kidnapped victim.
Read the entire memo here, for all the details.
At 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, June 25, El Paso, Texas, Associated Press correspondent, Alicia Caldwell sent the following email to Narco News correspondent Bill Conroy:
From: “Caldwell, Alicia” email@example.com
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2008 17:14:42 -0400
Subject: Sivlestre Reyes story
Hey, Bill. I just read your entry on the Reyes relative kidnapping. Is there any way you can fax or e-mail me a copy of that memo? I’m trying to follow your story—giving you credit for breaking it of course—but I’m in a jam quoting from the memo without seeing it on ICE letterhead, etc. And as I am sure you will understand, ICE isn’t exactly being cooperative on this issue. Thanks in advance for your help.
Alicia A. Caldwell
The Associated Press
El Paso Correspondent
Narco News had redacted the memo we published as a .pdf document with visible black ink over certain words, including the entire final paragraph of the memorandum, because in our editorial judgment those words, describing actions being taken by authorities, might compromise the ongoing investigation into the kidnapping.
That editorial decision also contributed to our judgment not to send the original memo to the AP reporter that requested it.
Caldwell’s email to Narco News, however, demonstrates that the AP reporter obtained the facts in her story from the memo through downloading it from Narco News, and based her story upon it without citing the original source of the information.
When, about four hours after sending us that email, AP reporters Alicia A. Caldwell and Eileen Sullivan published their story on the kidnapping of the Congressman’s relative, they cited the facts only available in the memo but without acknowledging the online newspaper source of the official memorandum.
On June 27, Washington Times reporters Ben Conery and Jerry Seper plagiarized the work of Narco News when they outright attributed information to the memo without disclosing the original source:
Saying they would kill Mrs. Posselt if a $500,000 ransom wasn’t paid, the kidnappers negotiated with Mrs. Posselt’s brother in Juarez and agreed to release her for $32,000 – in U.S. and Mexican currency. According to a confidential ICE memo, Mrs. Posselt was heard yelling in the background on one phone call between her brother and her captors.
The family raised the money, according to the memo…
According to the memo, ICE agents ultimately enlisted the help of Mexican state and federal law enforcement officials in Mrs. Posselt’s return, but limited their role to providing their Mexican counterparts with what the memo described as “technical and logistical assistance.”…
The ICE memo, sent to Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who heads ICE, said the agency’s technical operations division in Washington was contacted to help coordinate support…
The memo also noted that a $56,000 ransom for a separate kidnapping was being delivered while the money was taken to the drop spot for Mrs. Posselt’s release.
On June 28, New York Times reporter Adam B. Ellick reported from the memorandum, also without crediting this newspaper as the original and only source of it:
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, helped the Mexican authorities pursue the case, and an internal ICE memorandum, much of it confirmed in interviews with American officials, says the congressman, Representative Silvestre Reyes, facilitated the release.
Also on June 28, Washington Post reporter Spencer S. Hsu cited the “leaked memorandum” without crediting the source:
A leaked ICE memo stated that Reyes’s office contacted ICE’s assistant attache in Ciudad Juarez on June 19. That federal official then arranged meetings with Chihuahua State Police, contacted that state’s attorney general, briefed FBI and ICE officials in Mexico City, and coordinated technical support.
The reporters Caldwell and Sullivan of AP, Conery and Sepers of the Washington Times, Ellick of the New York Times and Hsu of the Washington Post clearly need a refresher course in the journalistic requirement to cite the sources of information they report. They can find one at Plagiarism.org:
A “citation” is the way you tell your readers that certain material in your work came from another source. It also gives your readers the information necessary to find that source again…
It would be tempting, on our end, to suggest a relationship between the failure of AP and the New York Times to credit the plagiarized source of their reporting and their shared history as two news organizations that lost their own bureau chiefs in Latin America because Narco News had reported their conflicts-of-interest and ethical violations. The AP lost its Bolivian bureau chief as a result of our reporting, and the NY Times lost its Mexican bureau chief likewise after we exposed his unethical activities.
But more likely all the aforementioned plagiarists – Alicia A. Caldwell and Eileen Sullivan of Associated Press, Ben Conery and Jerry Seper of the Washington Times, Adam B. Ellick of the New York Times and Spencer S. Hsu of the Washington Post – simply did not expect to be called out on the carpet on their theft of our work.
None of those reporters have earned the trust of whistleblowers inside the US law enforcement agencies that is enjoyed by Narco News, with a well-earned reputation for always protecting our sources even when ICE and other US agencies have tried to intimidate us with agent visits to home and workplace. Those “reporters” haven’t done their homework on the border issues they are reporting. And they think they can just steal a document off of Narco News without crediting the source? They would do well to think again, and to quickly publish corrections, each and every one of them.
And just to speed those corrections along, kind reader, you, too, can alert their bosses of their unethical behavior as journalists. Write to:
1. Clark Hoyt, Public Editor, New York Times:
Phone: (212) 556-7652
Address: Public Editor
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018 USA
Tell Public Editor Clark Hoyt you are writing about NY Times reporter Adam B. Ellick’s plagiarism in this story published on June 28:
Ransom Frees Lawmaker’s Kin in Mexico
2. Deborah Howell, Ombudsman, Washington Post:
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-334-7582.
Tell Ombudsman Deborah Howell that you are writing about Washington Post reporter Spencer S. Hsu’s plagiarism in this story published on June 28:
U.S. Looked Into Kidnapping of Woman Related to Lawmaker
3. John Solomon, executive editor, the Washington Times:
General contact form: http://video1.washingtontimes.com/contact-us/contact_us.php
Tell editor John Solomon that you are writing about Washington Times reporters Ben Conery and Jerry Seper and their plagiarism in this story published June 27:
U.S. helps ransom Reyes’ kin
4. Mark Mittelstadt,
Associated Press Managing Editors
450 W. 33rd St.
New York, NY 10001
Mailing address: 19 Commerce Court West
Cranbury, NJ 08512
And send a copy to email@example.com with the title “Attention John Affleck, Editor AP National Reporting Team.”
Tell director Mark Mittelstadt and editor John Affleck that you are writing about AP reporters Alicia A. Caldwell and Eileen Sullivan and their plagiarism in this story published on June 26:
Congressman’s kin kidnapped in Mexico, released
All that an editor or ombudsman at those news organizations needs to do to be able to confirm that their reporters stole the work of another newspaper is to demand that the correspondents furnish the memo with the information that they cited. The memo each of them used to report their story will contain the black lines of redaction added by Narco News, proving the plagiarism.
Responses from the aforementioned editors and reporters, plus all other media calls and inquiries, should be directed to Al Giordano, publisher, Narco News at firstname.lastname@example.org
Narco News is funded by your contributions to The Fund for Authentic Journalism.
Please make journalism like this possible by going to The Fund's web site
and making a contribution today.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism
For more Narco News, click here.