Michael Gordon's piece today in The New York Times, (sharing the by-line with Scott Shane), "U.S. Issued Protest Before Public Accusation of Iranian Weapons in Iraq," about the alleged existence of Iranian-supplied explosively formed penetrators (E.F.P.s) in Iraq, is an improvement from his past articles on the subject, but he still has a long way to go.
First, Gordon and Shane do not inform their readers why many of their official sources insist on hiding their identities. The Public Editor of the Times, Byron Calame, recently criticized Gordon for doing just that, and stated that it was the paper's policy to explain to readers the reasons why official sources have chosen to remain anonymous. Gordon and Shane fail to do so. In paragraph 18, they write: "'There was no eureka moment,' said one American official, who like several others would discuss intelligence and administration decision-making only on condition of anonymity." And again, in paragraph 34: "According to officials involved in the discussion, who asked not to be identified . . . " The reader is expected to accept anonymous sources simply because the sources want it that way. This kind of thing got Judith Miller in a lot of trouble because it turned out her secret "official sources" were a bunch of liars with a warmongering agenda, as the Scooter Libby convictions illustrate.
Second, although Gordon and Shane have included a few quotes from those who are "critical" of the Bush Administration, only four sources in the article can be considered "critics," while forty-two sources come from U.S. military, intelligence, or current or former Bush Administration officials. Four contrary sources out of forty-six weights the piece heavily in favor of official sources, an unspecified number of them anonymous, and is hardly "balanced" journalism.
Third, the tone of the piece suggests the Bush Administration is being reasonable while the Iranians are shutting down any meaningful dialogue. The authors neither cite nor quote any Iranian sources, and in paragraph 30, after dramatically describing the killing of a young British soldier by an E.F.P., Gordon and Shane tersely conclude: "Iran denied any involvement."
When their contemptuous treatment of the Iranian viewpoint is combined with the use of the verb "worry" twice in the piece referring to U.S. officials, as if members of the Bush Administration sit around "worrying" about Iranian actions, the tone of the article suggests a sinister lack of credibility on Iran's part. This use of the word "worry" also raises the question: Are not the Iranians also "worried" about all those American battleships arrayed in the Persian Gulf? Or are their "worries" unjustified and illegitimate.
It would not be unreasonable for Times readers to conclude that Gordon and Shane are flogging this E.F.P. story -- heavily freighted with dire warnings from American officials about Iranian intentions and stubbornness -- on behalf of those inside the Bush administration who wish to ratchet up the war tensions with Iran.