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By John Helmer, Moscow

On April 16, 2019, the New York Times made a mistake. The newspaper acknowledged it swiftly, publishing a three-line correction. “Correction: April 16, 2019 – An earlier version of this article misstated the C.I.A. tenure of Nicholas Dujmovic. He served as an intelligence officer for 26 years, not 23.”

The mistake was in an unusually lengthy profile of the CIA Director Gina Haspel, written by an unusually large group of five journalists based on sources they claim to have been “more than a dozen current and former intelligence officials”.  The problem they identified in the relationship between President Donald Trump and Director Haspel (she was Deputy CIA Director, February 2, 2017 – May 21, 2018)  is that he doesn’t always believe what he’s been told. “Her voice,” the newspaper sums up, “is not always heeded. For all of Ms. Haspel’s ability to stay in Mr. Trump’s good graces, there is little evidence she has changed his mind on major issues…Unusually for a president, Mr. Trump has publicly rejected not only intelligence agencies’ analysis, but also the facts they have gathered. And that has created a perilous situation for the C.I.A.”

Miscounting an ex-agent’s career by three years is the only mistake the journalists and the newspaper’s management admit to making in their analysis of the facts Haspel presented to Trump, and of  the “perilous situation for the CIA” resulting from the president’s disbelief.

The newspaper editorializes through an ex-CIA analyst source in the final paragraph of the publication: “as [Haspel]  continues to present facts and analysis that differ from what the president wants to hear, especially on high-profile issues like Russia and North Korea, her influence will wane.”

The newspaper claims that in one case, in March of 2018, Haspel overcame Trump’s scepticism by presenting evidence that in the Skripal case, “Ms. Haspel also tried to show him that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were not the only victims of Russia’s attack. Ms. Haspel showed pictures the British government had supplied her of young children hospitalized after being sickened by the Novichok nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals. She then showed a photograph of ducks that British officials said were inadvertently killed by the sloppy work of the Russian operatives…Mr. Trump fixated on the pictures of the sickened children and the dead ducks. At the end of the briefing, he embraced the strong [sanctions] option.”

“The outcome was an example, officials said, of how Ms. Haspel is one of the few people who can get Mr. Trump to shift position based on new information.”

The problem is obvious. The “new information” – dead ducks, sickened young children in hospital, British Government photographs – was false and the photographs faked.  Haspel knew before she presented to Trump. She then lied to Trump.

The five reporters – Julian Barnes, Adam Goldman, Eric Schmitt, Michael Schmidt, Matthew Rosenberg – did not check the details. Questioned since their publication, they will not clarify what they reported as true. The newspaper management refuses to publish a correction.

The full newspaper story can be read here

The five reporters responsible, identified by the newspaper as prize-winning specialists in national security investigations, the intelligence agencies and the FBI, look like this:

Left to right: Julian Barnes, Adam Goldman, Eric Schmitt, Michael Schmidt, Matthew Rosenberg.

The only mistake the five admit to making is in handling a source who believes the CIA is in difficulty because the president doesn’t believe what the agency tells him. “ ‘We have a president’”,  the five report, “ ‘who says inaccurate things about the intelligence community and his understanding of the facts is questionable,’ said Nicholas Dujmovic, the director of the intelligence studies program at the Catholic University of America, who served as a C.I.A. officer for 26 years.”

The correction appearing on the newspaper’s website says:

To check the archive of statements, photographs and other evidence on the Skripal case, published to date by the British Government, Metropolitan Police, Salisbury District Hospital,  High Court, the Wiltshire Coroner, Wiltshire Police Commissioner, and the British state media, plus verification, click to open

By email each of the five reporters was asked to clarify the story of Haspel’s presentation of the dead ducks, the hospitalized children and the British government photographs.  The email reads:


Dear Mr Barnes, Mr Goldman, Mr Schmitt, Mr Schmidt, and Mr Rosenberg:

I’m the longest-serving American correspondent in Russia. 

The five of you are responsible for reporting and publishing this element of the Gina Haspel story which the New York Times published on April 16: 


The Times has published one correction of your story. This relates, as you know, to a “mis-statement” of the tenure of a CIA officer.

Please explain to me why you and your management have not made the correction relating to this element of your report. 

You knew, and you ought to have known — you now know, or you ought to know —  that there were no dead ducks, and there were no sickened children following the incident to the Skripals on March 4, 2018; that the Salisbury Hospital has not treated such children; the British Government and the Metropolitan Police have not claimed there were dead ducks and sickened children; and that no press reporting of the Skripal case has claimed, until your report, that Ms Haspel’s claims were true.

In short, please explain to me why you individuals and your newspaper continue to publish a set of lies, comprising a CIA fabrication, an allegation of British Government source, and Ms Haspel’s lie to the President of the United States.

In the event you do not respond, you will be reported as refusing individually, collectively, and institutionally as refusing to respond.

Yours faithfully,

John Helmer


The New York Times and Barnes, Goldman, Schmitt, Schmidt, and Rosenberg refuse to answer.

NOTE: Several hours after this story was published, a spokesman for the Wiltshire County Council repeated what has already been known:  "There were no other casualties other than those previously stated. No wildlife were impacted by the incident and no children were exposed to or became ill as a result of either incident." Salisbury Hospital also repeated that "no children were admitted as a result of being exposed to novichok." 

Rob Slane, who has reported on almost every twist in the fabrication of the Skripal case by British officials and the British press, has identified  the double irony of the Haspel lie and the New York Times' retelling of it. "Yet even though there were no dead ducks, and no sick children, Mr Trump was apparently persuaded by the head of the CIA to expel 60 diplomats after being shown pictures of dead ducks and sick children.In addition to the extraordinary nature of this revelation, there is also a huge irony here. Along with many others, I have long felt that the duck feed is one of the many achilles heels of the whole story we’ve been presented with about what happened in Salisbury on 4th March 2018. And the reason for this is precisely because if it were true, there would indeed have been dead ducks and sick children."
"According to the official story, Mr Skripal and his daughter became contaminated with “Novichok” by touching the handle of his front door at some point between 13:00 and 13:30 that afternoon. A few minutes later (13:45), they were filmed on CCTV camera feeding ducks, and handing bread to three local boys, one of whom ate a piece. After this they went to Zizzis, where they apparently so contaminated the table they sat at, that it had to be incinerated."

"You see the problem? According to the official story, ducks should have died. According to the official story children should have become contaminated and ended up in hospital. Yet as it happens, no ducks died, and no boys got sick (all that happened was that the boys’ parents were contacted two weeks later by police, the boys were sent for tests, and they were given the all clear)."

Click to read Slane's summary analysis  of all the British lies, published on January 9, 2019.


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