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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Max Blumenthal fabricates a quote (updated)

I had been reading on Twitter that an article by rabid Israel hater and serial liar Max Blumenthal contained a blockbuster quote that could not be verified - and now Jeffrey Goldberg has proven it:
A couple of Goldblog readers alerted me to a Max Blumenthal story in which Karen Greenberg, the director of the Fordham School of Law's Center on National Security, is quoted accusing Israel of teaching American interrogators the dark art of torture:
"After 9/11 we reached out to the Israelis on many fronts and one of those fronts was torture," Greenberg told me. "The training in Iraq and Afghanistan on torture was Israeli training. There's been a huge downside to taking our cue from the Israelis and now we're going to spread that into the fabric of everyday American life? It's counter-terrorism creep. And it's exactly what you could have predicted would have happened."
I was surprised to read this, because, though I don't know Karen Greenberg personally, I do know of her reputation for seriousness, and I was surprised she would make such an explosive charge without offering evidence that Israel was involved in such training.

Well, I called Greenberg, and it turns out that she, too, was surprised, because she said she never told Max Blumenthal any such thing. Here's what she told me: "I never made such a statement. I've never seen any proof of this. I told him I had heard a story out there about this issue, but that he should look into it and see if he could find evidence, because I have no proof of this charge. You have to be particularly careful when it comes to torture, you have to be careful not to overreach. He was looking for corroboration but I told him I didn't have any."
The Greenberg quote was the linchpin of the entire article - the necessary missing piece Max needed to make his circumstantial case blaming Israel for US police actions at Occupy protests - and Blumenthal just made it up.


Blumenthal has written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, the Independent and other major news sites. They should definitely think twice before accepting anything from him again.

And, of course, Al Akhbar should fire him according to their own editorial policies which demand "high standards of factual accuracy, source accountability, and proper accreditation."

UPDATE: Mother Jones also spoke to Greenberg who similarly denied having said that. The article finds other mischaracterizations in the Blumenthal piece.

Blumenthal, meanwhile, stands by his quote of Greenberg, even after her denial. He assumes that the mighty Zionist forces have forced her to retract, I guess by threatening Israeli torture techniques.

Blumenthal claims that the Greenberg quote was peripheral to his piece. Of course, that is not true. No one denies that Israelis have been training a number of police departments in the US in counter-terrorism techniques; that is well known. Blumenthal's most sensational accusation was that Israel taught US police torture techniques - based on the fabricated quote from Karen Greenberg - and his broad implication, with zero proof, that local US cops were using methods they learned from Israel in the crackdown on the "occupy" protesters.

Even in the unlikely case that Blumenthal quoted her correctly, it is clearly out of context and her denial carries far more weight than Blumenthal's original quote. The fact that he refuses to correct it, or even to modify it to include her clarifying remarks, shows how unimportant the truth is to Blumenthal. He had a great quote and he will stand by it, even if he has no proof of it.

He also implies that Urban Shield is where Israelis teach their techniques to the police. But according to their website, it is where Israelis are learning their techniques - along with teams from Bahrain, Jordan, Singapore, Canada, Croatia, Qatar and the UAE.