In a National Public Radio interview just days after the Washington Post published her Pulitzer Prize winning article on the CIA’s “secret prisons,” Dana Priest predicted that her work would cause “political embarrassment” for the Bush administration. Her prediction was not clairvoyance-based. The Washington Post released the article at a point of maximum impact—the eve of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s crucial visit to America’s European allies in the War on Terror. Priest’s shocking claims did more than embarrass the administration; they harmed America’s national security and intelligence gathering capabilities during a time of war. The allegations and insinuations of torture, black sites and gulags on European soil deeply handicapped Rice’s mission by fueling anti-American political forces in Europe and straining relations with vital allies in the War on Terror.
But recent developments in the story lead to more disturbing questions: Was political embarrassment for the Bush Administration her educated prediction or her deliberate intent? And were the allegations true? After months of investigation by European investigators, no evidence has yet surfaced to support her claims about “secret prisons.” Further, fired CIA officer Mary O. McCarthy, one of Priest’s reported “anonymous” sources, has been outed as a Democratic partisan who worked closely with members of the Clinton Administration and the John Kerry Campaign foreign policy team, including Sandy Burger, Richard Clarke, Rand Beers and Joe Wilson.
As if that isn’t enough to raise eyebrows, Dana Priest’s matrimonial tie, not generally known to readers of the Washington Post, leaves a strong appearance of conflict of interest. As it happens, she is married to William Goodfellow, a far-left political activist and current executive director of the Center for International Policy (CIP), who has been at the vanguard of many of the most rabid attacks on Bush Administration policy.
Goodfellow has been described by his wife as a human rights activist. Yet, that is hardly an accurate or complete job description. For the past 30 years, William Goodfellow has pushed radical causes in a string of inter-related far-left think tanks.
In 1974, he wrote a widely circulated op-ed for the New York Times that served to excuse the genocidal Pol Pot’s forced evacuation of the Cambodian people from the cities. The piece was so influential that it is still quoted by Noam Chomsky and his followers to this day. According to Goodfellow, the urban population of Phnom Penh was force marched to the killing fields because the Khmer Rouge believed that more food was available in rural areas—ignoring the evidence that the communist group was engaging in the systematic slaughter of the innocent, in order to create a communist society.
Goodfellow’s CIP was created with the assistance of the Marxist Chilean diplomat and suspected Cuban spy Orlando Letelier, who was assassinated in Washington, D.C. Even after the truth about Letelier’s Cuban Communist connections emerged in materials found after his death, Goodfellow continued to honor him.
While Goodfellow has remained with CIP since the seventies, he has also maintained a relationship with the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS, a notorious Marxist-oriented think tank). Throughout its history CIP has lobbied for the weakening of the U.S. military through unilateral nuclear disarmament measures and opposition to vital weapons systems, constraining U.S. intelligence gathering capabilities, and appeasement of Marxist regimes around the globe.
For decades, Latin America has been a major focus for Goodfellow. Through CIP, he has been trying to move Congress towards ending travel restrictions and the economic embargo against Castro’s Cuba. Goodfellow and his associates have also worked tirelessly to end U.S. foreign and military aid to Columbia—a nation currently in a decades-long fight against brutal Communist narco-terrorists.
Luckily for Goodfellow, his wife’s work has come in handy on occasion. In CIP’s 2004 published report on Latin America, “Blurring the Lines,” Dana Priest’s work is cited to make the case against U.S. military involvement in the region.
But since 9/11, Latin America has taken a backseat to the Middle East, especially Iraq. In 2002, Goodfellow joined forces with Fenton communications—a “progressive” PR firm whose client list includes CIP, IPS, moveon.org, the Heinz family foundation, the Ford Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Institute, and an assorted host of left-leaning environmental and “human rights” groups—to fight George Bush’s “lies” and “rush to war.”
With Fenton’s help, CIP initiated the Iraq Policy Information Project (IPIP), a group of diplomats and academics opposed to the Bush administration’s Iraq policy. Among IPIP’s star speakers was former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who became famous for writing a New York Times column attacking the rationale for the war in Iraq and whose wife, Valerie Plame, was exposed publicly as a CIA employee. It would turn out that Plame helped arrange her husband’s mission to Africa, supposedly to investigate an Iraq-uranium link, resulting in the Times piece. Both would later surface as contributors to the Kerry campaign. (Recently, the newsletter containing photographs of Priest, Wilson and Goodman at a meeting was mysteriously removed from the CIP website.)
Why should Mr. Goodfellow’s ideology and political action have anything to do with Priest? Perhaps we should ask her why she chose to appear in CIP’s “Cowboy Diplomacy” congressional conference, a frontal attack on the Bush Administration’s foreign policy, in October 2003. Ms. Priest shared a panel with CIP national security director Melvin Goodman, a vicious Bush administration critic who encourages CIA “whistleblowing.” Another speaker at the conference was Wilson.
Wilson, whose statements about what he found in Africa and his wife’s role in his mission have been completely undermined by a Senate Intelligence Committee report, seems to be in the same category of Dana Priest, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning story still remains unsubstantiated by any official government source in either the U.S. or the E.U. Her story, like Wilson’s tale, has been a gold mine for the enemies of the Bush Administration.
In the world where the left-wing media and the press meet, it’s apparently enough to make charges without evidence. Such was the case with a well-publicized December 5, 2005 letter of support to Senator John McCain, promoting his amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill “reinforcing the ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by all U.S. personnel around the world.” The implication, without evidence, was that the torture allegations being recklessly thrown around at U.S. soldiers were all true.
Among the 33 who signed the document were Richard Clarke, a close partner of Mary O. McCarthy in the Clinton Administration’s NSA; Melvin Goodman, CIP’s senior fellow; Ray McGovern, a close working ally of Goodman who has written for publications associated with conspiracy theorist and former Marxist Lyndon LaRouche; and Larry Johnson, a long-time friend and defender of Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson. (Careful media observers will also note that McGovern and Johnson were the mainstream media’s “go to” experts on the CIA in the wake of the Mary McCarthy firing.)
All of this has been accomplished without any major media scrutiny. Consider, however, that when the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth came forward with damning, factual allegations against John Kerry, questioning his anti-war activity and dubious claims about alleged U.S. atrocities in the Vietnam War, the New York Times produced a front-page story that included an elaborate chart supposedly “connecting the dots” of a Bush-friendly anti-Kerry conspiracy. Yet not a single mainstream media outlet has examined the documented histories and hard connections of money and political interest shared by Dana Priest, William Goodfellow, Mary McCarthy, Joe Wilson, Fenton Communications, Melvin Goodman and other vocal enemies of the Bush Administration. These relationships cannot be chalked up to random “inside the beltway” webs of acquaintance. They pose obvious and deeply troubling questions for anyone who values a free and independent press. The evidence suggests that Priest is part of a Democratic Party influence operation designed not only to politically damage the Bush Administration but to subvert U.S. foreign policy.
Dana Priest should not be allowed to hide behind the tattered veil of “anonymous sources.” The history of journalism is filled with Pulitzer Prize winners who have betrayed the public trust in favor of their own twisted agendas. Soviet apologist Walter Duranty of the New York Times, who covered up Stalin’s crimes, is one example. The Post’s Janet Cooke, who wrote a phony story about a child heroin addict, was another.
Priest’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story not only lacks evidence, it looks like a carefully designed and planted effort to sabotage the war on terror, a move that has put Americans at increased risk of terrorist attack. The Post has a lot to answer for at its annual meeting on May 11.
Jennifer Verner teaches American History in Nashville, Tennessee. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ms. Verner’s column was originally a special report for Accuracy in Media, Accuracy in Academia’s parent group.