Hacking charade and the Washington Post claims

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

Published: Updated:

The Washington Post report alleging that the UAE is behind hacking of Qatari news agency, and publishing statements that were attributed to its Emir, lacks facts. The report seems contradictory and does not rely on clear sources but on anonymous intelligence reports.

The UAE ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba, commented on the allegations saying they were false. Even if he did not give a statement on the matter, any neutral observer can realize that the report has fragile journalistic basis.

A frank accusation this serious must either be backed with documents that confirm the UAE is behind hacking or it must name one of these anonymous sources. In both the cases, the daily failed to provide documented information. It even contradicted itself when it said that its secret sources do not know if Emirati apparatuses hacked the agency themselves or assigned another party to do so.

It is surprising that a leading daily such as the Washington Post would not deal with this matter so lightly. Actually, the Washington Post was a major daily before it declined and lost its power like other major media outlets, like the New York Times and CNN, which also committed several embarrassing lapses.

The New York Times recently apologized for a report it published about President Trump and suspicious relations with Russia as it had said it depended on information from 14 sources who work in intelligence apparatuses but it turned out they were only 4.

Just the like report on “Emirati hacking,” the New York Times quoted anonymous intelligence sources and randomly made accusations. In such a situation, it is neither possible to prove or deny them. The accused defends himself and the daily does not do anything to prove its claims. What does it do then? Nothing. It just moves on to write a new story.

Recent developments indicate an unfortunate decline in journalistic practices even in respected media outlets as journalists publish reports that include serious accusations without evidence

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

Fake reports

CNN recently published a fake reports, fired three of its employees and altered the way it operates as it no longer publishes sensitive material unless after senior editors approve it. It, once again, published a fake report that relied on anonymous sources.

The report was about Trump’s senior advisor Anthony Scaramucci’s ties to Russia and attempts to lift sanctions against it. That’s an entirely fabricated story. The network this time apologized but it did so for a logical reason as Scaramucci called it and hinted that it will file a lawsuit. The network retracted the report and fired those who wrote it.

Recent developments indicate an unfortunate decline in journalistic practices even in respected media outlets as journalists publish reports that include serious accusations without evidence. They do so under pressure to finish work quickly or out of their desire to be distinctive or become famous immediately or even due to ideological grudges. Since the ceiling of professional standards has been lowered, these stories and the number of those selling them and marketing them increased.

Several countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, have been subjected to serious accusations related to supporting terrorism and being involved in September 11 twin tower attacks. Several reports have been written about the 28 classified pages of the report on the September 11, 2001 attacks and it was claimed that these pages exposed Saudi Arabia’s involvement.

Amended narrative

However, all those turne1d out to be false. Many of these claims relied upon suspicious and even false intelligence reports that were all literally false. Are these accusations over? Did these dailies offer a new, amended narrative? Of course they did not. They did nothing but repeat the same accusations that rely on the same secret reports.

The term “intelligence reports” must be cautiously used for several reasons as the quoted data may be entirely false or the source may be deceitful and he may not have any reliable information as he may simply be a talkative man who only has suspicions or wishes. Another reason is related to complete bias since the anonymous source talks to support his point of view and not to confirm the truth.

I recently watched an interview with Michael Morell, the former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), who hates everything that President Trump does. He attacked the president because he exited the Paris climate accord and said climate change will lead to wars between countries in the future.

Such exaggeration cannot be accepted as he hinted that the future of climate and the eruption of barbaric wars in search of water is the responsibility of a single man. I gave this example about a top CIA official to confirm that even senior figures can make silly statements that are immediately used in media reports.

Let’s go back to the fabricated Qatar news agency story. This hacking not only targeted an official news agency but also included the state television and Qatari English websites.

Doha’s hostile policy, its funding of terrorism and embracing of extremism are all clear facts that Doha itself reveals via live broadcast. The country does not need hackers and conspirators to prove what has been known for years.

This article is also available in Arabic.
Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.