4. How the mass media covers for
Vincent Cannistraro, terrorist, and creator of the Nicaraguan Contras.
Concerning the 1988 bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, the Washington Post reported in November of 1990 as follows:
“Vincent Cannistraro, who was chief of operations and analysis at the CIA’s counterterrorism center, said investigators have made ‘substantial progress in identifying the modus operandi by which that bomb got on board.’”
What is the point of describing Vincent Cannistraro as someone “who was chief of operations and analysis at the CIA’s counterterrorism center”? Naturally, to make the reader feel that Cannistraro can be trusted as a source on the topic the Washington Post is writing about: the investigation of a terrorist attack against Pan-Am flight 103. To leave no doubt, the Washington Post writes:
“Cannistraro’s remarks, made to reporters at a luncheon seminar, were the first indication that the international inquiry, already the largest criminal probe in history, may have turned up enough solid evidence to stand up in a court of law.”
In other words, if Cannistraro says that “investigators have made ‘substantial progress,’” this to the Washington Post becomes “the first indication that [there is] enough solid evidence to stand up in a court of law.” You can trust Cannistraro, says the Post.
And the Post does not waste any opportunities to try and burnish Cannistraro’s supposed luster: “Cannistraro made his remarks at a luncheon signaling his debut as a senior fellow at the National Strategy Information Center,” a supposedly “nongovernmental organization,” according to their website. This identifies Cannistraro as a quotable, mainstream, formerly with the government, but no longer with the government, and now at a policy think tank, ‘expert.’
But this is remarkable, because the year in question is 1990, which is to say only one year after 1989, when Cannistraro was still appearing in the news for his role in the Contra affair! Why then doesn’t the Washington Post introduce him as “Vincent Cannistraro, who used to run the illegal terrorist Contra program”? Because the Post’s readers would immediately wonder why this person is being quoted as a trusted authority on anything, especially when he is supposed to be speaking as a ‘counter-terrorist.’
So is the Washington Post dishonest?
The Washington Post can only be defended as honest if we hold that the people running the Washington Post are terribly incompetent. In fact, they have to be so incompetent that in 1990 they no longer had any recollection of Cannistraro’s Contra role, which was still in the news only a year earlier. Further, they are so incompetent that they cannot do the most basic research -- in their own archives! -- to refresh their memories about Vincent Cannistraro. With this proviso we may defend that the Washington Post is honest, but the monumental incompetence that must be imputed to this paper would still leave us without a good reason to trust the Washington Post -- they are just too incompetent.
Let me now defend a different hypothesis, however, which does not require us to believe anything so absurd as that.
First, I give you a vivid picture of what the Contras were like:
“The Contras have ambushed religious-aid workers, beheading a nun and riddling her body with bullets. They have also eviscerated a pregnant woman, shot campesinos (peasants) and slaughtered their animals, cut down Red Cross workers and bombed towns with their schools and hospitals.”
Please read that again, slower this time.
One of the people responsible for blowing the whistle on the Contras was former Contra Edgar Chamorro:
“At the World Court in the Hague, where he recently testified on behalf of the Sandinista government, Chamorro said the CIA ‘did not discourage’ atrocities, such as Contras terrorizing villagers, slitting throats and mutilating bodies.
He described U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s so-called ‘freedom fighters’ as a gang of professional criminals who don’t know why they are fighting.
‘The CIA had to send a man to train Contras to teach them what they were fighting for. It was ridiculous,’ he said.
‘I wondered how can democracy come to Nicaragua with all these fascists?’
Chamorro returned to Nicaragua last October under a government amnesty. He was expelled from the Contras in 1984 after revealing corruption within the rebel movement and a CIA manual on jungle warfare, which advocated assassination as a political means.”
Now, as you may recall, in Part 3 I quoted an article in which the following was reported:
“Following the 1984 flap over a CIA-sponsored manual for the contras that advocated assassination, [Oliver] North helped arrange a job on the NSC staff for Vincent Cannistraro, the CIA officer who had run the agency’s task force on the contras.”
It is important properly to digest this with the utmost precision: Cannistraro ran “the [CIA’s] task force on the contras,” which became mired in controversy when Edgar Chamorro made public that the CIA manual for the Contras -- for which Cannistraro was responsible -- “advocated assassination.” Cannistraro was the man teaching the Contras to commit atrocities. North transferred Cannistraro to the NSC staff in part to protect him from this controversy, and also because he wanted Cannistraro to continue running the Contra program from the NSC.
Now, guess who it is that reported above how North brought Cannistraro to the NSC when Cannistraro’s terrorist strategy created a controversy?
That was David Ignatius from. . .the Washington Post. This was in 1986, only four years before the same Washington Post would re-suit Vincent Cannistraro and present him to its readers as a counter-terrorism expert who could be trusted in his new role as pundit.
Is this shocking? That’s nothing. In 2001 the same Washington Post published an editorial with the title “Assassination is wrong.” Guess who wrote it? You’ll never guess: Vincent Cannistraro, the man who, as the Washington Post reported in 1986, taught the Contra terrorists . . .what? Why, how to assassinate! So the Washington Post clearly cannot be accused of incompetence, for even the greatest paroxysm of incompetence will not make anything like this possible.
The Washington Post, however, can certainly be accused of dishonesty. . .and cynicism.
As we have already seen in Part 2, the Washington Post is not alone: the entire Western mass media treats Cannistraro as a trusted expert, so much so that he now parades himself, I remind you, as “Vince Cannistraro, an ABC News analyst and former CIA counterterrorism chief.”
Continue to part 5:
Footnotes and Further Reading
 Pan Am Bombing Probe Progressing; U.S. 'Very Close' to Securing Indictments, Ex-CIA Official Says, The Washington Post, November 21, 1990, Wednesday, Final Edition, FIRST SECTION; PAGE A6, 1037 words, George Lardner Jr., Washington Post Staff Writer, NATIONAL NEWS, FOREIGN NEWS
 Contras cling to their war, The Toronto Star, April 29, 1990, Sunday, SUNDAY SECOND EDITION, NEWS; Pg. H1, 1030 words, By Linda Diebel Toronto Star, MANAGUA
 U.S. operating 70 covert schemes ex-CIA man says, The Toronto Star, March 26, 1988, Saturday, SATURDAY SECOND EDITION, NEWS; Pg. A15, 449 words, By Robert Brehl Toronto Star
 Tale of Two White House Aides: Confidence and Motivation; North Viewed as a Can-Do Marine Who Went Too Far in Zealousness, The Washington Post, November 30, 1986, Sunday, Final Edition Correction Appended, FIRST SECTION; PAGE A1, 2694 words, David Ignatius, Washington Post Staff Writer, FOREIGN NEWS, NATIONAL NEWS, BIOGRAPHY
 Assassination Is Wrong -- and Dumb, The Washington Post, August 30, 2001 Thursday, Final Edition, EDITORIAL; Pg. A29, 820 words, Vincent Cannistraro
 BIN LADEN IS AT LARGE: CIA; FLED AFGHANISTAN IN DECEMBER, REPORT CLAIMS, The Toronto Sun, January 16, 2002 Wednesday,, Final Edition, News;, Pg. 12, 273 words, SPECIAL TO THE TORONTO SUN, WASHINGTON
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