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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The hilarious tale of the Dick, the Beeb and the "secret Israeli attack plans" (updated)

Richard Silverstein, the anti-Israel blogger who claims to be the constant recipient of super-top-secret information from Israel's intelligence community, had a huge scoop yesterday: Israel's actual war plans against Iran!
In the past few days, I received an Israeli briefing document outlining Israel’s war plans against Iran. The document was passed to me by a high-level Israeli source who received it from an IDF officer. My source, in fact, wrote to me that normally he would not leak this sort of document, but “These are not normal times. I’m afraid Bibi and Barak are dead serious.”

...There will be those who will dispute the authenticity of this document. I’m convinced it is what my source claims, based on his prior track record and the level of specificity offered in the document. It references cities by name and the facilities they contain. It names new weapons systems including one Israel supposedly hasn’t even shared with the U.S.

No, it’s real.

Silverstein pushed his "scoop" mercilessly on Twitter, and the BBC took the bait and even interviewed him.

Let's pretend for a minute that the memo is legitimate. In that case. Silverstein is purposefully revealing Israeli war plans, and those revelations could conceivably put not only Israeli soldiers at risk but also thousands of Israeli civilians.

Luckily, the memo is provably fake.

Here is the beginning of Silverstein's purportedly leaked memo:

The Israeli attack will open with a coordinated strike, including an unprecedented cyber-attack which will totally paralyze the Iranian regime and its ability to know what is happening within its borders. The internet, telephones, radio and television, communications satellites, and fiber optic cables leading to and from critical installations—including underground missile bases at Khorramabad and Isfahan—will be taken out of action. The electrical grid throughout Iran will be paralyzed and transformer stations will absorb severe damage from carbon fiber munitions which are finer than a human hair, causing electrical short circuits whose repair requires their complete removal. This would be a Sisyphean task in light of cluster munitions which would be dropped, some time-delayed and some remote-activated through the use of a satellite signal.

Now, it just so happens that in an Israeli forum called Fresh, four days ago, a remarkably similar post was written anonymously, by someone who says he created a possible scenario for a war with Iran using public sources. Here is my rather poor, Google Translate-assisted translation of the beginning of that scenario:

The Israeli offensive will open with a combined action an unprecedented cyber attack, completely paralyzing the Iranian government's ability to know what's going on in his own country. Internet networks, telephone, radio and television, satellite communications and fiber optic cables leading to important sites - including underground missile bases at Isfahan and Khorramabad - will be found out of action. ... Power grids across Iran would be paralyzed, and transformers for the power grid would suffer serious damage from weapons dissipating carbon fiber smaller than a human hair - creating shorts that to fix them requires removing them physically - a Sisyphean task in light of cluster munitions with a time delay and some remotely operated via satellite signal.

Some scoop - the words were directly taken from a message board!

Even if Silverstein was duped, as he often is, any journalist should know enough to Google a couple of the original Hebrew phrases before publishing such a supposedly important story.

It is hardly a Sisyphean task.

So once again Richard Silverstein is revealed to be a self-aggrandizing, lying fraud who incidentally cares not one whit about endangering thousands of Israeli lives.

And the BBC is found to show essentially zero ability to distinguish fact from fiction in its zeal to push the idea that it is publishing a scoop, disclaimers notwithstanding.

This entire episode should be taught in Journalism 101 classes to teach future reporters exactly what not to do.

(I was also highly amused by a tweet I saw by Mya Guarnieri, another far-left "journalist" whose writings can be seen at +972mag, who wrote "According to @richards1052 [Silverstein's Twitter handle] Bibi has a secret war plan. I trust Richard..." Pretty much anyone who approvingly quotes Silverstein at this point has thrown all objectivity out the window.)

I don't know who originally discovered the Fresh post, but also see Israellycool, The Commentator and Harry's Place  for their takes on this fiasco.

UPDATE: Silverstein is doubling down on his lies, and he has provided us with a "screenshot" of the text he received. He claims that the leaker also leaked it to the Fresh forum and someone there modified it - even though no one at Fresh claimed that this was a secret Israeli memo, rather than that it was an original speculation.

Then Silverstein relies on his audience not knowing Hebrew:
If the hasbarafia were honorable, which is a contradiction in terms, it would compare word for word my translation with the Fresh posting and concede that they are entirely different pieces of writing with the exception of a very small portion.

Well, I just did. Silverstein publishes six paragraphs of text. Paragraphs 1,3,4,5 and 6 are all virtually identical to what he posted. And even a couple of sentences of his paragraph 2 are identical to the Fresh post, although out of order. (Even the font and font size are identical!)

In other words, well over 90% of Silverstein's "scoop" was published previously in Fresh.

Silverstein is a liar. And any media outlet that publishes his pseudo-scoops is irresponsible.