The New York Times reports: President Trump wrongly tweeted on Saturday that The New York Times had “foiled” an attempt by the United States military to kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State.
“The Failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist, Al-Baghdadi,” the president wrote. “Their sick agenda over National Security.”
Mr. Trump’s statement appeared to be based on a report by Fox News; he is known to be an avid viewer, and a version of the story was broadcast about 25 minutes before he posted. The report said that The Times had disclosed intelligence in an article on June 8, 2015, about an American military raid in Syria that led to the death of one of Mr. Baghdadi’s key lieutenants, Abu Sayyaf, and the capture of his wife, who played an important role in the group.
That Fox News report cited comments by Gen. Tony Thomas, the head of the United States Special Operations Command, in an interview conducted Friday by the network’s intelligence correspondent, Catherine Herridge, at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
General Thomas said that a valuable lead on Mr. Baghdadi’s whereabouts “was leaked in a prominent national newspaper about a week later and that lead went dead.” He did not name The Times.
But a review of the record shows that information made public in a Pentagon news release more than three weeks before the Times article, and extensively covered at the time by numerous news media outlets, would have tipped off Mr. Baghdadi that the United States was questioning an important Islamic State operative who knew of his recent whereabouts and some of his methods of communication. Further, the information in the Times article on June 8 came from United States government officials who were aware that the details would be published.
A White House spokesman had no comment on Mr. Trump’s tweet. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday that he believed Mr. Baghdadi, whose possible death has been the subject of repeated rumors, was still alive.
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Politico reports: The New York Times on Sunday took the unusual step of requesting an apology from a competitor, asking “Fox & Friends” to retract a report that the Times was to blame for the 2015 escape of an ISIS leader. Fox subsequently updated the story on its website with the NYT letter. [Continue reading…]