Isikoff, Hosenball and the Media-Deep State War on Truth
As the media-deep state Russia Hoax unravels, two journalists deserve special attention: Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball. Isikoff, now chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News, was the first to break the story that the FBI was investigating Carter Page. Hosenball, now a correspondent with Reuters, was first to break the story that candidate Donald Trump was being advised, as the Reuters headline tells us, “By Ex-U.S. Lieutenant General Michael Flynn--Who Favors Closer Russia Ties.” The “closer ties” that worry me, however, are those between America’s intelligence community (IC) and reporters like these two.
I first met Isikoff and Hosenball in Newsweek’s cramped Washington office in 2003. I was there promoting a book I had just coauthored with James Sanders on TWA Flight 800, the 747 that blew up off the south coast of Long Island in July 1996. I knew Isikoff largely through his reporting on the Lewinsky affair. Hosenball I knew for his role, witting or otherwise, as the CIA’s chief propagandist in the TWA 800 investigation.
In the way of background, in November 1997 the FBI showed a CIA-produced animation to discredit the hundreds of credible eyewitnesses to a missile strike on the aircraft. Hosenball fell hard for the CIA video. Under his byline, Newsweek ran a fully affirmative, nine-frame, full-color recreation captioned with the unlikely boast, “CIA Photos.”
Hosenball assured his readers that what the witnesses really saw was not a missile but the fuselage of the burning, climbing plane rocketing upwards some three-thousand-plus feet after the fuel tank exploded. The CIA analysts convinced Hosenball that “infrared images captured by spy satellites” showed this preposterous scenario during the plane’s last 49 seconds.
This revelation may have come as news to the FBI. The bureau’s comprehensive summary issued just a week before Hosenball’s article did not once mention the word “satellite.” In a letter to then-congressman John Kasich two months after the press conference, the CIA quietly buried the subject: “No satellite imagery of the disaster exists.” Then as now, evidence only had to sound real to attract willing journalists. Had Hosenball been on the CIA payroll he could not have done more to legitimize the agency’s crude rewrite of history.
My goal in meeting with Isikoff and Hosenball was not to make enemies but to make converts. Unfortunately, I had no success.
When I wrote an article about this unpleasant encounter, I described Hosenball as British. My publicist and I took his nationality for granted given his accent. In his response, Hosenball mocked me for being careless with my facts. He was an American.
Yes, he was. What I did not know at the time was that Hosenball moved to England when he was 17 to attend school. After spending a year in England and three in Ireland, Hosenball moved back to England to become a reporter. This information comes from a 1977 British appeals court document explaining why the United Kingdom chose to deport the 25-year-old Hosenball “in the interests of national security.”
“The Secretary of State believes that Mr Hosenball is a danger to this country. So much so that his presence here is unwelcome and he can no longer be permitted to stay,” reads the document. Reportedly, Hosenball was “one of a group of people who are trying to obtain information of a very sensitive character about our security arrangements.” The document does not identify on whose behalf Hosenball was allegedly spying, but it affirms the government’s decision to deport him nonetheless.
The American intelligence community did not appear troubled by Hosenball’s actions. As the New York Times reported at the time, “A United States Embassy spokesman said that he knew of no United States pressure on Britain to discipline Mr. Hosenball.” Nor did the deportation seem to hurt Hosenball’s career. By 1993, he was working for Newsweek. By 1997, he was using Newsweek to spread CIA disinformation.
Hosenball’s ties to the IC appear to have remained strong. In February 2016, three “former foreign policy officials” alerted him and Reuters colleague Steve Holland that Flynn was informally advising Trump. What made this story newsworthy was that Flynn wanted “the United States to work more closely with Russia.” So apparently did Trump. In February 2016, such aspirations seemed suspicious, if not sinister, at least to Hosenball and Holland.
To depict outreach to Russia as problematic or worse, Hosenball had to overlook a good deal of recent history. In February 2009, for instance, Vice President Joe Biden told a European audience, “It is time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia.” In March 2012, a live microphone picked up Obama whispering to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, “After my election I have more flexibility.” Later in that same year, during a debate, Obama laughed off Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s claim that Russia was a major threat. As late as July 2015, Obama was thanking Putin for help with the Iran deal. “We would have not achieved this agreement,” Obama gushed, “had it not been for Russia’s willingness to stick with us.”
Ignoring Obama’s courtship of Russia, three unnamed foreign policy officials chose to abet, possibly even launch, a media whispering campaign about Trump and Flynn’s potential treason. Of note, this Reuters article appeared two months before the Russians allegedly hacked the DNC computers and five months before George Papadopoulos shocked--yes, shocked!--an Australian diplomat in London with talk of Russian Hillary dirt. In short, the media-deep state campaign against Trump began long before its official start date in late July 2016. From the beginning too, the conspirators had Flynn in their crosshairs.
As useful as Hosenball was, the better-known Isikoff proved to be much more useful still. In September 2016, Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson introduced Isikoff to Christopher Steele. The pair used Isikoff to leak information contained in Steele’s notorious dossier into the public arena. Their efforts resulted in a much-discussed Yahoo News article headlined, “U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin.” The adviser was the innocuous Carter Page. From that moment on, Page’s private life and Trump’s public life would be undermined by the spurious but widespread suspicion that both men were Russian agents.
In 1996-1997, the media quietly disgraced themselves with their refusal to challenge the intelligence community’s flagrant misdirection of the TWA 800 investigation. In 2016-2019, the media noisily disgraced themselves with their enthusiastic embrace of another misdirected IC investigation.
In his book Hate Inc. renegade Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi wrote what should have been obvious to everyone on his side of the barricades, “Being on any team is a bad look for the press, but the press being on team FBI/CIA is an atrocity, Trump or no Trump.”
Jack Cashill’s new novel with Mike McMullen, The Hunt, can be purchased wherever you buy books. A collector’s edition signed by both authors can be had at www.TheHuntBook.com.