Los Angeles Times editors have edited a Reuters story to remove critical facts supporting the U.S. position on an important international issue.
This morning’s L.A. Times publishes an article about the March 4 shooting by U.S. soldiers of a car bearing Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena. The shooting killed Italian intelligence officer Nicola Calipari, and created an international controversy, which strained U.S.-Italian relations.
An important contested issue in the controversy was the speed of the car as it approached a U.S. checkpoint. Sgrena has maintained that the car was traveling at a “regular speed” — no more than 25-30 mph. Americans have said that the car was traveling at least 50 mph.
The L.A. Times story today portrays that critical issue as a still-unresolved queston:
WASHINGTON — The United States and Italy disagreed Friday in the conclusions of a joint investigation into the slaying of an Italian agent by U.S. troops in Iraq, further straining ties between the two allies.
. . . .
A U.S. Army official said this week that Italy was disputing two issues in the report: the car’s speed as it approached the checkpoint and the nature of communications between the Italians and American forces before the shooting.
Italy’s government has said the Italians were driving slowly, received no warning, and advised U.S. authorities of their mission to evacuate Sgrena from Iraq.
The Army says the car was speeding toward the checkpoint and that U.S. soldiers tried to get it to stop by using hand and arm signals, flashing white lights and firing warning shots, and then shot into its engine block when it did not stop.
As presented in the L.A. Times, the question of the car’s speed is a “he said, she said” issue, with no definitive evidence that would resolve the disagreement.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
The L.A. Times story is actually an edited version of a Reuters story that appeared on the news service yesterday afternoon. The Reuters story reported that investigators using satellite footage of the incident have conclusively determined that the car was speeding, just as the U.S. has always maintained. On page two of the story, the Reuters news service reported:
CBS news has reported that a U.S. satellite had filmed the shooting and that it had been established the car carrying Calipari was traveling at more than 60 mph per hour [sic] as it approached the U.S. checkpoint in Baghdad.
Thus, the Reuters story reported that there is definitive proof that the car was speeding towards the checkpoint — critical information that tends to justify U.S. soldiers’ decision to fire on the car. But in the version appearing in the L.A. Times, editors cut out the passage reporting that proof.
The evidence is conclusive that this cut was made by L.A. Times editors. We know this because the version of the Reuters story that was printed by the L.A. Times is unique to the L.A. Times. This can be seen by a simple comparison of the first sentences of the respective stories. The Reuters version opens with this sentence:
The United States and Italy on Friday disagreed on the conclusions of a joint investigation into the killing of an Italian agent by U.S. troops in Iraq, further straining ties between the two allies.
A Google search of that sentence reveals 58 hits, all of which are reprints of the story, using the same sentence worded in the same way.
The L.A. Times slightly alters that first sentence to read as follows:
The United States and Italy disagreed Friday in the conclusions of a joint investigation into the slaying of an Italian agent by U.S. troops in Iraq, further straining ties between the two allies.
In this edited version of the sentence, Times editors moved the word “Friday,” changed the word “killing” to “slaying,” and replaced the word “in” with “on,” making the sentence grammatically awkward. [UPDATE: In the comments, Dafydd ab Hugh notes that the use of the word "slaying" tells you something about where L.A. Times editors are coming from.]
As of the time of this post, a Google search of the first sentence of the Times version of the piece reveals only one hit — in the L.A. Times.
The evidence is incontrovertible: this edited version of the Reuters story is unique to the Los Angeles Times. Times editors removed the fact that there is proof, in the form of satellite footage, supporting the U.S. version of the event.
There is no excuse for the L.A. Times story not reporting this information.
P.S. Following up on that last point, I did a review of the The Times‘s past reporting on the issue of the speeding car. The paper repeatedly trumpeted Sgrena’s contention that the Americans had no reason to shoot at the car, because it was only going 25-30 miles per hour. In the extended entry, I provide a detailed history of the paper’s reporting on this issue.