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p. 1 15 February 2007
p. 3 16 February 2007
unreliable source USA
mobile technology as a news source
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source > verification
source > verification > Storyful
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Police and Criminal Evidence Act PACE UK
according to MoD sources
WikiLeaks founder > Julian Assange
The Promise, and Pitfalls, of Video
MAY 17, 2014
The New York Times
ADAM NOSSITER’S first response to a now-famous video of the
kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls was caution.
“I thought maybe we should not make a huge thing of this until it was completely
verified,” Mr. Nossiter, the Times bureau chief for Central and West Africa,
told me by phone. He described how he and a Times stringer in Nigeria first
watched the video early this week in a hotel room in Maiduguri.
But, as the veteran correspondent knows very well, the pace of news tends not to
cooperate with such sensible sentiments. The video was appearing elsewhere, his
editors were pushing hard, and Mr. Nossiter’s story about the video ended up at
the top of the Times website on Monday afternoon, and on the front page on
Tuesday. The heartbreaking situation behind it — the kidnapping of more than 200
girls by Islamic extremists — has riveted people around the world; the video
appeared to be the first evidence that at least some of the girls were still
Mr. Nossiter’s initial story included some strong disclaimer language that I
don’t remember seeing before. Its second paragraph began with these surprising
words: “If genuine.” The fourth paragraph in that early web story added to the
doubt. “It was impossible to fully authenticate the video,” it began. One parent
reached in Chibok, the village where the girls were seized last month, said
nobody there had seen it, Mr. Nossiter wrote, “because there is no electricity,
much less Internet access.”
The next day, he reported that some parents had been shown the video by Nigerian
government officials and had been able to identify their daughters, easing the
doubts about the video’s authenticity.
Mr. Nossiter’s first impulse, though, was a good one. And although this instance
has not turned out to be a cautionary tale, it does raise questions about
authenticating video images — and the difficulty of doing so — in today’s
relentless, 24-hour news cycle. I explored these questions with journalists
inside and outside The Times this past week.
The word that came up over and over in these half-dozen interviews was
Claire Wardle, an expert on video authenticity who is a research fellow at
Columbia University’s Tow Center, puts it simply. Journalists, she said, “should
always start from a position that the content is incorrect.” Let’s call it
radical skepticism — a very useful concept.
Steve Buttry — one of Ms. Wardle’s co-authors of a guide for journalists titled
the “Verification Handbook” — has a good take on the subject as well.
“Journalism is hard work, and verification is some of the hardest work of
journalism,” he said in a recent interview published on the International
Journalism Festival website.
Mr. Buttry and Ms. Wardle agree that there is no foolproof way to verify videos,
but there are common-sense steps journalists can take. Those involve both
old-fashioned checking and rechecking with multiple sources — Mr. Buttry calls
it “triangulation” — and newer digital methods.
The Times is a client of a news organization called Storyful, one of whose
specialties is verifying the authenticity of video through many means — most
important, by trying to obtain and examine the original version of a video and
getting in touch with the person who shot it.
As recently as last month, some news organizations had to issue retractions —
publishing corrections and taking down images — after a video described as
capturing a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest turned out to be of an avalanche
there several years ago. No news organization ever wants to do that.
Bruce Headlam, managing editor of video at The Times, told me that by its
nature, video requires an extra level of care.
“Video is so immediate and so visceral; it is very compelling and we have to be
extra vigilant,” he said. In addition, posting video is not an act that allows
for much nuance. “There’s no ‘to be sure’ paragraph in a video,” he said,
alluding to the kind of oft-mocked, bet-hedging disclaimer that often appears in
text-based news stories.
Mr. Headlam told me that the vast majority of video that appears on The Times’s
site avoids these authenticity issues because it is shot either by Times
staffers or by freelancers whose reputations are well known to the paper.
On one recent occasion, The Times walked right up to the line of publication,
then stopped. An amateur video purporting to show helicopters being downed by
pro-Russian forces in Ukraine had been circulated by wire services, although
with disclaimers attached. According to a Times video producer, Ben Werschkul,
The Times prepared the video for publication but at the last moment decided not
to use it. Editors on the international desk thought it skewed too close to
propaganda and was not substantive enough to publish as news, in addition to
being of uncertain origin. (Discredited images from Ukraine — photographs not
videos — caused some problems for The Times recently, as I wrote in a blog post
It sounds like a prudent decision, one that reflects the kind of thinking that
Mr. Nossiter did when he first saw the Nigerian video. The Times is continuing
to move inexorably into the digital age, in which text and still photographs are
only part of the news equation, and these issues aren’t going away.
With the increasing importance of video (both for news value and as a source of
advertising revenue), the many places it can come from, and the fast pace of
news, the chances of a perfect record are low, as Mr. Headlam acknowledged.
“If we haven’t pulled anything yet because it turned out to be inauthentic,” he
said, “we will probably have to at some point.”
version of this op-ed appears in print on May 18, 2014, on page SR9 of the New
York edition with the headline: The Promise, and Pitfalls, of Video.
The Promise, and Pitfalls, of Video,
Is Reported Set to
January 8, 2009
The New York Times
By PETER BAKER
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama is preparing to scrap the way
President Bush oversaw domestic security in the White House and name a former
Central Intelligence Agency official to coordinate counterterrorism, people
close to the transition said Wednesday.
The plan being discussed would eliminate the independent homeland security
adviser’s office and assign those duties to the National Security Council to
streamline sometimes overlapping functions. A deputy national security adviser
would be charged with overseeing the effort to guard against terrorism and to
respond to natural disasters.
Democrats close to the transition said Mr. Obama’s choice for that job was John
O. Brennan, a longtime C.I.A. veteran who was the front-runner to head the spy
agency until withdrawing in November amid criticism of his views on
interrogation and detention policies. His appointment would not require Senate
Mr. Obama has made no final decision about how to structure domestic security in
his White House, and advisers plan to wait until his inauguration to conduct a
formal review. But many key advisers have publicly advocated folding it into the
National Security Council, and those involved in discussions said the only real
questions appeared to be how to do that and how to explain it without looking
like domestic security was being downgraded as a priority.
Mr. Bush first appointed a homeland security adviser after the Sept. 11 attacks,
and Congress later institutionalized a Homeland Security Council inside the
White House. The adviser holds the rank of assistant to the president,
equivalent to the national security adviser , and reports directly to the Oval
“It’s pretty clear they’ve made the decision,” said Frances Fragos Townsend, who
was homeland security adviser under Mr. Bush and has talked with the Obama team
about the issue. “It’s a question of timing and how they’re going to roll it
Mr. Bush’s aides, including the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley,
have privately urged Mr. Obama’s advisers not to get rid of the separate
homeland security office, warning that it would load too many responsibilities
on the National Security Council and risk important matters’ falling through the
The likely selection of Mr. Brennan to take over domestic security issues in the
White House represents a turnaround. Mr. Brennan, a former C.I.A. officer in the
Mideast who served as the first director of the National Counterterrorism
Center, was seen as the favorite for C.I.A. director after the Nov. 4 election.
But he abruptly pulled out after critics of Mr. Bush sharply criticized Mr.
Brennan for past comments that seemed to defend C.I.A. operations after Sept.
11. Mr. Brennan defended his record and called himself an opponent of the harsh
interrogation methods used in recent years.
In his new capacity, Mr. Brennan would report to Gen. James L. Jones, the
retired Marine commandant slated to serve as Mr. Obama’s national security
adviser. Dozens of aides now working for the homeland security adviser would
largely be incorporated into the N.S.C. staff. The cabinet Department of
Homeland Security would not be affected by any of these moves.
The idea of merging the two councils has been recommended by a number of
reports, most notably in November by the Center for American Progress Action
Fund and by Third Way. Among those preparing their report were John D. Podesta,
Mr. Obama’s transition co-chairman, and members of his team.
The report argued that domestic security is inextricably tied to the nation’s
broader foreign and military policy making.
“It was an artificial distinction to begin with,” said Matt Bennett, vice
president of Third Way. “Homeland security is a function of national security in
its purest form.”
C. Stewart Verdery Jr., a former assistant secretary at the Department of
Homeland Security under Mr. Bush, said putting domestic security under the
national security adviser would focus more attention on those matters, not less.
“It was very hard to get D.H.S. on the N.S.C. radar,” Mr. Verdery said. “You
want your issues considered. You don’t want to be off in some second bucket.”
But some state officials are skeptical. “The National Security Council is
focused outside,” said Nancy Dragani, director of the Ohio Emergency Management
Agency and president of the National Emergency Management Association. “They’re
not going to be, nor should they be, consumed with worrying about what’s
happening in Ohio.”
Senator Susan E. Collins of Maine, the ranking Republican on the homeland
security committee, said, “If the Homeland Security Council were to be merged
with the National Security Council, I would be concerned that insufficient
attention would be devoted to homeland security issues.”
Ms. Townsend, who held the job until about a year ago, said the council should
remain independent, but acknowledged pros and cons. In fact, she said, she
recommended to Mr. Hadley and his predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, that they
assume responsibility for domestic security, but both persuaded her they already
had too much to do.
Still, Ms. Townsend added that fellow Republicans should not use the
organizational change to accuse Mr. Obama of not caring as much about domestic
“That’s nonsense,” she said.
Obama Is Reported Set to
Revise Counterterrorism Efforts,
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