CNN Uses 'Anonymous Journalist' for Report on Shia Death Squads

Next week marks the fourth anniversary of Operation Iraq Freedom. How does CNN plan to observe the event? An update, perhaps, on General Petraeus’ new strategy to win the war, and the initial positive – if still early – reports from the battlefield?

Please. I did say "CNN." The network is set to run a one hour special: “Death Squads Reveals Links between Shia Death Squads, Iraqi Security Forces.” CNN's report will in significant part be based on the work of an anonymous journalist.

Before considering the CNN report, let's review some of the recent developments in Iraq, as gleaned from MNF spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell's press conference of March 14th:

  • Prime Minister Maliki has affirmed that there will be no political interference in security operations. Iraq's leaders have lifted restrictions on Iraqi and Coalition forces that prevented them from going into certain areas, and U.S. and Iraqi troops are now pursuing the enemy in neighborhoods like Sadr City, where operations were once restricted.
  • Iraqi and Coalition forces have secured significant sections of Sadr City without a shot fired in anger, an unimaginable achievement just months ago.
  • About half of the planned joint security stations have been established in neighborhoods across Baghdad, helping coalition forces develop trust of local residents.
  • Sectarian killings have been lower in Baghdad over the past several weeks than in the previous month.
  • Sectarian displacement appears to have slowed or even stopped, with increasing numbers of families returning to their homes.
Other recent positive developments:
But if CNN's press release about its "Death Squads" report is any indication, the network doesn't plan to cover the progress that has been made in recent months in its special.

CNN's report also raises a journalistic issue. Its press release states that:

"Death Squads is a co-production of CNN and Channel 4/Quicksilver Media and is reported by a team of journalists: British journalist Deborah Davies, an Iraqi journalist working anonymously and CNN’s John Roberts."

We're all familiar with anonymous sources. But anonymous journalists? We can understand the personal security concerns. But as the only Iraqi on the team, Mr. X is likely the key to some of the more sensitive, and potentially controversial, allegations being reported. Doesn't his anonymity raise a serious credibility issue? Paging Howard Kurtz and Fox News Watch!

Mark was in Iraq in November. Contact him at mark@gunhill.net
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.