This story bears a little more fleshing out than we were able to do in Vent. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s the gist: CBS News reporter Lara Logan, currently the network’s correspondent in Baghdad, used clips in a story about fighting on Haifa Street in Baghdad that apparently came from a video that Al Qaeda’s media arm also used. In her story she didn’t attribute the video to Al Qaeda, but described it as “gruesome pictures obtained by CBS.” They’re gruesome indeed, depicting slain Iraqi Army soldiers after the battle, and showing people walking around the room where the dead men are laying and even apparently picking through their uniforms. In looking at both the Logan report and the video that Al Qaeda released after the January 7 battle, I’ve come to the conclusion that not only did Logan use the same video that Al Qaeda used, but that she worked from the same source tape as well. That means that in all likelihood her source and the source from which Al Qaeda obtained the video (which may be someone actually in AQ or merely connected to it) are one and the same. Background on all this here and here and here. You can download the Al Qaeda video here, but be forewarned–it takes forever even on a cable hookup. And it’s very graphic. Logan’s CBS report is here. She has made a big deal out of CBS only putting it on the web and not broadcasting it on CBS News. It’s her “call for help” to her friends in the media to pressure CBS into broadcasting the story that made this whole thing gain some traction, though it’s going in a direction now that she probably didn’t anticipate.
In addition to using video that also showed up in an Al Qaeda video, Logan failed to acknowledge that Al Qaeda is claiming responsibility for the violence on Haifa Street, and she includes a soundbite from a masked man she identified as a local resident. Pace Andrew Sullivan, he may be a “resident” but the way he wears his headdress suggests that he’s really one of the insurgents/Al Qaeda fighters himself. So it’s no surprise that he took the opportunity to bash the US instead of the militias and insurgents who are trying to tear Iraq apart.
But back to the video and its origins. Below are two video stills, one from Lara Logan’s controversial report for CBS, and the other taken from a video released by the Islamic State of Iraq (al Qaeda). They show the same Iraqi Army casualty, because they’re from the same video. Not a similar video. The same video.
Here are the two segments in today’s Vent, side by side. Click to play.
After editing Vent I played around with the speeds to get the clips to match up a little more closely for this clip. The first AQ clip is running at 195% (not quite 2x) and the second clip is running at 110%. They still don’t match perfectly, either because Premiere’s speed effect is not perfectly accurate or because one or the other of the videos has been converted from one standard to another. That CBS and AQ used different compression standards for the web might explain it. CBS used Flash, while AQ prefers realPlayer. That’s just one more reason to hate both Al Qaeda and realPlayer, I guess.
I also had to convert both videos to Quicktime so I could edit them in Premiere. That might also account for the slight differences in frame rate. Or maybe I just didn’t fiddle with the speed settings long enough.
I spent a few hours with both the Logan and AQ videos last night, and after seeing both multiple times I’m dead sure that Lara Logan got a pre-release version of the AQ video. There’s no doubt at all that her source footage and Al Qaeda’s source footage are identical.
There is no way that she used footage already edited and released by Al Qaeda. She used the same source footage that Al Qaeda used.
The AQ edit slows the video down to half speed–Logan’s runs at normal speed (I sped up the AQ video in today’s Vent and the edit above to make the two match up). If she or a producer had pulled it off the web they would have been more likely to have used the speed AQ used since to them that would have been the “original.”
The CBS editor also switched up the order of bodies shown in the few seconds Logan shows in her report. There’s an edit about 6 seconds in (5 seconds and 28 frames, according to Adobe Premiere Pro) into the Logan segment, going from the face up body to one that’s face down wearing black body armor. That’s a different body lying face down that’s on an earlier part of the AQ tape. Logan’s edit gives the impression that it’s the same body that’s being turned over, but it isn’t. It’s two different bodies from different segments of the original tape. Logan’s edit doesn’t show much of this second body, but in the AQ video the camera gives us a wider view. They’re clearly two different bodies. The CBS editor shifted their positions in the timeline, which is a hint that he or she was working off an unedited source tape and not Al Qaeda’s released tape.
On the AQ tape, these two bodies are 57 seconds apart, with the second (face down) body in Logan’s report appearing first in the AQ video. Logan’s edit shows the face-up body first, followed immediately by the face-down body.
Additionally, the logo and graphics in the AQ video just aren’t there in Logan’s video and they haven’t been cropped out or covered up. You can tell it’s not a cropped shot because in both stills in the top graphic, the body is in the same place, in the same proportion to the screen and the top of the helmet is the same distance from the edge of the screen. If Logan’s shot had been cropped, everything would appear larger in her edit than it does in the AQ video. The logo and graphics are just not there in the Logan video. She had to have a version of the tape that was upstream from the graphics process, not a derivitive of the graphics and editing process. The logo and other graphics on the AQ video were overlaid during editing, much like I overlay the Hot Air bug on Vent and the clip above. So whoever Logan’s source is, they had access to the footage before it had been either edited or packaged by the AQ media arm. Logan probably got a second-generation dub of the original camera footage and edited from that. It’s hard to imagine that she had no idea where that tape came from, given the gruesome images on it and the circumstances in which it was shot–after a battle and in a room full of dead Iraqi Army troops, and showing people picking over those corpses. The people walking around and picking over the dead are probably the people who killed them.
Here’s another matching pair of segments that I didn’t use in Vent. Again, the AQ version here has been sped up to match Logan’s, which is playing at normal speed–the second time her video used a normal speed clip when AQ used the same one at half speed (the AQ editor likes to dwell on death for dramatic effect). That’s a pretty strong hint that she had an original or dub of the footage and didn’t work from that AQ release. Click to play.
Pace Andrew Sullivan, none of the people walking around are wearing military uniforms as far as I can tell, making them “civilians.”
CBS’ statement regarding Logan’s video is curious.
“I can assure you this was not from Al-Qaeda,” said [CBS News Vice President Paul] Friedman, who declined to identify the source. “Whenever we can identify the source of information or video, we want to do that,” he added. “There are some rare cases when we have to protect the source. In this case, we needed to do so, because it’s literally a matter of life and death.”
Within days of Al Qaeda releasing its video on January 7, Lara Logan used the same source video. Not the edited video, but the same source video. Therefore, the person who supplied the video to her is connected to Al Qaeda in some way. Either that person is part of AQ’s media arm or supplied the video to both AQ and Lara Logan, and to AQ first.
“The fact that same video shows up in more than one place is something that happens every day,” said CBS News spokeswoman Sandra Genelius. “We occasionally use video from an Al-Qaeda Web site and we identify it. In this case, we didn’t get it from Al-Qaeda, so we didn’t identify it as such.”
It is very unusual for the same source video to show up in Al Qaeda propaganda pieces and CBS news reports within days of each other, unattributed by the network and clearly from the same undisclosed source tape.
CBS says Logan’s video didn’t come from Al Qaeda. Perhaps it didn’t. I’d like to know how CBS knows that, though. Does it have some ironclad method for determining which of its potential stringers and sources in chaotic Baghdad are members of Al Qaeda and which ones aren’t? If CBS does have such a method in place, it should share its secret with the Iraqi police. The IP has a hard time keeping infiltrators out of its ranks, in spite of its best efforts to do so. I find it hard to believe that CBS has a better method for weeding out infiltrators. And I find it hard to believe that Lara Logan didn’t know that her source tape originated with Al Qaeda, given the nature of the fighting on Haifa Street and who would have shot such a gruesome video after killing Iraqi Army troops. Who would have been on the scene to shoot that footage and get it to Al Qaeda so quickly? Did Lara Logan or CBS ever ask that basic question?
Here’s a possibility that might explain all of this. The video was shot by one of the private security guards who work on Haifa Street. That job put him in a position to be able to film shortly after the battle was over, and his connections to AQ made him feel safe enough to do it. Logan obtained the video from him, and promised him anonymity in exchange for the tape. CBS went along with that promise. Unknown to her or CBS, the private security guard/cameraman had already supplied the tape to Al Qaeda through his connections to them. He played both sides, which is very common in Iraq right now. He sold the tape to CBS for a few bucks, gave it AQ because he’s sympathetic to them, and keeps his security job because it pays well and puts him in a position to be useful to quite a few people around that complex battlefield (evidence that there’s something to this speculation here–6th paragraph). CBS with its moral blinders on didn’t recognize and didn’t care that it was getting AQ’s seconds. They obviously failed to ask basic questions about how the cameraman was able to shoot that video shortly after a ferocious battle had taken place and before the IA could come and claim its dead. To CBS and the rest of the MSM, it’s all about the “get,” no matter what it takes to get it.
So why is this so important? Because Lara Logan passed off video that was good enough for Al Qaeda propaganda in her report, and because her source may well be in AQ himself. Her report is at most two degrees of separation from Al Qaeda propaganda. At most.
Updates: I sent Public Eye an email with a link to this post. Their “I can assure you” line won’t cut it after Rathergate. Hopefully they understand that, and why, and will address my investigation with some rigor. Even if they can refute my findings, that would be better than their asking us to just trust them. They haven’t earned that trust. Thoroughly examining how and where Logan obtained that video would go a long way to building some trust, though.
Not to be outdone, the NY Times has been caught publishing a video and photo of a US soldier dying of wounds received in battle in Iraq. That’s a clear violation of the embed rules and an egregious step beyond good sense and taste. Sweetness & Light can fill you in on the details.