My friend is facing the trial of his life. His trial is not in front of any judge, tribunal or legally mandated court. It’s in the electronic soundbites and newspaper headlines where he is defending the charge that he provided classified secrets to Israel while working for the U.S. government. In the world media he has already been charged and convicted through innuendos and distortions of the worse possible nature.
The Jerusalem Post (2/20/97) wrote that he failed a polygraph test. Fascinating. Where is the source? The fact is that none exists, for this is no more than a conclusion that was only inferred. The same paper reported (2/24/97) that he was, “accused of illegally passing classified information.” Yet David has not been accused by any government agency. Absolutely no indictment exists. Yet he has been indicted by a media outlet. Worse, The Voice of Israel in it’s 7a.m. news (2/20/97), omitted the key characteristic ‘inadvertantly’ in describing the probe. Suddenly some in the media were assuming the worse case scenario of innocent words spoken, and concluded a systematic espionage plan was unravelled. In Detroit, (Detroit News 2/19/97) the press demonstrated the same level journalistic ethics with unfounded news reports that the FBI removed seven boxes of classified documents from his house. The common thread is that all of these stories are false.
Of course, David can’t defend himself facing accusatory headlines like “POLLARD 2”. If there indeed exist mislabeled classified military documents in David’s posession, one in his position is prohibited from showing them to the public. If there are hopelessly confusing or misleading bureacratic directives from the Army, he certainly can’t present this to the media. Nor can he divulge the transcript from the FBI interrogation, possibly showing questions that were misleading or confusing. In short, David Tenenbaum is caught between a soundbite and a headline.
Every single aspect of David’s life has seemingly been examined by the media. Yediot Ahronot (2/23/97) described how he talks to his children, how his wife supplements their income, and even the make and year of his car. David’s wife has told me about how reporters have been calling incessantly at all hours.
This is not about a story of a routine FBI examination, it’s about a ruthless media prosecution. It’s about time that we examine the role the press has in destroying people’s lives. If society can require plumbers and barbers to be licenced, why not journalists? We demand the accuracy of the sodium content in our breakfast cereals. Why can’t we take measures directed at the accuracy of reports that affect careers and reputations, let alone international relations? My friend David is a man of impecable honesty and integrity. In the end his name will be cleared. I am not sure about some of my colleagues in the press.
Nachum (Neal) Duchin has edited news for several foreign televison networks as well as for local news in Detroit, and can be reached on (+972-2) 652-7482 or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.