Col. Boylan's denial

A response to the first clear denial of e-mail authorship from Gen. Petraeus' spokesman.

Published October 30, 2007 1:49PM (EDT)

(updated below - Update II)

As indicated last night, Editor & Publisher has published a lengthy article on the Col. Boylan email matter, which includes a discussion of an unsolicited, critical email sent to them from Col. Boylan as well. That, as I documented last night, is part of a rather regular pattern of behavior whereby Gen. Petraeus' spokesman monitors liberal blogs and the publications of other anti-war writers and quite regularly sends unsolicited, rather aggressive emails crticizing what was written.

A later edition of the E&P article now contains this passage:

E&P contacted Boylan for a clarification about the email. Late Monday night he (or someone claiming to be him) replied: "I am denying writing and sending it. I know from past experience with Mr. Greenwald that any email exchange with him would be posted to his site as well as there is no need to discuss anything with him. I would only contact him in response to anything he would directly send to me as he did in this case. I have not contacted Mr. Greenwald since this summer" -- until Greenwald asked him to confirm the Sunday email, when "I told him it was not mine and I did not send it."

Several points to note about that (these are being moved here from last night's last update):

(1) Col. Boylan is denying authorship of the original email to me but is acknowledging having sent the subsequent emails, even though the tracing information on all of those emails -- including the "fake" one -- strongly suggest they came from the same computer.

(2) Neither Col. Boylan nor anyone else from the U.S. military has contacted me to request that I send them the "fake" email or provide any other information about it -- something that one would expect if anyone was actually trying to determine what really happened here and find out who is sending extremely authentic-seeming emails in the name of a top military official in Iraq. That suggests there is no effort being made at all by Col. Boylan or the military to find out who the "real emailer" is. Why is that?

(3) In his E&P comments, Col. Boylan repeats one of the principal points of the "fake" emailer (that I published our email exchange without permission, something which only Col. Boylan and his confidants would know) and also echoes the same hostility evident in the "fake" email ("there is no need to discuss anything with him").

(4) It is, as indicated, quite common for bloggers and other writers to receive unsolicited, critical emails ostensibly from Col. Boylan. Additionally, such emails have played a significant role in various scandals. In the midst of the TNR/Beauchamp "scandal," for instance, The Weekly Standard published a polite, informative email it claimed was from Col. Boylan which falsely stated that the Army was "not preventing [Beauchamp] from speaking to TNR or anyone." In fact, the military was blocking him from speaking to the media at that time. Isn't it important to find out if someone is sending fabricated, false emails in Col. Boylan's name?

(5) The ultimate significance of this matter, which goes far beyond the specific question of what Col. Boylan did or did not do in this case (though that is important in its own right), is articulated perfectly by Zack in this comment. The type of hostility, pseudo-intimidation, and stonewalling expressed by Col. Boylan here (in the emails of undisputed authenticity) is the type to which reporters are frequently subjected when they step out of line, particularly with war reporting. That is one reason why so few of them ever do.

And just survey the long list of media outlets and journalists which have been the target of swirling, right-wing lynch mob campaigns for perceived offenses in reporting about the war -- The Associated Press, Reuters, Eason Jordan, The New Republic, Ashleigh Banfield. There is a clear attempt to create strong disincentives for any journalist or commentator to do anything other than cheerlead loudly and deferentially.

(6) In comments, John Palcewski offers what seems to be a constructive suggestion for encouraging the military to investigate the matter of how someone is able to send out emails in the name of one of our most important military officials in Iraq.

UPDATE: For anyone contemplating leaving a comment questioning why I have continued to write about this matter, please first see -- in addition to Zack's comment linked above explaining its significance -- this comment from me responding to someone who so inquired.

UPDATE II: I'll be on the Randi Rhodes Show today at 4:30 p.m. Eastern to discuss the Boylan matter. Local listings are here and live audio feed is here.

Additionally, Salon's Mark Follman wrote two excellent articles back in 2004 and 2005 detailing the efforts by right-wing bloggers and similar types to accuse AP photographers of being in cahoots with The Terrorists -- prior to the time the U.S. military detained one of those photographers, Bilal Hussein. The military continues -- a year-and-a-half later -- to imprison him while while refusing AP's request to either charge him with a crime or release him. In his process-less detention, Hussein is joined by Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj, who continues to sit detained in Guantanamo, for five years now, with no real process either. Journalists in Iraq are, of course, well aware of all of these efforts.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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