Home Opinion False AP Report About Russian Missiles Hitting Poland Could’ve Triggered WWIII

False AP Report About Russian Missiles Hitting Poland Could’ve Triggered WWIII

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Main Directorate of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine in Kyiv, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

ANALYSIS – Last week the world was hit by the purported news of a Russian missile strike into NATO member country, Poland. 

And now the award-winning AP reporter who wrote it has been fired.

Based only on a single, unnamed ‘senior U.S. intelligence official,’ the initial Associated Press (AP) story by James LaPorta, a former U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan, was widely disseminated and quickly caused a barrage of other reporting.

Most of it was alarmist and panic-causing, with many in the news media and blogosphere quickly demanding harsh action against Russia.

As the Blaze reports:

Fox News and the Daily Mail similarly carried the AP reporter’s suggestion, the former running a piece entitled, “Russian missiles cross into NATO member Poland, kill 2: senior US intelligence official,” and the latter stating, “‘Russian bombs’ kill two in POLAND.”

CBS Evening News tweeted “RUSSIAN MISSILE STRIKE: Two Russian missiles crossed over the Ukrainian border into Poland, a NATO country, killing two civilians.”

A Russian attack on Poland could have triggered articles 4 and 5 of the NATO charter, potentially putting the U.S. into direct conflict with nuclear power.

Article 4 requires full consultation at the North Atlantic Council, the alliance’s political decision-making body, while Article 5 requires joint NATO action to repel an attack.

As MSN explains: “Article 5 states that the parties to the NATO treaty ‘agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.’”

Article 5 also states that each NATO member must take “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

This of course would make the U.S. a direct combatant in this war and could escalate to a nuclear exchange.

As such, I wrote about the ‘errant’ strike the same day, albeit in more careful ways.

My headline was more matter-of-fact and far less alarming, and it didn’t mention a direct Russian missile strike: “Escalation in Russia-Ukraine War Leads to Emergency Crisis Meeting.”

In the piece I did note the ramifications of any foreign missiles crashing into Poland, writing: “In what might be the greatest (albeit perhaps accidental) escalation since Russia invaded Ukraine, the war just crossed the border into a NATO country.”

And, yes, I like to say ‘albeit.’

added:

According to a senior U.S. intelligence official, as Russia pounded Ukraine’s energy facilities Tuesday with the largest barrage of missile strikes to date, some reportedly ‘stray’ Russian missiles crossed into NATO member Poland and struck a site in Poland about 15 miles from the Ukrainian border.

The allegedly errant strike killed two persons in the Polish village of Przewodów and provoked an emergency crisis meeting of Poland’s national security team, which will be held Tuesday evening.

While I did refer to a Ukrainian Air Force spokesman who said Russia used X-101 and X-555 cruise missiles in the latest attacks against Ukraine, and reports that expressed the belief that “one or more of these cruise missiles were the ones that struck Poland,” I was very careful in how I reported all this.

Note the extensive use of the words “accidental,” “allegedly,” “reportedly,” “errant,” and “stray” missiles in my report. I also explained that the incident had provoked an “emergency crisis meeting” in Poland.

The rest of my piece focused on the confirmed, massive Russian barrage of missile strikes against Ukrainian energy and infrastructure targets throughout the country.

In the end it appears that the missile that struck Poland was a Russian-made Ukrainian air defense missile that missed its mark and fell back to earth rather than self-destructs.

And even after its country of manufacture was known, outlets like CNN kept calling it a ‘Russian-made missile’ without adding that Ukraine uses lots of Russian-made missiles.

Of course, in my view, Russia is still to blame for this, albeit indirectly, since no one would be firing armed missiles near a NATO country if it weren’t for the unprovoked Russian invasion, and its reckless and dangerous strikes near NATO’s borders.

The Blaze added that:

After having updated the initial report several times, the AP indicated [November 16] that a new assessment from three U.S. officials “contradicts information” in the original article. Shortly thereafter, the article was reportedly taken offline.

The AP issued a retraction later that day…

On Nov. 21, LaPorta was fired.

But let’s use this incident as a teachable moment. 

Lesson one – as sophisticated news consumers, be circumspect with the news you read until it is fully verified.

Lesson two – be wary of reports using only one or two anonymous sources.

And lesson three – journalists, and social media posters, should use words like ‘reportedly’ a lot more, and make it clear that there is room for doubt or questions when the reports are still fresh and early.

The most important rule I’ve learned in journalism, and in intelligence, and also during my stint on Wall Street, is that – it’s never as good (or as bad) as first reported. 

Opinions expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of Great America News Desk.

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