The Washington Times printed a letter to the editor, purportedly an e-mail from a U.S. diplomat, that turned out to be a forgery. Apparently the Times neglected to verify the letter by calling the sender, as newspapers normally do, and ran with it anyway.

Must... resist... obvious Bush joke....

[Times chief Wesley Pruden:] "The standard procedure at The Times is to verify all letters to the editor; this procedure was not followed in this instance. We will find out why, and make changes in procedures as necessary."
Changes in procedures consisting of actually following your current procedures, presumably.

It was not yet clear whether the forger had sent the letter from Mr. Minikes' e-mail account — or from the department's server — or whether the sender disguised another account to look like the diplomat's e-mail. Mr. Boucher said there were "a variety of electronic possibilities" for someone to have "pulled this off."
Yeah, no kidding there are a variety of ways. Any idiot who knows SMTP can telnet to port 25 of an insecure machine and spoof an e-mail address. Of course, people can forge real letters even more easily; that's why you always call the person to verify it's a real letter before publishing it.

With all this talk about failing to check documents that later turned out to be forgeries... I can't resist any longer. Clearly the Times loves Bush so much, they just had to emulate him in absolutely everything. I hear Ari's available to do some damage control.

"We will pursue this investigation with great energy," Mr. Pruden said. "We intend to get to the bottom of this hoax. There is no offense more serious at any newspaper. We will make life as miserable as we can for the jerk who did it."
Awww yeah, revenge of the Times! Sun Moon's gonna be all up in your business, fake-letter-writer!

(Wow, this Pruden guy sounds like a great boss... does he make the reporters write stories about that awful menace Spider-Man?)

Oh man, I know I was kidding about the Bush thing, but after reading this Howard Kurtz blurb, the parallels become even more hilariously dead-on:

The perpetrator may have struck before. Last March, Washington Post columnist Al Kamen got what turned out to be a fake e-mail of complaint from the deputy chief of mission under Minikes. That one wasn't published.
So a couple months ago, the Times received a similar fake letter, but didn't publish it. This time, perhaps a bit overeager to slam the State Department again, they did publish it, and now it's time to pay the price, just like with the yellowcake thing. Now this is just getting eerie.

Anyway, the Times has removed the letter from its website, but I fished it out of the Google cache for posterity. Here it is, the fake letter in its entirety:

The State Department's corrosive culture

I am writing to commend you for Joel Mowbray's insightful recent analysis of many State Department careerists' thinly disguised distaste and disloyalty for the president's foreign policy goals (Op-Ed, July 7, "A tangled web; The State Department's corrosive culture"). In my long experience working as a Republican-appointed executive in various federal government positions of responsibility and honor, it has become almost an unchangeable given that most career bureaucrats are liberal, instinctively supportive of big and intrusive government and that they strongly advocate the Democratic Party's approach to foreign policy; namely process, apology and appeasement.

Never has this bias been so evident than during my time as President Bush's ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, in Vienna. From the careerists serving at the assistant secretary level at the State Department (true survivors all in the jungle of political opportunism) down to freshly minted junior officers, I find on a daily basis a discomfort among many of them with implementing the president's desire to lead by principle, and instead, a self-defeating reliance on doing things the same old way, based on the false presumption that everyone's and every state's view has equal value.

At the OSCE, many on my staff consider the principles that drive French or Russian foreign policy mischief to be as legitimate, in a relativistic way, as the tried-and-true American values that drive everything I do and say as ambassador. It is shameful, and if I had the authority and freedom to fire and hire staff based on their loyalty to this administration's democratically elected policy positions rather than based on their tenure as bureaucrats, mine would be a significantly different staff.

It's a slow and incremental struggle in which we are engaged, not only to secure American values throughout the darkest corners of the world, but also, and first, to secure American values in the darkest corners of the State Department. Keep up the good fight and the honest reporting.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
Vienna, Austria
[not really]

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