NBC news has come under fire from people questioning the veracity of a report released on the 13th of April citing anonymous sources which allegedly told NBC that the US could launch a preemptive strike on North Korea if they found that a North Korean nuclear test was ‘imminent’.
The original report has since been amended. Most crucially, the statement that the US could strike North Korea in ’24 hours’ has been removed.
Several developments have emerged which indicate that the story was inaccurate, even if the anonymous sources spoke in good faith and at the moment it is a rather big if.
Most obviously, the 24 hour deadline has passed and there has been neither an attempt by North Korea to test a nuclear weapon, nor have there been any US strikes on North Korea.
Secondly, American Vice President Mike Pence will shortly land in Seoul. It would be foolhardy to think that the second in command to the President of the United States would be sent to a city that is a stated North Korean target in the retaliatory strikes which Pyongyang promised to deliver if attacked by the US.
Finally, many veteran Washington reporters have stated that their own Pentagon sources have said that the NBC report was incorrect, but it must be said that like NBC, they have chosen to keep their sources anonymous.
Some of the statements challenging the NBC report are reproduced below:
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) April 13, 2017
to be clear: I'm not hearing that retaliation is a given, but that it's an option. the emphasis is still on sanctions/China
— Anna Fifield (@annafifield) April 14, 2017
Multiple sr defense officials say this report is "wildly wrong" "crazy." Pentagon pushing back on NBC report, call it "extremely dangerous." https://t.co/BLnoPHnhj9
— Jennifer Griffin (@JenGriffinFNC) April 13, 2017
Officially, the Pentagon has neither confirmed nor denied the veracity of the NBC report.
If NBC had reliable sources speaking in good faith, it is my view that they did the world a crucial service in pointing out what may have been to come. The amount of scrutiny that Washington faced in light of the report may have been enough to get the war party to think twice.
Inversely however, if the report was fake or based on incredible sources, NBC may have actually forced a war where there would have otherwise been none, as North Korea may well have struck first on the basis of the report.
As things stand, based on track record alone, I am inclined to believe that NBC ran a sensationalist story based on unreliable sources. Mainstream media outlets have, especially under the Trump administration, had many leaks delivered via anonymous sources which have turned out to be either lies, untruths, half-truths or truths that were taken totally out of any reasonable interpretation of proper context.
By contrast, Wikileaks has never revealed its anonymous sources, but nor has any publication from Wikileaks been proved to be untrue. It is a sterling record almost unheard of in investigative reporting and publishing. Needless to say, NBC does not come close. This is why based on track record, I am inclined to believe a controversial report from Wikileaks but not from the likes of NBC.
For the time being, it seems that tensions have somewhat calmed down, but for how long, no one can say with certainty.