Hacks vs. Flack

UN Press Takes Aim at U.S. Mission Spokesperson

On February 18, Jenkins wrote a letter to Colin Powell on behalf of the UNCA, calling on the U.S. to "make public" the proof that Allawi was a spy. He noted that the UN had not revoked Allawi's credentials and that the Iraqi was never given an opportunity to respond to the charges. Furthermore, Jenkins argued, "no journalist accredited to the UN has ever before been expelled," even during the height of the Cold War. (Jenkins writes for the Portuguese newspaper Expresso.)

The matter might have died there if not for a Reuters story that appeared on August 1. In the story, Reuters oil reporter Bernie Woodall quoted the acting head of the Iraqi mission, Said Ahmed, who confirmed that Allawi was a spy. Grenell seized on the story as vindication. On August 6, according to Jenkins, Grenell approached Jenkins in a rage, telling him that "UNCA has lost all credibility" because "you defended Mr. Allawi," and demanding that UNCA immediately publish an apology and a retraction. Jenkins recounted the confrontation in an e-mail sent to colleagues in the UN press corps.

In the e-mail, Jenkins restated the UNCA position: Allawi may or may not be guilty, but "we have still seen no evidence against him" and "one comment by Mr. Ahmed does not constitute evidence." A spokesperson for the Iraqi mission declined to comment.

Asked about his clash with Jenkins, Grenell told the Voice, "The intelligence we had was proven over time to be correct, and we thought it was worth noting. The Iraqis in the UN mission were saying, 'Yes, this guy was a spy.' "

Jenkins told the Voice that UNCA has never ruled out the possibility that Allawi was a spy. However, he said, "We don't think it's right to simply label a journalist a crook or terrorist and expel him without offering some proof."


cc@villagevoice.com

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