Ross_4.28.jpgThe NYTimes’ Brian Stelter takes on the reporting of ABC News investigative correspondent Brian Ross in a front page story in today’s paper. And this afternoon one of Stelter’s sources in that story fired off his own letter to The Times‘ Public Editor Clark Hoyt.

It goes back to Ross’ Dec. 2007 interview with former CIA officer John Kiriakou. Kiriakou told Ross that Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded for “probably 30, 35 seconds,” adding, “From that day on he answered every question.”

Stelter writes that the claims, “unverified at the time, but repeated by dozens of broadcasts, blogs and newspapers – have been sharply contradicted by a newly declassified Justice Department memo.”

John Sifton, a former lawyer for Human Rights Watch, who was a source in Stelter’s story, fired off a 1,500-word letter to Hoyt calling it “downright nutty” that the piece focused on Kirakou.

If it is a crime to cite uncritically Mr. Kiriakou’s accounts of Abu Zubaydah’s supposed 30-second waterboarding, then the Times is just as guilty as ABC News. This is because the New York Times itself interviewed and cited Mr. Kiriakou in a June 2008 article by Scott Shane.

Scott Shane contributed to today’s story.

Sifton’s beef is that ABC News seemed to be singled out. “It appears Mr. Stelter has cherry-picked minor criticisms to portray ABC News as negligent in its reporting,” he writes.

Stelter, who is the founding editor of, responded to us this afternoon: “The story attempted to show how a single-sourced claim about waterboarding was amplified by the media — by dozens of outlets, beginning with ABC and continuing with The Washington Post, The New York Times, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and others — at a critical juncture in a national debate about the technique.”

Sifton’s gripe aside, Stelter’s story is being both lauded and lanced on the Web:

Salon: Brian Ross Spread the Same Falsehoods About the KSM Interrogation

The Weekly Standard: How to Write a Hit Piece

Click continued to read Sifton’s letter to The Times

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