A few additional words on what the situation with the Smith Lebanon reporting is and what it isn’t: It isn’t a case of fabrication, as some of Smith’s accusers have alleged. With regard to the two posts in question, it is my belief, based on an investigation in which NRO discussed the matter with three independent sources who live and work in Lebanon (as well as other experts in the area), that Smith was probably either spun by his sources or confused about what he saw.
That’s why I wrote, in my first editor’s note on the subject, that we “should have provided readers with more context and caveats” – the context that Smith was operating in an uncertain environment where he couldn’t always be sure of what he was witnessing, and the caveats that he filled in the gaps by talking to sources within the Cedar Revolution movement and the Lebanese national-security apparatus, whose claims obviously should have been been treated with the same degree of skepticism as those of anyone with an agenda to advance.
As one of our sources put it: “The Arab tendency to lie and exaggerate about enemies is alive and well among pro-American Lebanese Christians as much as it is with the likes of Hamas.” While Smith vouches for his sources, we cannot independently verify what they told him. That’s why we’re revisiting the posts in question and warning readers to take them with a grain of salt.
As editor, my position is mistakes are mistakes and they’re all bad. But because of what I’m reading in other blogs, I feel the need to add: The Smith matter is not the Scott Thomas Beauchamp episode. For one thing, Beauchamp himself falsified the details of his story — claiming that he witnessed things in Iraq that he later claimed happened in Kuwait, etc. If Smith was too trusting of his sources, that is a journalistic faux pas of an entirely different sort. It does not, contrary to some bloggers’ claims, make him a fabulist.