From the Barnyard

January 22, 1993

Last month Time magazine published an extraordinary article describing an allegation that Dusko Doder, one-time Moscow bureau chief of the Washington Post, had accepted $1,000 from an officer of the Soviet secret police in the mid-Eighties. According to U.S. officials, this purported bribe was described to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency nearly a year later by a defecting KGB officer and relayed to an editor of the Post in 1986 when Mr. Doder returned to a Washington assignment. The FBI had investigated and found no supporting evidence. The Post did likewise. There the matter rested for six years until Time chose to publish a two-page spread on the allegation.

Time's article is a pretty shoddy, thoroughly irresponsible piece of journalism. Set aside the fact that the purported source was Col. Vitaly Yurchenko, who redefected to Moscow soon after he told his tales, in what he described as a change of heart. Set aside the fact that at most Colonel Yurchenko was simply repeating what he said another KGB officer had told him. That's called hearsay in this country, and our courts and most fair-minded people ignore it. Set aside the fact that both the CIA and FBI could not find a single shred of evidence to support their self-described suspicion that the KGB had corrupted Mr. Doder. So what's left?

What's left is the fact that Mr. Doder's reporting from Moscow during the turbulent years 1981 to 1985 was frequently way ahead of his competitors' -- and, more to the point, of the U.S. intelligence establishment. Did that prove he was manipulated by the KGB? To some lazy, alibi-seeking bureaucrats in the intelligence community, it was conclusive evidence. Reporters in Moscow during those closed, pre-Gorbachev years got their information from all sorts of sources, blending it into comprehensive reports which also drew on their own expertise. Some of their sources were probably KGB, just as some of the best sources in Washington are often in the intelligence community. Reporters who swallowed information uncritically from the KGB or CIA soon exposed themselves as fools, knaves or both. Mr. Doder's work shows he was neither.

In recent years Mr. Doder has reported often for The Sun from Yugoslavia, where he now works. He continues to be one of the most astute journalists stationed in Eastern Europe, even since the demise of the KGB. One of the Post's editors is said to have described the accusation against Mr. Doder with what is often called the barnyard epithet. We think that was appropriate.

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