Crikey reporter Sophie Black writes:


Nearly three years
after he was killed by a car bomb in Iraq, allegations of a double
life led by freelance Australian cameraman/reporter Paul Moran have
resurfaced in Rolling Stone
magazine. The unlikely connection stems from Moran’s links with the
mysterious John Rendon, a man the magazine dubs “one of the most
powerful people in Washington.”

After his death in March 2003, several reports, including this Bulletin
article, revealed that for over a decade Moran worked on and off for PR
outfit The Rendon Group, conducting camera and production work in Saudi
Arabia, Iraq, London and Kosovo, none of it undercover. But Rolling Stone has revived
Moran’s connection to John Rendon in the context of what they claim is the spin doctor’s first interview in decades.

“Going
all the way back to Panama, we’ve been involved in every war, with the
exception of Somalia,” says Rendon, who claims his company, which has
links to the US Government, the CIA and the Pentagon, has engaged in
“perception management”
campaigns in 91 countries.

Rolling Stone also claims that Pentagon papers it has obtained reveal
that “among the
missions proposed for the Pentagon’s Office of Strategic Influence was
one to ‘coerce’ foreign journalists and plant false information
overseas.”

After years of juggling his work for
Rendon and his journalism, in 2001 Moran secured a headline-making
interview with Iraqi defector Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, after being
tipped off by the Iraqi National Congress (an anti-Saddam group that Rolling Stone
assert was assembled and then advised by Rendon. Moran had
worked for this group in the past). al-Haideri had told the CIA that he was a
civil engineer who had helped Saddam’s men bury biological, chemical
and nuclear weapons. According to Rolling Stone, the CIA
subjected him to a polygraph test and concluded that al-Haideri was
lying, apparently in the hopes of securing a US visa, but the INC
ignored the polygraph results and passed on the contact to Moran and
journalist Judith Miller of The New York Times.

Moran
conducted an exclusive on-camera interview with al-Haideri that was
aired on the ABC and beamed around the world. In a 2003 Dateline
report about Moran’s connection with Rendon, the ABC maintained that
there was nothing wrong with the broadcaster airing the al-Haideri
story, and maintained that they had no reason to doubt Moran’s “editorial integrity” in a subsequent Australian Story report.

But according to The Bulletin,
“not all ABC staff were comfortable with Moran’s appointment.” John
Tulloh, then the ABC’s head of international operations, refuted the
claims, telling the Bulletin that “virtually all freelance cameramen do corporate work to supplement their incomes.”

Greg Wilesmith, Acting Head of National Programs for ABC News & Current Affairs, has told Crikey that the Rolling Stone article
“contains both errors and baseless smears” in relation to Moran. The
article says Moran “frequently worked for the ABC,” which Wilesmith
says is untrue – “there were years between assignments for the ABC.”

At
the time of his “tragic death by a terrorist car bomb” he had been hired
to work in Kurdistan “precisely because he had experience in that
region,” said Wilesmith. “Paul’s family never said that he had lived a
‘James Bond’ double life. As to the claim that Moran was killed in the
war ‘a war he had covertly helped to start.’ This is both absurd and
offensive to Paul’s family, friends and colleagues.”

Wilesmith dismisses any concerns at the ABC about blurry lines between
freelance PR work and journalism. “ABC staff and contractors operate
under strict editorial policies which are designed to prohibit actual
and perceived conflicts of interest,” says Wilesmith.