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Olbermann Mistaken in Calling Hoekstra Iraqi Trip ‘Top Secret’

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Keith Olbermann will stretch the facts every now and then to make a point. But last week his misuse of military terms was sloppy and incorrect; and ultimately damaging to any commentator’s reputation.

Olbermann noted on June 18 that a Tweet by Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., compared messages of disgruntled Republicans during a congressional squabble with the messages from bloodied Iranian protesters who say they were disenfranchised.

“This would be the same congressman who last year Tweeted the whereabouts of a top secret mission to Iraq,” Olbermann said.

The problem is Hoekstra was not on a top secret mission, rather a congressional fact-finding tour. And while the military had asked that the media embargo news of the tour until it was over for security reasons, there were no restrictions on the congressional delegations to tell people about the trip. Their staff and families all knew beforehand where they were going and the reason for the trip.

During the trip, the congressman did post a number of Tweets about the trip, but none gave specific news of the delegation’s whereabouts or business.

Here is PolitiFact’s assessment:

Olbermann is wrong to characterize the delegation’s trip as a “top secret mission to Iraq.” The term “top secret” means something in military and government circles. There is a hierarchy of classified information, beginning with “confidential,” graduating to “secret,” “top secret” and “special classified information.” You need varying levels of security clearance in order to be privy to classified information.

This trip was none of those. But more to the point, “top secret mission to Iraq” conjures images of rifle-toting troops on a highly sensitive military operation. This wasn’t a military mission, it was a congressional visit. In fact, many in the news media knew about the trip, but just agreed to keep it embargoed. Hoekstra’s staff knew about it. His wife knew about it.

“We’re not talking about something that was classified,” said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Les Melnyk. “Not at all. Top secret? No. We see these reported all the time in the press.”

So Olbermann hasn’t just exaggerated, he’s incorrectly described the visit as a “top secret mission.” Without knowing the background, you might think Hoekstra spilled the beans on some covert military operation. We rule Olbermann’s statement False.

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Written by newscycle

June 26, 2009 at 3:14 pm

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