MintPress News, a small new news organization based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has been a small but persistent thorn in the side of those who want the US to do Saudi Arabia’s dirty work by attacking and toppling Syria’s leader, the Iranian-allied Alawite Bashar al-Assad, so a Saudi-backed and Al-Qaeda-allied theocracy can take its place. MPN’s most damaging blow against the attack-Syria contingent has been this article reporting that Syrians in Ghouta, the site of the probable chemical attack which is being used as the pretext to attack Syria, are claiming that Saudi-supplied Syrian rebels, and not Assad’s government, were behind the attack:

However, from numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerges. Many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the dealing gas attack.

‘My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,’ said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.

Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels were killed inside of a tunnel used to store weapons provided by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, who was leading a fighting battalion. The father described the weapons as having a ‘tube-like structure’ while others were like a ‘huge gas bottle.’

Ghouta townspeople said the rebels were using mosques and private houses to sleep while storing their weapons in tunnels.

[...]

Although Saudi Arabia has officially maintained that it supported more moderate rebels, the newspaper reported that ‘funds and arms were being funneled to radicals on the side, simply to counter the influence of rival Islamists backed by Qatar.’

But rebels interviewed said Prince Bandar is referred to as ‘al-Habib’ or ‘the lover’ by al-Qaida militants fighting in Syria.

This story, while picked up by various websites (including in a MyFDL diary by me) has been shunned for nearly a month by most American mass media, until now, and it looks to me as if the only reason the US press is now noticing is because they think they can discredit it. Why? Apparently because of the controversy over its byline:

A freelance contributor to the Associated Press whose byline appeared on a controversial story that alleged Syrian rebels had gassed themselves in an accident told McClatchy on Saturday that she did not write the article and has been seeking to have her name removed from it since it was published by a small Minnesota-based website.

Dale Gavlak, a long time contributor from the Middle East to AP, released an email statement to McClatchy and several blogs denying any role in reporting the story, which was published Aug. 29 by MintPress News, which describes itself with the phrase ‘independent advocacy journalism.’ The article carried her byline along with that of Yahya Ababneh, a Jordanian Arab-language journalist.

The McClatchy article, by Mitchell Prothero, goes on to state that Gavlak was in fact involved with helping Ababneh write the story, though she does not consider herself the lead reporter: “The initial email detailing the filing of the story – Gavlak admits to helping Ababneh convert his Arabic reporting into English – reads ‘Pls find the Syria story I mentioned uploaded on Google Docs. This should go under Yahya Ababneh’s byline. I helped him write up his story but he should get all the credit for this.’”

At no point in Prothero’s article for McClatchy is Gavlak quoted as denying the substance of the MintPress News article with the shared byline, yet various websites (such as this one, have acted as she had.

Meanwhile, here’s some of what MintPress News’ Executive Director Mnar Muhawesh is saying about the affair:

Gavlak pitched this story to MintPress on August 28th and informed her editors and myself that her colleague Yahya Ababneh was on the ground in Syria. She said Ababneh conducted interviews with rebels, their family members, Ghouta residents and doctors that informed him through various interviews that the Saudis had supplied the rebels with chemical weapons and that rebel fighters handled the weapons improperly setting off the explosions.

When Yahya had returned and shared the information with her, she stated that she confirmed with several colleagues and Jordanian government officials that the Saudis have been supplying rebels with chemical weapons, but as her email states, she says they refused to go on the record.

Gavlak wrote the article in it’s entirety as well as conducted the research. She filed her article on August 29th and was published on the same day.

Dale is under mounting pressure for writing this article by third parties. She notified MintPress editors and myself on August 30th and 31st via email and phone call, that third parties were placing immense amounts of pressure on her over the article and were threatening to end her career over it. She went on to tell us that she believes this third party was under pressure from the head of the Saudi Intelligence Prince Bandar himself, who is alleged in the article of supplying the rebels with chemical weapons.

On August 30th, Dale asked MintPress to remove her name completely from the byline because she stated that her career and reputation was at risk. She continued to say that these third parties were demanding her to disassociate herself from the article or these parties would end her career.

On August 31st, I notified Dale through email that I would add a clarification that she was the writer and researcher for the article and that Yahya was the reporter on the ground, but did let Gavlak know that we would not remove her name as this would violate the ethics of journalism.

Muhawesh has stated that she may release all the emails exchanged between her, Gavlak and Ababneh. It will be interesting to see if she does.

There are some persons in MPN’s comments section hinting darkly about the alleged Russian connections of Yahya Ababneh. The question is – why? If MintPress News is somehow in Vladimir Putin’s pocket, as the discussion of Ababneh’s alleged Russian connections is apparently intended to imply, how does that explain MintPress‘ willingness to run a story about the Russian seizure and detention of a Greenpeace vessel, an MPN story that does not depict Russian authorities in a favorable light — unless you think that using the words “crew taken hostage” depicts the Russians in a good light.

And so we wait.