April 6, 2011 / 2:39 AM / 9 years ago

CBS News bureau chief denies being FBI informant

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The Washington bureau chief for CBS News denied on Tuesday that he served as an FBI informant during the agency’s investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Chris Isham, who previously worked at ABC News, was said to be the anonymous journalist cited in a once-classified FBI memo.

According to a report Tuesday by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), the ABC News reporter cooperated with the FBI and even revealed the identity of a confidential source, which would have been a possible violation of professional ethics if the source had not agreed to be named.

The memo — which was recently discovered by Utah lawyer Jesse Trentadue, who has spent years researching the Oklahoma City case — claims the journalist contacted the FBI hours after Timothy McVeigh’s terrorist attack. The reporter passed on information — which ultimately proved untrue — “that a source within the Saudi Arabian Intelligence Service advised that the Oklahoma City bombing was sponsored by the Iraqi Special Services.”

According to CPI, that source was Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA officer working as a consultant for ABC News.

On Tuesday, an ABC News spokesperson told CPI that the network is not certain about the identity of the journalist, but does not believe he or she still works there.

However, Gawker later claimed that Isham was the unnamed journalist.

In a statement, Isham called the “suggestion” that he was an FBI informant “outrageous and untrue.”

“Like every investigative reporter, my job for 25 years has been to check out information and tips from sources. In the heat of the Oklahoma City bombing, it would not be unusual for me or any journalist to run information by a source within the FBI for confirmation or to notify authorities about a pending terrorist attack. This is consistent with the policies at every news organization. But at no time did I compromise a confidential source with the FBI or anyone else. Mr. Cannistraro was not a confidential source, but rather a colleague — a paid consultant to ABC News who had already spoken to the FBI about information he had received.”

Meanwhile, CBS News also issued its own statement Tuesday, saying executives are discussing the matter with Isham.

“CBS News has strict standards regarding the handling of source material and we are discussing the facts of the allegations with Chris,” CBS News said. “The events in question are a matter between the FBI and ABC News.”

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