The November 15 explosion in the Polish village of Przewodow, near the Ukrainian border, killed two people and sparked global concern. Hours later, the Associated Press issued a news alert saying a “senior U.S. intelligence official said a Russian missile flew over NATO member Poland, killing two people,” an unnamed “senior U.S. intelligence official said.”
This information is obviously incorrect. Polish and European Union officials later said they believed a missile fired by Ukrainian forces went off course and landed on the Polish border.
But an Associated Press alert initially sent to thousands of news outlets around the world revealed a dire new escalation in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Poland is a member of NATO, and a Russian attack on its territory could trigger a Western military response under the treaty body’s mutual self-defense clause. Other news organizations quickly passed the news along.
A day later, The Associated Press replaced the report citing unnamed U.S. officials with a correction. It said its anonymous sources were wrong and that “subsequent reports indicated that the missiles were Russian-made and likely launched by Ukraine in defense of a Russian attack.”
Earlier: How an anonymous source sounded a false alarm about Russia’s airstrikes on Poland
News of Laporta’s firing was first reported Monday night by The Daily Beast.
Laporta declined to comment. A former U.S. Marine who served in Afghanistan, he joined The Associated Press in April 2020 after working as a freelance reporter for several years. He covers military affairs and national security issues for the news service.
Associated Press officials declined to identify Laporte as the source of the alert. AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton said in a statement: “The AP’s rigorous editorial standards and practices are critical to the AP’s mission as an independent news organization. To ensure our reporting is accurate, unbiased and We abide by and enforce these standards based on facts, including around the use of anonymous sources. When our standards are violated, we must take the necessary steps to protect the integrity of news reporting. We do not take these decisions lightly, nor Not based on isolated incidents.”
Internal AP communications seen by The Washington Post show some confusion and misunderstanding in the preparation of the error report.
Laporta shared the tip from U.S. officials in an email around 1:30 p.m. ET. One editor immediately asked the AP if it should issue a warning about his tip, “or do we need confirmation from other sources and/or Poland?”
After further discussion, a second editor said she “would have voted” to issue the alert, adding, “I can’t imagine American intelligence officials getting it wrong on this one.”
But Laporta also told his editor that a senior manager had vetted the source of Laporta’s tip — giving the AP a person familiar with the broad discussions surrounding the story that day. It appears that the source for this report has been approved. While the editor had signed off on previous stories using LaPorta’s sources, the editor did not weigh in on the missile story.
Easton said the group does not expect any disciplinary action against the editors involved.