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Panama City, 1989. NBC Phone Hoax
In December 1989 the U.S. invaded Panama. NBC News managed to obtain a live interview with an American businessman staying in Panama City, Roger Sizemore, who said he was witnessing the invasion as it happened. But ever since then questions have persisted about who Sizemore really was. After the interview 'Roger Sizemore' disappeared without a trace, never to be found again. Then a man named Brian Seifert came forward claiming that he was the man on the phone pretending to be Sizemore, and that he hadn't been in Panama City. He had phoned from a basement in a suburb of Indianapolis. Seifert says NBC put him up to it. NBC says they were the ones who were hoaxed... if there was indeed a hoax at all. Voice analysis shows that the voices of Sizemore and Seifert do match, which lends credence to Seifert's story. But Seifert is a strange character. In 2002 he was indicted by the FBI on suspicion of filing a false terrorist complaint. So he isn't the most upright character. But on the other hand, everything he's said about the 1989 phone hoax has checked out, so far. If true, it's surprising that this hoax hasn't received more coverage.
Journalism
Posted by The Curator on Wed Mar 17, 2004


NBC for years denied that any hoax took place at all, until the LA WEEKLY ran with the story, at which point NBC changed its story to the idea that maybe a hoax took place, but if so Seifert originated it. But the facts show clearly that the hoax had to originate at NBC.
First, "Roger Sizemore" was not the only shill on the air during the invasion. There was also a patently fraudulent interview with "Roger Nelson," who claimed to be locked in his bathroom (there were no phones in the Marriott bathrooms), and reported to Brokaw that he saw fires and bodies on the street--all contradicted moments later by Ed Rabel, who had the advantage of actually being in Panama at the time. Second, Seifert's phone records show no outgoing call to NBC for the first "Sizemore" interview, but do show outgoing calls for the second and third interviews, matching his story that he received a call from NBC, was told to pretend to be in Panama, coached as to what to say, and told to call back for the later interviews. What are the odds of Brokaw making contact within minutes with two Americans, both named Roger from Southern California, both at the Panama Marriott? And Ed Rabel has said that he was never asked to I.D. the two Rogers who gave 4 "eyewitness" reports between them to Brokaw--a clear violation of journalistic protocol. The hoax had to have originated at NBC. Someone screwed up and got a wrong number (Seifert) and so both he and the intended shill ("Nelson") wound up on the air, in a comically bungled hoax.
As for Brian's prison sentence, the FBI was never able to find any hard evidence against Brian, but was planning to use the NBC hoax against him; this threat led him to cop a plea.
The terrorist warning (much of it in Arabic) that Brian gave the FBI was passed along six months after his indictment to the nation's police departments, in a story that led the national news. Brian was never able to convince the media that he took part in a media hoax; but that media hoax was used to prosecute him for an alleged terrorist "hoax" that I believe he did not commit.
Posted by Glen Merzer  in  Los Angeles  on  Sat Oct 02, 2004  at  03:53 AM
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