Eye's D.C. bureau chief denies claim he was FBI informant

CBS News’ Washington bureau chief Chris Isham found himself in the center of a media storm Tuesday after he was accused of being an informant for the FBI in the mid-1990s — a claim he denies.

The Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit investigative journalism org, reported that the FBI had an informant who worked for ABC News during the investigation of the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.

Subsequent Internet reports identified the journo as Isham, who worked for ABC News at the time. Isham denied the accusation in a statement emailed to journos by CBS News. “The suggestion that I was an informant for the FBI is outrageous and untrue,” Isham said.

A CBS News spokeswoman said the division was “discussing the facts of the allegations with Chris” but referred other questions to ABC News. “The events in question are a matter between the FBI and ABC News,” she said.

According to a recently declassified FBI memo obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, the bureau sought out an informant to obtain the source of a reporter’s tip that the bombing was sponsored by the Iraqi Special Services — a tip that turned out to be untrue. The reporter in question eventually divulged his source: Vincent Cannistraro, a CIA officer who was a consultant to the network.

“If true, it would certainly be of grave concern to us that the FBI would have created an informant file based on information gleaned from a reporter,” ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said. “It certainly would be very troubling for the FBI to recruit a news employee as a confidential source.”

Isham took issue with his characterization in various reports as an informant, but did not deny contact with the FBI, saying that “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,” and that “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.”

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