This Email Led to the New York Post's Infamous Boston 'BAG MEN' Headline

The two men suing the New York Post for their accusatory Boston Marathon "Bag Men" headline are still fighting hard to clear their names, but the Post won't budge an inch, arguing their cover was justified because of this one e-mail from a government official. 

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The two men suing the New York Post for their accusatory Boston Marathon "Bag Men" story are still fighting hard to clear their names, but the Post won't budge an inch, arguing their cover was justified because of this one e-mail from a government official.

In the immediate wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, people were pouring over televised footage and public photos of the race to find any evidence that could lead investigators to the men who attacked a great American city's greatest tradition. You might remember Reddit's well-intentioned, but misguided efforts in this arena.

But it was the New York Post who put two men on their front page, slapped on a snappy headline calling them "Bag Men," and said that federal authorities were looking for them. The two guys on the Post's cover were not the Tsarnaev brothers, who would eventually kill again while leading Massachusetts police on a city-wide manhunt. When police finally did identify the Tsarnaev brothers publicly, they did so in an attempt to counteract the Post and Reddit's errant amateur sleuthing.

The two men on this Post cover are Salaheddin Barhoum and Yassine Zaimi, 16- and 24-years-old respectively, who attended the marathon as spectators. They left long before the bombs went off. Now, they're in the middle of a lawsuit against the Post for the undue attention and harassment the cover brought them, and the Washington Post's Eric Wemple has some juicy details about how that fight is going.

Lawyers for the two improperly accused men argue that the Post's presentation "unambiguously stated and/or implied that plaintiffs were involved in causing the Boston Marathon bombing." The Post argues the article's language should get them off the hook, because it makes clear that there's "no direct evidence linking [the two men] to the crime but authorities want to identify them."

Those who have followed this lawsuit from the beginning have always wondered what the Post's sourcing for story was in the first place. The most recent court filings finally answered that question, and it was apparently this internal law enforcement email that was not intended to be distributed to the media:

According to the evidence presented so far, this single email was the Post's only piece of evidence from which they based their entire report. Of course, the Post argues this single email exonerates them completely:

“The plaintiffs allege that the statements that law enforcement were circulating photos and seeking to identify them are false because, according to plaintiffs, they were not being sought by law enforcement’ and the Post ‘had no basis whatsoever to suggest that they were.’…But the plaintiffs are plainly wrong, and one need look no further than the law enforcement e-mail the article quotes to see that they are wrong.”

Lawyers for Barhoum and Zaimi disagree: "It only states that photos were being circulated 'in an attempt to identify the individuals highlighted therein,'" which is completely different from "seeking" as the Post reported.

Read more about the case from Wemple here, or peruse court filings from Barhoum and Zaimi and the Post here.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.