John Walsh, Democrat, Confronts Questions of Plagiarism
The New York Times By JONATHAN MARTIN JULY 23, 2014
WASHINGTON — Democrats were thrilled when John Walsh of Montana was appointed to the United States Senate in February. A decorated veteran of the Iraq war and former adjutant general of his state’s National Guard, Mr. Walsh offered the Democratic Party something it frequently lacks: a seasoned military man.
On the campaign trail this year, Mr. Walsh, 53, has made his military service a main selling point. Still wearing his hair close-cropped, he notes he was targeted for killing by Iraqi militants and says his time in uniform informs his views on a range of issues.
But one of the highest-profile credentials of Mr. Walsh’s 33-year military career appears to have been improperly attained. An examination of the final paper required for Mr. Walsh’s master’s degree from the United States Army War College indicates the senator appropriated at least a quarter of his thesis on American Middle East policy from other authors’ works, with no attribution.
Mr. Walsh completed the paper, what the War College calls a “strategy research project,” to earn his degree in 2007, when he was 46. The sources of the material he presents as his own include academic papers, policy journal essays and books that are almost all available online.
Most strikingly, the six recommendations Mr. Walsh laid out at the conclusion of his 14-page paper, titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy,” are taken nearly word-for-word without attribution from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document on the same topic.
In his third recommendation, for example, Mr. Walsh writes: “Democracy promoters need to engage as much as possible in a dialogue with a wide cross section of influential elites: mainstream academics, journalists, moderate Islamists, and members of the professional associations who play a political role in some Arab countries, rather than only the narrow world of westernized democracy and human rights advocates.”
The same sentence appears on the sixth page of a 2002 Carnegie paper written by four scholars at the research institute. In all, Mr. Walsh’s recommendations section runs to more than 800 words, nearly all of it taken verbatim from the Carnegie paper, without any footnote to it.
In addition, significant portions of the language in Mr. Walsh’s paper can be found in a 1998 essay by a scholar at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, at Harvard.
For example, Mr. Walsh writes: “The United States will have an interest in promoting democracy because further democratization enhances the lives of citizens of other countries and contributes to a more peaceful international system. To the extent that Americans care about citizens of other countries and international peace, they will see benefits from the continued spread of democracy.”
The Harvard paper, written in 1998 by Sean M. Lynn-Jones, a scholar at the Belfer Center, includes the same two sentences.
Mr. Walsh does not footnote or cite Mr. Lynn-Jones’s essay anywhere in his paper.
Both the Carnegie and Harvard papers are easily accessible on the Internet.
In an interview outside his Capitol Hill office on Tuesday, after he was presented with multiple examples of identical passages from his paper and the Carnegie and Harvard essays, Mr. Walsh said he did not believe he had done anything wrong.
“I didn’t do anything intentional here,” he said, adding that he did not recall using the Carnegie and Harvard sources.
Asked directly if he had plagiarized, he responded: “I don’t believe I did, no.”
On Wednesday, a campaign aide for Mr. Walsh did not contest the apparent plagiarism but suggested that it be viewed in the context of the senator’s long career. She said Mr. Walsh had been going through a difficult period at the time he wrote the paper, noting that one of the members of his