Aug 7, 2014 · 1 minute

Earlier today, the New York Times published a report stating that, according to Kurdish officials, the US military launched airstrikes in Northern Iraq, targeting members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

This comes after the Obama administration was said to be considering airstrikes or airdrops of food and medicine to religious minorities taking shelter from ISIS insurgents. If the Times report is to believed, the government opted for bombs.

But shortly after the report was published, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby tweeted that the reports were untrue.

"Press reports that US has conducted airstrikes in Iraq completely false. No such action taken," he wrote.

Granted, the Times hedged its story by attributing the report of US bombing to "Kurdish officials." It's unclear whether the Times had asked the Pentagon for comment before publishing the story.

So whose lines got crossed? It's possible that an aircraft did attack ISIS insurgents, but it didn't come from the US military. AKurdish resident told McClatchy that "she had seen the aircraft and had heard the explosions coming from behind Islamic State lines." Kurdish television echoed the reports of officials, stating that the aircraft belonged to America.

Others have hypothesized that the disagreement is a matter of semantics. What does the Pentagon consider "airstrikes"? Do they include attacks using cruise missiles like Tomahawks? And if the US did attack insurgents in Iraq, why would the Pentagon use such strong language in denying the reports? Whatever the truth is, either the Times or the Pentagon is going to have a bit of explaining to do.

In any case, the uncertainty hasn't stopped the right-leaning aggregation site Drudge Report from splashing the headline "OBAMA BOMBS IRAQ?" across its homepage (at least they used a question mark, which I guess is as much integrity as you can expect from some sites). And as with all things related to the rat's nest the Internet has turned breaking news reporting into, people will remember the sensational over the sensible.

[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]