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Selective reporting

The CIA wrote an open letter to Congress disclosing portions of its assessments of Iraq. So what does the news media choose to focus on? The New York Times headline is typical: "C.I.A. Warns That a U.S. Attack May Ignite Terror":

The letter said "Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks" with conventional or chemical or biological weapons against the United States.

"Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist action," it continued. It noted that Mr. Hussein could use either conventional terrorism or a weapon of mass destruction as "his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."

The letter dated Oct. 7 also declassified an exchange from a closed Congressional hearing on Oct. 2 in which a senior intelligence official judged the likelihood of Mr. Hussein's initiating an attack in the foreseeable future as "low."

So, the Times feels that the letter downgrades the threat from Iraq. The Times does present the other side, but in a way sure to convey the Times' disbelief of this position:
Mr. Tenet said tonight that "there is no inconsistency" between the C.I.A. views in the letter and those of the president. He emphasized the Iraqi leader's use of such weapons against his own citizens.

Senior administration officials insisted that the letter did not contradict President Bush's assertions on the imminent threat posed by Mr. Hussein. They pointed to another section of the letter that noted that the likelihood of Mr. Hussein's using weapons of mass destruction "for blackmail, deterrence, or otherwise, grows as his arsenal builds."

The key word is "insisted," Timespeak for "This guy's lying."

So after leading with a headline de-emphasizing the threat from Iraq, and quoting from the portion of the letter that supported this view, and denigrating the opposing view, what does the Times slip by in a single sentence? The argument that the Times has been sneering at since it was raised by the Bush administration: that Iraq and Al Qaeda are connected.

The letter also cited credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq has provided members of the terrorist group with training in the areas of poisons, gases and bomb making.
In fact, it said far more than that. From the letter:
¶Our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability. Some of the information we have received comes from detainees, including some of high rank.

¶We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda going back a decade.

¶Credible information indicates that Iraq and Al Qaeda have discussed safe haven and reciprocal nonaggression.

¶Since Operation Enduring Freedom, we have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of Al Qaeda members, including some that have been in Baghdad.

¶We have credible reporting that Al Qaeda leaders sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire W.M.D. capabilities. The reporting also stated that Iraq has provided training to Al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons and gases and making conventional bombs.

¶Iraq's increasing support to extremist Palestinians coupled with growing indications of relationship with Al Qaeda. suggest that Baghdad's links to terrorists will increase, even absent U.S. military action.

Well, that sounds pretty serious to me. I wonder if the Times will write a story about it.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 10, 2002 2:42 AM.

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