Payday Loans Online

NY Times – Weapons of Mass Distraction

This post was written by marc on May 30, 2004
Posted Under: Politics

Well – sort of. The New York Times is trying to say they made a mistake blaming their twisted coverage of Iraq on a few low level reporters and supervisors not paying attention to what they were doing. Sound familiar? The NYT is using the Abu Graib defense – it wasn’t a conspiracy – the higher ups didn’t know – just a few bad apples at the bottom caused all the trouble. But unlike Abu Graib – the New York Times isn’t even going to court martial the offending reporters! I’m surprised that they didn’t compare the number of words they got right to the number they got wrong.

The truth is that the NYT was a full partner with the Bush administration in promoting and selling this war. Over 800 of our soldiers died and thousands more wounded and tens of thousands of innocent Iraquis were killed not only by Bush – but by his media conspirators. The highly profitable paper got their tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the future of America.

This was no simple mistake that one can simply say sorry to and walk away. The act was deliberate – calculated – and in concert with CNN, Fox News, the Moonie owned Washington Times, and the rest of the Republican controlled media who publicly fired and humiliated journalists who wrote about the truth and refused to join the NeoCon’s Crusade of Misinformation. In my view the NYT has rizen to the level of criminal conduct.

The reporter for whom the NYT is apologizing for are still employed there and are busy bringing you more right wing disinformation. For all we know – they are the onse who wrote the apology piece – which is little more than a propaganda ploy to regain the reader’s trust so that they can lie to you again. The laest the NYT can do is fire the reporters who brought America this war the way they fire reporters who bring America the Truth!

Fortunately through all of this it has turned out that the truth about what is really happening can be found on the Internet by independent journalists like Bartcop who unlike the “legitimate” media actually got the stories right. ne thing to be learned from the whole affair is – who do you trust? Who gets the story right? And it would seem that journalistic resources don’t mean anything if the organization has more of a commitment to a political ajenda – as the New York Times does – than it is commited to the truth.

New York Times apology below as swiped from their web site.

From he New York Times

Over the last year this newspaper has shone the bright light of hindsight on decisions that led the United States into Iraq. We have examined the failings of American and allied intelligence, especially on the issue of Iraq’s weapons and possible Iraqi connections to international terrorists. We have studied the allegations of official gullibility and hype. It is past time we turned the same light on ourselves.

In doing so — reviewing hundreds of articles written during the prelude to war and into the early stages of the occupation — we found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of. In most cases, what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted from intelligence agencies that were themselves dependent on sketchy information. And where those articles included incomplete information or pointed in a wrong direction, they were later overtaken by more and stronger information. That is how news coverage normally unfolds.

But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.

The problematic articles varied in authorship and subject matter, but many shared a common feature. They depended at least in part on information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on “regime change” in Iraq, people whose credibility has come under increasing public debate in recent weeks. (The most prominent of the anti-Saddam campaigners, Ahmad Chalabi, has been named as an occasional source in Times articles since at least 1991, and has introduced reporters to other exiles. He became a favorite of hard-liners within the Bush administration and a paid broker of information from Iraqi exiles, until his payments were cut off last week.) Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news organizations — in particular, this one.

Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated. Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper. Accounts of Iraqi defectors were not always weighed against their strong desire to have Saddam Hussein ousted. Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.

On Oct. 26 and Nov. 8, 2001, for example, Page 1 articles cited Iraqi defectors who described a secret Iraqi camp where Islamic terrorists were trained and biological weapons produced. These accounts have never been independently verified.

On Dec. 20, 2001, another front-page article began, “An Iraqi defector who described himself as a civil engineer said he personally worked on renovations of secret facilities for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in underground wells, private villas and under the Saddam Hussein Hospital in Baghdad as recently as a year ago.” Knight Ridder Newspapers reported last week that American officials took that defector — his name is Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri — to Iraq earlier this year to point out the sites where he claimed to have worked, and that the officials failed to find evidence of their use for weapons programs. It is still possible that chemical or biological weapons will be unearthed in Iraq, but in this case it looks as if we, along with the administration, were taken in. And until now we have not reported that to our readers.

On Sept. 8, 2002, the lead article of the paper was headlined “U.S. Says Hussein Intensified Quest for A-Bomb Parts.” That report concerned the aluminum tubes that the administration advertised insistently as components for the manufacture of nuclear weapons fuel. The claim came not from defectors but from the best American intelligence sources available at the time. Still, it should have been presented more cautiously. There were hints that the usefulness of the tubes in making nuclear fuel was not a sure thing, but the hints were buried deep, 1,700 words into a 3,600-word article. Administration officials were allowed to hold forth at length on why this evidence of Iraq’s nuclear intentions demanded that Saddam Hussein be dislodged from power: “The first sign of a `smoking gun,’ they argue, may be a mushroom cloud.”

Five days later, The Times reporters learned that the tubes were in fact a subject of debate among intelligence agencies. The misgivings appeared deep in an article on Page A13, under a headline that gave no inkling that we were revising our earlier view (“White House Lists Iraq Steps to Build Banned Weapons”). The Times gave voice to skeptics of the tubes on Jan. 9, when the key piece of evidence was challenged by the International Atomic Energy Agency. That challenge was reported on Page A10; it might well have belonged on Page A1.

On April 21, 2003, as American weapons-hunters followed American troops into Iraq, another front-page article declared, “Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert.” It began this way: “A scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq’s chemical weapons program for more than a decade has told an American military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began, members of the team said.”

The informant also claimed that Iraq had sent unconventional weapons to Syria and had been cooperating with Al Qaeda — two claims that were then, and remain, highly controversial. But the tone of the article suggested that this Iraqi “scientist” — who in a later article described himself as an official of military intelligence — had provided the justification the Americans had been seeking for the invasion.

The Times never followed up on the veracity of this source or the attempts to verify his claims.

A sample of the coverage, including the articles mentioned here, is online at nytimes.com/critique. Readers will also find there a detailed discussion written for The New York Review of Books last month by Michael Gordon, military affairs correspondent of The Times, about the aluminum tubes report. Responding to the review’s critique of Iraq coverage, his statement could serve as a primer on the complexities of such intelligence reporting.

We consider the story of Iraq’s weapons, and of the pattern of misinformation, to be unfinished business. And we fully intend to continue aggressive reporting aimed at setting the record straight.

The following is a sampling of articles published by The Times about the decisions that led the United States into the war in Iraq, and especially the issue of Iraq’s weapons:

The alleged Iraqi terrorist training camps, and Al Qaeda connection:
• October 26, 2001: Czechs Confirm Iraqi Agent Met With Terror Ringleader

• November 8, 2001: Defectors Cite Iraqi Training for Terrorism
The accounts of the terrorist training camp have not subsequently been verified.

On the subject of the meeting in Prague, a Times follow-up cast serious doubt:
• October 21, 2002: Prague Discounts An Iraqi Meeting

The hidden weapons facilities:
• December 20, 2001: Iraqi Tells of Renovations at Sites for Chemical and Nuclear Arms

According to Knight Ridder News, this scientist was taken back to Iraq earlier this year for a tour of sites where he worked. None of the sites showed evidence of illegal weapons activity.
• Follow-up: January 24, 2003: Defectors Bolster U.S. Case Against Iraq

The aluminum tubes:
•
September 8, 2002: U.S. Says Hussein Intensified Quest For A-Bomb Parts
• September 13, 2002: White House Lists Iraq Steps To Build Banned Weapons
• January 10, 2003: Agency Challenges Evidence Against Iraq Cited By Bush
• January 28, 2003: Report’s Findings Undercut U.S. Argument

For a discussion of this coverage by Michael R. Gordon, chief military correspondent of The Times, see this letter from April 8, 2004.

The Iraqi scientist and destruction of weapons:
• April 21, 2003:Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert
Follow-ups:

• April 23, 2003: Focus Shifts From Weapons To the People Behind Them
• April 24: U.S.-Led Forces Occupy Baghdad Complex Filled with Chemical Agents

• July 20, 2003: A Chronicle of Confusion in the Hunt for Hussein’s Weapons

The “biological weapons labs”:
This is one example of a claim that was quickly and prominently challenged by additional reporting
• May 21, 2003: U.S. Analysts Link Iraq Labs to Germ Arms
The story left the impression that the Administration claims represented a consensus, because we did not know otherwise. By June 7, however, the same reporters, having dug deeper, published a front-page story describing the strong views of dissenting intelligence analysts that the trailers were not bio-weapons labs, and suggesting that the Administration may have strained to make the evidence fit its case for war. (Last Sunday, Mr. Powell conceded that the C.I.A. was misled about the trailers, apparently by an Iraqi defector.)
• June 7, 2003: Some Analysts of Iraq Trailers Reject Germ Use

• June 26, 2003: Agency Disputes C.I.A. View on Trailers as Weapons Labs

Raising doubts about intelligence:
Following are examples of stories that cast doubt on key claims about Iraq’s weapons programs, and on the reliability of some defectors.
• October 9, 2002: Aides Split on Assessment of Iraq’s Plans
• October 24, 2002: A C.I.A. Rival; Pentagon Sets up Intelligence Unit
• March 23, 2003: C.I.A. Aides Feel Pressure in Preparing Iraqi Reports

• July 20, 2003: In Sketchy Data, Trying to Gauge Iraq Threat
• September 28, 2003: Agency Belittles Information Given By Iraqi Defectors
• February 1, 2004: Powell’s Case a Year Later: Gaps in Picture of Iraq Arms”
• February 7, 2004: Agency Alert About Iraqi Not Heeded, Officials Say
• February 13, 2004: Stung by Exiles’s Role, C.I.A. Orders a Shift in Procedures
• March 6, 2004: U.S., Certain That Iraq Had Illicit Arms, Reportedly Ignored Contrary Reports

• January 26, 2004:Ex-Inspector Says C.I.A. Missed Disarray in Iraqi Arms Program
• May 22, 2003: Prewar Views of Iraq Threat Are Under Review by C.I.A.
• Feb. 2, 2003: Split at C.I.A. and F.B.I. on Iraqi Ties to Al Qaeda

——————————–

New York Times – THE PUBLIC EDITOR
Weapons of Mass Destruction? Or Mass Distraction?

By DANIEL OKRENT – May 30, 2004

FROM the moment this office opened for business last December, I felt I could not write about what had been published in the paper before my arrival. Once I stepped into the past, I reasoned, I might never find my way back to the present.

Early this month, though, convinced that my territory includes what doesn’t appear in the paper as well as what does, I began to look into a question arising from the past that weighs heavily on the present: Why had The Times failed to revisit its own coverage of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? To anyone who read the paper between September 2002 and June 2003, the impression that Saddam Hussein possessed, or was acquiring, a frightening arsenal of W.M.D. seemed unmistakable. Except, of course, it appears to have been mistaken. On Tuesday, May 18, I told executive editor Bill Keller I would be writing today about The Times’s responsibility to address the subject. He told me that an internal examination was already under way; we then proceeded independently and did not discuss it further. The results of The Times’s own examination appeared in last Wednesday’s paper, and can be found online at nytimes.com/critique

I think they got it right. Mostly. (I do question the placement: as one reader asked, “Will your column this Sunday address why the NYT buried its editors’ note – full of apologies for burying stories on A10 – on A10?”)

Some of The Times’s coverage in the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq was credulous; much of it was inappropriately italicized by lavish front-page display and heavy-breathing headlines; and several fine articles by David Johnston, James Risen and others that provided perspective or challenged information in the faulty stories were played as quietly as a lullaby. Especially notable among these was Risen’s “C.I.A. Aides Feel Pressure in Preparing Iraqi Reports,” which was completed several days before the invasion and unaccountably held for a week. It didn’t appear until three days after the war’s start, and even then was interred on Page B10.

The Times’s flawed journalism continued in the weeks after the war began, when writers might have broken free from the cloaked government sources who had insinuated themselves and their agendas into the prewar coverage. I use “journalism” rather than “reporting” because reporters do not put stories into the newspaper. Editors make assignments, accept articles for publication, pass them through various editing hands, place them on a schedule, determine where they will appear. Editors are also obliged to assign follow-up pieces when the facts remain mired in partisan quicksand.

The apparent flimsiness of “Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert,” by Judith Miller (April 21, 2003), was no less noticeable than its prominent front-page display; the ensuing sequence of articles on the same subject, when Miller was embedded with a military unit searching for W.M.D., constituted an ongoing minuet of startling assertion followed by understated contradiction. But pinning this on Miller alone is both inaccurate and unfair: in one story on May 4, editors placed the headline “U.S. Experts Find Radioactive Material in Iraq” over a Miller piece even though she wrote, right at the top, that the discovery was very unlikely to be related to weaponry.

The failure was not individual, but institutional.

When I say the editors got it “mostly” right in their note this week, the qualifier arises from their inadequate explanation of the journalistic imperatives and practices that led The Times down this unfortunate path. There were several.

THE HUNGER FOR SCOOPS Even in the quietest of times, newspaper people live to be first. When a story as momentous as this one comes into view, when caution and doubt could not be more necessary, they can instead be drowned in a flood of adrenalin. One old Times hand recently told me there was a period in the not-too-distant past when editors stressed the maxim “Don’t get it first, get it right.” That soon mutated into “Get it first and get it right.” The next devolution was an obvious one.

War requires an extra standard of care, not a lesser one. But in The Times’s W.M.D. coverage, readers encountered some rather breathless stories built on unsubstantiated “revelations” that, in many instances, were the anonymity-cloaked assertions of people with vested interests. Times reporters broke many stories before and after the war – but when the stories themselves later broke apart, in many instances Times readers never found out. Some remain scoops to this day. This is not a compliment.

FRONT-PAGE SYNDROME There are few things more maligned in newsroom culture than the “on the one hand, on the other hand” story, with its exquisitely delicate (and often soporific) balancing. There are few things more greedily desired than a byline on Page 1. You can “write it onto 1,” as the newsroom maxim has it, by imbuing your story with the sound of trumpets. Whispering is for wimps, and shouting is for the tabloids, but a terrifying assertion that may be the tactical disinformation of a self-interested source does the trick.

“Intelligence Break Led U.S. to Tie Envoy Killing to Iraq Qaeda Cell,” by Patrick E. Tyler (Feb. 6, 2003) all but declared a direct link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein – a link still to be conclusively established, more than 15 months later. Other stories pushed Pentagon assertions so aggressively you could almost sense epaulets sprouting on the shoulders of editors.

HIT-AND-RUN JOURNALISM The more surprising the story, the more often it must be revisited. If a defector like Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri is hailed by intelligence officials for providing “some of the most valuable information” about chemical and biological laboratories in Iraq (“Defectors Bolster U.S. Case Against Iraq, Officials Say,” by Judith Miller, Jan. 24, 2003), unfolding events should have compelled the paper to re-examine those assertions, and hold the officials publicly responsible if they did not pan out.

In that same story anonymous officials expressed fears that Haideri’s relatives in Iraq “were executed as a message to potential defectors.”

Were they? Did anyone go back to ask? Did anything Haideri say have genuine value? Stories, like plants, die if they are not tended. So do the reputations of newspapers.

CODDLING SOURCES There is nothing more toxic to responsible journalism than an anonymous source. There is often nothing more necessary, too; crucial stories might never see print if a name had to be attached to every piece of information. But a newspaper has an obligation to convince readers why it believes the sources it does not identify are telling the truth. That automatic editor defense, “We’re not confirming what he says, we’re just reporting it,” may apply to the statements of people speaking on the record. For anonymous sources, it’s worse than no defense. It’s a license granted to liars.

The contract between a reporter and an unnamed source – the offer of information in return for anonymity – is properly a binding one. But I believe that a source who turns out to have lied has breached that contract, and can fairly be exposed. The victims of the lie are the paper’s readers, and the contract with them supersedes all others. (See Chalabi, Ahmad, et al.) Beyond that, when the cultivation of a source leads to what amounts to a free pass for the source, truth takes the fall. A reporter who protects a source not just from exposure but from unfriendly reporting by colleagues is severely compromised. Reporters must be willing to help reveal a source’s misdeeds; information does not earn immunity. To a degree, Chalabi’s fall from grace was handled by The Times as if flipping a switch; proper coverage would have been more like a thermostat, constantly taking readings and then adjusting to the surrounding reality. (While I’m on the subject: Readers were never told that Chalabi’s niece was hired in January 2003 to work in The Times’s Kuwait bureau. She remained there until May of that year.)

END-RUN EDITING Howell Raines, who was executive editor of the paper at the time, denies that The Times’s standard procedures were cast aside in the weeks before and after the war began. (Raines’s statement on the subject, made to The Los Angeles Times, may be read at poynter.org/forum/?id=misc#raines.)

But my own reporting (I have spoken to nearly two dozen current and former Times staff members whose work touched on W.M.D. coverage) has convinced me that a dysfunctional system enabled some reporters operating out of Washington and Baghdad to work outside the lines of customary bureau management.

In some instances, reporters who raised substantive questions about certain stories were not heeded. Worse, some with substantial knowledge of the subject at hand seem not to have been given the chance to express reservations. It is axiomatic in newsrooms that any given reporter’s story, tacked up on a dartboard, can be pierced by challenges from any number of colleagues. But a commitment to scrutiny is a cardinal virtue. When a particular story is consciously shielded from such challenges, it suggests that it contains something that plausibly should be challenged.

Readers have asked why The Times waited so long to address the issues raised in Wednesday’s statement from the editors. I suspect that Keller and his key associates may have been reluctant to open new wounds when scabs were still raw on old ones, but I think their reticence made matters worse. It allowed critics to form a powerful chorus; it subjected staff members under criticism (including Miller) to unsubstantiated rumor and specious charges; it kept some of the staff off balance and distracted.

The editors’ note to readers will have served its apparent function only if it launches a new round of examination and investigation. I don’t mean further acts of contrition or garment-rending, but a series of aggressively reported stories detailing the misinformation, disinformation and suspect analysis that led virtually the entire world to believe Hussein had W.M.D. at his disposal.

No one can deny that this was a drama in which The Times played a role. On Friday, May 21, a front-page article by David E. Sanger (“A Seat of Honor Lost to Open Political Warfare”) elegantly characterized Chalabi as “a man who, in lunches with politicians, secret sessions with intelligence chiefs and frequent conversations with reporters from Foggy Bottom to London’s Mayfair, worked furiously to plot Mr. Hussein’s fall.” The words “from The Times, among other publications” would have fit nicely after “reporters” in that sentence. The aggressive journalism that I long for, and that the paper owes both its readers and its own self-respect, would reveal not just the tactics of those who promoted the W.M.D. stories, but how The Times itself was used to further their cunning campaign.

In 1920, Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz wrote that The Times had missed the real story of the Bolshevik Revolution because its writers and editors “were nervously excited by exciting events.” That could have been said about The Times and the war in Iraq. The excitement’s over; now the work begins.

The public editor is the readers’ representative. His opinions and conclusions are his own. His column appears at least twice monthly in this section.

Reader Comments

This made me laugh as I read it Marc! It is a personal belief that the The New York “Daily Disinformation Rag” Times is the most spun newspaper in the USA. As far as chains of command and low level employees are concerned, it seems to me that we would all benefit with less structure in work, government, etc. Yes the higher-ups would have a harder time blaming their own fuck-ups on low-level employees, but we shouldn’t have such an intricate hiearchy in the first place. To me this structure contradicts the base ideas behind “The American Dream”. I admit you need some structure or we would be living in complete anarchy like many animals do. Some of you may say that we are already at that level the way these international “cowboys” run rampant, modified capguns in hand; and to a degree that’s true, I see it reflected in base elements of our own and other’s societys (example: gang members aren’t much different than their rivals. They want influence and they use force or create dependency on them in the area of the globe that they operate. Once you have some power you realize that some is not enough. This loose observation can be applied to many similiar scenarios ( a privatized millitary, corporate structure, “all-time-anchor” in a game of tag/hide and go seek). See how many you can find!) but we are not deep enough in the hole not to dig ourselves out. The news media in general lies to us. Some truth is used as bait so we bite the line expecting to have our hunger satified, but lo and behold! we wind-up on the bottom of a boat gasping for air. I have seen many fish taken from the sea, most rallying behind causes they deemed just and humanitarian, only to bite the hook of a “Sunday Edition” and wind-up beheaded, gutted, and thrown into the fire. Don’t feed near the surface.
A-G-E-N-D-A

#1 
Written By Rob on May 30th, 2004 @ 9:49 am

Add a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.