Accuracy in Media

For weeks, the liberal media have feasted on leaks that purport to prove that pre-war intelligence on Iraq had been distorted and politicized. The media have reported these leaks uncritically and without challenge. In most cases, there is scant indication that reporters have made any effort to verify the accuracy of their unsourced accusations.

But the liberal media have been far more “even handed” in their coverage of real proof that Democrats have tried to play politics with intelligence information. As revealed by Fox News’ Sean Hannity, a Democrat staff member working on the Senate intelligence committee has laid out a strategy for exploiting intelligence on Iraq for partisan advantage. A leaked copy of a memo describes a game plan for postponing calls for an independent investigation into the administration’s use of intelligence before the war in Iraq until 2004.

The Washington Times ran two editorials expressing outrage about the memo. Republicans were urged to shut down the intelligence oversight committee until further notice and the Times recommended that they reject any effort at conciliation with their Democratic counterparts. At a minimum, the Times demanded that the offending staffer be summarily fired. And the paper castigated Democrats for failing to “repudiate the memo categorically.”

On its editorial page, the Wall Street Journal charged that Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller, the vice chairman, has buried the “honorable tradition” of bipartisanship on the committee. The Journal wrote that the memo proved that it was the Democrats who have been politicizing intelligence in their efforts to undermine the Bush administration. The Journal seconded the Times’ call to shut down the committee at least until after the next election. Citing the 1970s Church committee, the Journal reminded readers of the damage done by earlier “political shenanigans” on the nation’s intelligence-gathering capabilities.

But the Washington Post’s Dana Priest seemed far less put out by the memo. For her, it simply represented the Democrats’ fears about the credibility of the committee’s on-going review of the administration’s use of intelligence. Most of her coverage was devoted to Rockefeller’s effort to dismiss and downplay the importance of the memo. She quoted at some length portions of the memo, but omitted any reference to its allegation that the administration had resorted to “flagrantly dishonest methods and motives” to justify the war.

One victim of the memo is Senator Pat Roberts, the committee chairman. The memo applauds Robert’s support of Democratic efforts to broaden the committee’s investigation beyond the intelligence community. The Journal warned that Democrats were playing Roberts “for a fool.” The Wichita Eagle, in Roberts’ home state, reported that his offices in Kansas and Washington “lit up with callers” protesting the Senator’s cooperation with the Democrats. That lead to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist canceling any further investigations by the Committee on Iraq.

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