Accuracy in Media

In a last-minute dirty trick before the election, The New York Times took a story and twisted it in such a way as to damage the Bush Administration. This will go down as a case study of media bias intended to sway votes.

The November 4 article by William Broad described how the Intelligence Community, at the prodding of various conservative politicians and publications, posted documents on a website beginning last March. The Document Exchange, or DOCEX, had the task of posting some of the many pages of documents found in Iraq after the defeat of Saddam Hussein.

Some of this type of material has been released but the major media have shown no interest at all. For example, in the AIM DVD on “Terror Television,” we include some footage, captured in Iraq after the American invasion of Iraq, showing Uday Hussein meeting with a top Al-Jazeera official, who assures him that the channel is “your channel.” Al-Jazeera has consistently been a voice of the Saddam Hussein regime and its remnants, now part of the Islamic Army of Iraq terrorist group. The film footage was originally broadcast by Al-Hurra, the U.S.-funded Middle East television station. To our knowledge, it has never been broadcast by any other U.S. television station or mentioned by any major media outlet, including the New York Times. 

In regard to these captured documents, The Times said the Bush Administration posted the material “under pressure from Congressional Republicans who said they hoped to ‘leverage the Internet’ to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.” But the Times also said that the site had posted some documents that, according to their experts, provided “detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.” The site had recently posted some documents that weapons experts told the Times are a danger themselves: “detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war.” Shortly thereafter, the Times went to DOCEX with the complaints, and the website was shut down by the government.

Some background is necessary to understand this story. The feeling of many supporters of the Iraq liberation was that the document translation and analysis should be a high priority, as discovery of such documents were necessary for history, for finding and destroying any WMD that might exist, and they could be very helpful in convincing the American public that this war was necessary and justified. Yet, it even seemed to many supporters of President Bush and the war that the White House had no appetite for searching and analyzing the documents, perhaps because they didn’t want to have that debate again. Yet the documents confirmed that Saddam was close to developing a nuclear weapon before the first Gulf war. This was a regime that had never given up its desire for a nuclear weapons program.

American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Ledeen, writing in a blog on National Review Online, said the Times story was “probably a leak from intelligence people” trying to undermine the members of Congress who wanted the documents to be released. But Ledeen made the point of saying that Senators Rick Santorum and Pat Roberts and Rep. Peter Hoekstra “always insisted that nothing that could possibly compromise national security should be posted.”

Hoekstra confirmed that point. In a statement released on his website, he wrote, “First, it is extraordinary that the New York Times now acknowledges that the captured documents demonstrate that ‘[Saddam] Hussein’s scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.’ This only reinforces the value of these documents in understanding the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Only 1 percent of the estimated 120 million pages of captured documents have been reviewed, and we must continue working to promptly understand these materials. If there is concern about Saddam’s nuclear program, there should be similar concern about potential connections between Saddam and al-Qaeda suggested in the documents.”

Added Hoekstra, “I have always been clear that the Director of National Intelligence should take whatever steps necessary to withhold sensitive documents. In fact, as of today the DNI had withheld 59 percent of the documents that it had reviewed, and has become more risk-averse over time. If the DNI believes that the documents that were released were in the safe 40 percent, imagine what the 60 percent being withheld must contain.”

Finally, Hoekstra blasted the New York Times: “The sad reality is that the New York Times has done far more damage to U.S. national security by the disclosure of vital, classified, intelligence programs than is likely to be caused by the inadvertent disclosure of decades-old information that had already been in the hands of Saddam’s regime.”

Once again, the Times has missed the real story in its zeal to make a political point.




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