Accuracy in Media

One of the fascinating aspects of coverage of the Joseph Wilson affair is the tendency of the media to go to the defense of the CIA, which arranged for Wilson’s dubious Africa trip. When we did our AIM Report on the subject of Congressman Curt Weldon’s book, Countdown to Terror, we found it fascinating that he was so critical of how reporters for the Washington Post and New York Times were eager to take the CIA’s side in so many disputes over the value of its intelligence information.

In another example, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius has written a column complaining about the “Gosslings”-or CIA Director Goss’s staffers-“making a mess of things” at the agency. Ignatius says they are guilty of “political meddling” at the CIA.

That’s turning everything upside down. The political meddling occurred, as former prosecutor Joseph diGenova told us, when the agency used Wilson on a covert operation against President Bush. DiGenova says that Goss is trying to put a stop to that.

Ignatius, who is obviously close to the CIA bureaucracy, finds fault with Goss, who he says was “accompanied by a team of right-wing congressional staffers” when he took over the agency. Ignatius says these staffers were “quickly dubbed the ‘Gosslings’ at Langley?” The columnist adds ominously that “Goss himself may be part of the problem?”

This seems to be a concrete example of what we reported in our AIM Report. As we noted, Weldon contends that reporters “like to get juicy tidbits of information” and that the upper bureaucracy of the CIA has the ability to release information to help make stories. “In the end, they manipulate the media,” notes Weldon. “And the media respond because they want those stories and they want that information. So when somebody comes out and challenges the CIA, reporters are going to rally around [the CIA] and bureaucrats will give out little tidbits of information. The quid pro quo is that reporters have to write a trash piece so that any criticism of the CIA is going to be undercut.”

According to published information, before he went to work for The Post, Ignatius worked for 10 years at The Wall Street Journal covering the steel industry, Justice Department, and-last but not least-the CIA. Not surprising.

Back in December of 2003, Ignatius wrote a column accusing the Bush Administration of exaggerating evidence of Saddam Hussein’s links to Al-Qaeda. Ignatius wasn’t impressed by a Weekly Standard piece by Stephen Hayes on a Department of Defense memo showing evidence of extensive contacts.

The CIA and British intelligence, he said, “remained dubious about any serious Iraq-Al-Qaeda operational link, even though they knew about covert contacts between the two?” And why was this? Ignatius said that they “had an unusually well-placed source in Iraq who told them before the war that in the late 1990s, Saddam Hussein had indeed considered such an operational relationship with bin Laden ­ and then decided against it.”

Ignatius quoted an unnamed “senior intelligence official” with apparent knowledge about this unnamed source as saying that “The Iraqis did consider the possibility of links with Al-Qaeda to explore the possibility of cooperation, but they decided not to pursue that course of action. The Iraqis decided it wasn’t in their best interest to be linked to an Islamic terrorist group.”

The readers of the Post were supposed to trust the judgment of Ignatius, who is very close to the CIA. They were not supposed to trust a real document citing real evidence. Decide for yourself. Believe in an anonymous source. Or read the Hayes piece here.

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