Accuracy in Media

For weeks, the liberal media have relied on leaks, purportedly from the U.S. intelligence community, to debunk the Bush administration’s case for war on Iraq. The Washington Post and others have repeatedly misrepresented the preliminary findings of chief weapons inspector David Kay to claim that the administration’s worries about Iraq’s WMD programs were exaggerated. Similarly, the media repeatedly claim that the Bush administration overstated the relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus is one such reporter who has made that point. So it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that Pincus is among those who initially ignored another recent leak that seems to document the existence of such a connection. Stephen F. Hayes revealed the contents of a Pentagon memo that shows an “operational relationship” between bin Laden and Iraq in the November 24th issue of the Weekly Standard. The Fox News Channel, Washington Times and the New York Post were alone in reporting the details of the contents of the Pentagon memo. As reported by Hayes, the classified memo provides dates, names, and gives details of interactions between al-Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence operatives.

According to Hayes, the intelligence cited in the memo shows that contacts began in 1990 and continued until at least March 2003, just before the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hayes writes that the memo also reports that a “close al Qaeda associate” began setting up “sleeper cells” in Baghdad in October 2002. The cells were to be activated in the event that the U.S. occupied the Iraqi capital. Training with chemical and biological weapons was also to be provided to al-Qaeda operatives sometime after December 2002.

The day the article appeared the Pentagon issued a press release that seemed to refute the substance of Hayes’ article. At least that’s the way the media reported it. CBSNews.com and other outlets quoted the release as stating that “news reports” about the memo were “inaccurate.” One Internet website that reports on the media claimed that media outlets that ran the story “had egg on their face” after the Pentagon release. But the release did confirm the existence of the memo cited by Hayes and makes no reference to the veracity of any information contained in the memo.

The liberal media awoke to the story only after the CIA and Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee requested an investigation into the source of the leak. The Post’s Pincus used his story about the leak investigation to remind readers that “some critics” of the administration continue to reject the evidence of links between al-Qaeda and Iraq described in the memo.

He wrote that the administration had been unable to produce “evidence that there was a close connection between Iraq and al Qaeda. CBSNews.com cited administration officials as “recently acknowledg[ing] there are no links between Saddam and Sept. 11.” In truth, however, these officials have simply stated that there has been no evidence uncovered to date to document such a link.




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