Accuracy in Media

Walter Pincus of the Washington Post has written a story highlighting the claim by former CIA director John Deutch that the failure to find chemical or biological weapons in Iraq would represent “an intelligence failure . . . of massive proportions.” That statement was also highlighted by Tim Russert on Meet the Press. Pincus and Russert neglected to mention that Deutch was guilty of his own intelligence failure as CIA director under Bill Clinton, having pled guilty to mishandling classified information and paying a $5,000 fine. Deutch pled guilty less than a day before Clinton pardoned him.

At the time, even left-wing journalist and Clinton supporter Robert Scheer called the pardon of Deutch “serious,” contending that, “By pardoning Deutch, Clinton ended an inquiry into how sloppily top secrets are handled at the highest level.” A House Committee report noted that Deutch “was accused of mishandling hundreds of highly classified documents, including information relating to covert actions, storing many on a home computer used to surf ‘high risk’ sites on the internet, making the documents easily accessible to a hacker.”

A Reuters dispatch, like the Post article, merely labeled him a “former CIA director.” Reuters also reported that Deutch, who headed the CIA from 1995 through 1996, “said it was more likely Iraq did not continue to develop the weapons after the 1991 Gulf War and destroyed much of its capability in response to U.S. and international inspections.”

That’s fascinating because it conflicts with what Deutch said when he was CIA director. In Senate testimony on May 23, 1996, Deutch said, “Iraq has expertise, hidden components, and a leadership, in case anyone is in doubt, willing to resume chemical, biological, and nuclear production. Iraq has a demonstrated ability, moreover, to deceive UN inspectors.”

In a February 22, 1996, speech, he said, “Five years after the Gulf war, Saddam Hussein is unrepentant over Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, determined to regain regional dominance, and bent on preserving elements of his special weapons programs? Baghdad is determined to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction programs and to deceive the rest of the world about its activities. In the wake of the defection of Hussein Kamel last August, Iraq turned over some 147 crates of documents, previously withheld from the UN, that revealed substantial new information on Iraq’s intentions, including a crash effort in 1990 to produce a nuclear weapon using safeguarded enriched uranium.”

On October 17, 2002, Deutch debated Bill Kristol at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government on whether to go to war against Iraq. A story distributed by the Kennedy School said that Deutch “agreed that Hussein has to be stopped but disagreed with Kristol on timing.” Deutch was quoted as saying, “Yes, it’s true that Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and has shown interest in using them.” If Deutch is correct that an intelligence failure has occurred, he bears some responsibility for it.

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