Lacking Real Story, Reporter Manufactures Controversy

In today's Washington Post we have a great example of breathtaking misdirection. Full of facts, the story implies great and willful wrongdoing. What it lacks is any common sense whatsoever.

The headline reads: "Lacking Biolabs, Trailers Carried Case For War". The author cites the fact that the Bush administration reported the information that two trailers had been found in Iraq that some experts thought were portable bio-weapons labs. The story indeed reports that two separate teams reached that conclusion. But the real focus of the article is that another team of civilian scientists, hired to investigate and report back to the Defense Intelligence Agency. There conclusion that the trailers were not, in fact, weapons labs reached the DIA two days before the administration first reported the labs to the public.

Wow. Two whole days. In Washington. Breathtaking. It took the DIA 15 more months to actually come up with a report that confirmed the trailers were not biolabs. But we're supposed to see dastardly misbehavior on the part of the administration because they did not read every word of the obscure report of an obscure group of civilian scientists working on a subset of a larger report.

Intelligence analysts involved in high-level discussions about the trailers noted that the technical team was among several groups that analyzed the suspected mobile labs throughout the spring and summer of 2003. Two teams of military experts who viewed the trailers soon after their discovery concluded that the facilities were weapons labs, a finding that strongly influenced views of intelligence officials in Washington, the analysts said. "It was hotly debated, and there were experts making arguments on both sides," said one former senior official who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.

The technical team's findings had no apparent impact on the intelligence agencies' public statements on the trailers. A day after the team's report was transmitted to Washington — May 28, 2003 — the CIA publicly released its first formal assessment of the trailers, reflecting the views of its Washington analysts. That white paper, which also bore the DIA seal, contended that U.S. officials were "confident" that the trailers were used for "mobile biological weapons production." (emphasis added)

In other words, intelligence reports got put into the president's briefing materials saying the trailers were likely to be bioweapon related. But it's implied that Bush lied by not reporting on the existence of that report that the civilians filed. Which doubtless went into the bureaucratic mill which eventually ground out a final report.

The story goes on to explain that the DIA team leader didn't even know of the civilian assessment team's existence, much less the report they submitted.

If you read past the sensationalist first page (most won't) the article paints a damning picture of the CIA bureaucracy, making it pretty obvious where the problem really is. Hint, it's not Bush, folks.

I have no doubt this will be screeched about and touted as more proof that "BUSH LIED". But let's be fair here. It took the Washington Post three years to report this story. Since they can hold the administration up to a standard of two whole days, they should be accountable to the same standard.

UPDATE: 4-14-06 – Greetings to visitors from Clint Taylor's American Spectator article. Please take a look around while you're here. I have two follow-ups to this post, here and here.

UPDATE: Captain Ed reaches much the same conclusion. He's less complimentary than I am. Same conclusion at Confederate Yankee.

UPDATE: And if you want to see a really distorted report look at Reuters' repackaging of the WaPo.

UPDATE: Oh wow, this story is the gift that keeps on giving. I mentioned the WaPo should be accountable to the same standards they're trying to apply to the administration. You know, since the story is three years old. It turns out the story really is three years old. The NYT reported it three years ago.

On to the next spin cycle folks, this one is just plain silly now.

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