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The Senate Phase 2 report on misuse of available intel on Iraqi WMD

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The first part of the Senate Report on Iraqi WMD Intelligence was put out on 9 Jul 2004. Democrats on the Intelligence Committee pointed out at the time that:

...the report painted an incomplete picture, because the Committee had put off until phase two of the investigation the key question of "how intelligence on Iraq was used or misused by Administration officials in public statements and reports."

This phase of the Senate report (PDF) was finally issued on 5 Jun 2008. How did our local paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, cover it? A search of Philly.com for the report showed a single hit from an AP piece on the day it was issued. A decent round-up, it concentrates on the second part (PDF) of the Phase 2 report, the part that focuses on the meeting in Rome between various characters. The author doesn't appear to be aware of, or ignores, the first part that concentrates on where the speeches of members of the Bush Administration contradicted or went beyond the available intelligence on the threat posed by Iraq, starting in late 2002. It's not clear whether the AP piece was published in the Inquirer, The Daily News or simply on the web.

The paper copy of the Inquirer for Thursday doesn't have any sign of the report. The paper copy for Friday has a New York Times piece "Bush overstated threat, Senate committee says" on page A6. The NY Times title was: "Bush Overstated Iraq Evidence, Senators Report." The only other sign in the Inquirer that the report was ever published is a Tony Auth cartoon on Sunday the 8th.

One reason that the Inquirer may have for underplaying the report is an issue that crops up several times in the Republican response to the report. This issue was articulated in President Bush's nonresponsive answer to a series of charges of incompetence made by Senator Kerry (D-MA) in the 30 Sep 2004 debate between them:

BUSH: My opponent looked at the same intelligence I looked at and declared in 2002 that Saddam Hussein was a grave threat.

On 14 Nov 2005, Kerry responded to that assertion:

The very worst that Members of Congress can be accused of is trusting the intelligence we were selectively given by this Administration, and taking the President at his word. But unlike this Administration, there is absolutely no suggestion that we intentionally went beyond what we were told were the facts. That is the greatest offense by the Administration. Just look at their most compelling justification for war: Saddam’s nuclear program and his connections with Al Qaeda.

The facts speak for themselves. The White House has admitted that the President told Congress and the American public in the State of the Union Address that Saddam was attempting to acquire fuel for nuclear weapons despite the fact that the CIA specifically told the Administration three times, in writing and verbally, not to use this intelligence. Obviously, Democrats didn’t get that memo. In fact, similar statements were removed from a prior speech by the President, and Colin Powell refused to use it in his presentation to the UN. This is not relying on faulty intelligence, as Democrats did; it is knowingly, and admittedly, misleading the American public on a key justification for going to war. [emphases added]

The fact of the matter was, and this was known at the time, the Democrats didn't (and still don't) have an independent intelligence service, they had to rely upon the statements given to them by the government and those statements had to be approved by the Chief Executive, President Bush. Once this single fact is taken into account, most of the Republican objections to the report fall apart. 

One other objection might be that this is all terribly overblown.  The blogger Glenn Greenwald reports that columnist David Broder is just oh-so-terribly bored and unfazed by the whole controversy as Broder states:

I am reluctant to see every big policy dispute turned into a criminal or impeachable affair. There needs to be accountability but there also needs to be proportionality.

Greenwald explains this reaction on Broder's part by pointing out that Broder is complicit in Bush's crimes as he was supportive of them at the time.  Naturally, calling too much attention to the criminality of the Bush Administration calls into question Broder's own dereliction of duty in not raising objections to the war before it began.  

And was the propaganda campaign waged by the Bush Administration in late 2002 and early 2003, a criminal matter? As a matter of fact, it was.

Since 1951, Congress has enacted an annual, government wide prohibition on the use of appropriated funds for purposes of "publicity or propaganda."
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The bottom line seems to be that any "covert" program by the government to shape the news, or disseminate false news, to the domestic American audience constitutes a violation of both the Appropriations Act prohibitions as well as the Anti-Deficiency Act.

PRAWN, the Philadelphia Regional Anti-War Network has long been interested in protesting the Inquirer for it's shoddy and conservatively-biased coverage of the news. Members have felt that they need a specific complaint to focus their protest around. I'd say this constitutes a very good focus.

Update: FireDogLake has a post that links to two WaPo pieces. The first is Fred Hiatt, a reliable right-wing water carrier, who notes the many times that the Senate report notes that Bush Administration talking points were generally substantiated by the intel. Very true, the report does indeed note that there is a high degree of correlation between reality and the talking points, but there are enough discrepancies and Scott McClellan describes the White House sales job well enough that, nah, we don't have to scrape off our "Bush lied, soldiers died" bumperstickers.

The second is a report by Walter Pincus (Whose report is published, predictably, on page A15) that details the evidence that the Senate did not review. Both are worth reading, if only to add depth to the initial reading of the Senate report.

 

http://www.prawnworks.net/

PN3(Ret), USN, 1991-2001. Done a number of clerical-type jobs. Computer "power user," my desktop is a Windows machine, but my laptop is an Ubuntu Linux. Articles usually cross-posted at http://www.prawnblog.blogspot.com Personal details at (more...)
 
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The Philadelphia Inquirer has put out an editorial... by Richmond Gardner on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2008 at 2:31:20 PM