Press coverage of the Libby case is often so bad, that it's hard to single out the worst of it. But this week, MSNBC and The National Journal lead the pack. From Just One Minute:
Put this in the expansive "How Worthless is Chris Matthews?" file. From tonight's Hardball:
MATTHEWS: So the president goes out and says to —— according to the court filing this week in the Scooter Libby case, the filing was apparently done by the defense team, that it was the president of the United States who, through the vice president, leaked a particular piece of the national intelligence estimates from the fall of 2002, which made the case for a nuclear threat from Iraq, when we now know that was an isolated discernment, that many of the other agencies, including CIA and State did not share it, but yet it was portrayed to the reporter Judy Miller and Matt Cooper and the others apparently as the consensus belief.
To save time, I am trying to figure out what he got *right*. As with most years, 2002 did have a fall; we do have a President and Vice President, also a CIA and a State Dept. Matt Cooper and Judy Miller were reporters.
I think that is about it.
Now, without even looking — from the July 18 2003 declassified NIE, we will see that, although the INR disputed both the aluminum tubes and the uranium story, they agreed that Saddam had nuclear aspirations. Hmm, does that make him a "threat"? maybe Matthews thinks he is not a threat until he has weapons. Of course, no one thought he did have weapons, so that would be nonsensical.
And here we go from the INR section:
The Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR) believes that Saddam continues to want nuclear weapons and that available evidence indicates that Baghdad is pursuing at least a limited effort to maintain and acquire nuclear weapons—related capabilities. The activities we have detected do not, however, add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons. Iraq may be doing so, but INR considers the available evidence inadequate to support such a judgment. Lacking persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program, INR is unwilling to speculate that such an effort began soon after the departure of UN inspectors or to project a timeline for the completion of activities it does not now see happening. As a result, INR is unable to predict when Iraq could acquire a nuclear device or weapon.
And from the key judgements:
...in the view of most agencies, Baghdad is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. [skip]
* Although we assess that Saddam does not yet have nuclear weapons or sufficient material to make any, he remains intent on acquiring them. Most agencies assess that Baghdad started reconstituting its nuclear program about the time that UNSCOM inspectors departed——December 1998....
And Matthews this week, was equaled by his colleague David Shuster. David Shuster MSNBC:
Here are the facts David Shuster got wrong, either wholly or in large part:
1) While the "vigorously trying to procure uranium" is not a key judgment, a similar key judgment says: "Although we assess that Saddam does not yet have nuclear weapons or sufficient material to make any, he remains intent on acquiring them."
2) The "vigorously trying to procure uranium" phrase is in the NIE (page 24): "Iraq also began vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake; acquiring either would shorten the time Baghdad needs to produce nuclear weapons." Shuster said that the phrase was "not in the document at all."
3) Bush did not ignore several agencies. He listened to several agencies and only discounted the views of one.
This is not a question of interpretation. These are facts that Shuster got wrong. MSNBC viewers deserve the truth — and a correction.
Murray Waas of the National Journal came in slightly behind msnbc this week. From Captain's Quarters:
Murray Waas wrote a rather sensational story for the National Journal yesterday about the Scooter Libby case in which he alleges that Dick Cheney told Libby to leak a classified report to the press. Again, as with so much in this case, the truth of the matter depends on reading the full context of the situation, and Waas fails to provide it. Fortunately, Steve Spruiell at NRO's Media Blog stayed on top of it. Waas reports on the pedigree of the "leak" without noting that the same information had already been leaked and misrepresented on several occasions by its author.
Filing reports so false that they are in direct contravention of the documentation on the public record and then failing to correct these lies, can only be deliberate. I can't figure out the motive, but I suspect that some media have determined that their readers/viewers are so deranged they can be retained only by joining with them in a bizarre variation of a folie a deux.
Clarice Feldman 4 15 06