On the third anniversary of President Bush's premature declaration of victory in Iraq, Media Matters has compiled examples of media that sounded alarms over Iraq's purported weapons of mass destruction capabilities now sounding similar alarms over Iran.
On MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Wall Street Journal national political editor John Harwood claimed that White House senior adviser Karl Rove was at most guilty of "backhanded confirmations" of classified information and therefore cannot reasonably be accused of leaking. Harwood's assertion amounts to the claim that mere confirmation -- as opposed to actual disclosure -- of classified information does not constitute an unauthorized leak. Harwood's assertion is not supported by the law or the facts.
John Gibson claimed that the CIA "thinks" former intelligence officer Mary O. McCarthy "might have been a source" for Washington Post staff writer Dana Priest's article that first reported the alleged existence of CIA "black site" prisons in Eastern Europe. In fact, while initial reports indicated that McCarthy had admitted to leaking classified information on the prisons, McCarthy has since denied doing so, and the CIA has not drawn a connection between McCarthy and the revelation of the alleged secret prisons.
The New York Post asserted in an editorial that the administration has "often come off as treating its top priorities -- the War on Terror and, particularly, Iraq -- as near-afterthoughts." Far from treating those subjects as "near-afterthoughts," however, the Bush administration has made them a central theme in every major policy agenda and electoral strategy for the past four years.
Four days after former high-ranking CIA official Tyler Drumheller revealed that the Bush administration dismissed clear-cut evidence undermining President Bush's central case for war -- that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction -- the media, except for MSNBC and now CNN, have largely ignored the story.
Washington Times columnist Douglas MacKinnon repeated his claim that the December 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning report by The New York Times on the National Security Agency warrantless domestic spying program "hurt the United States dramatically." In making the statement, MacKinnon assumed two things: 1) that the program had been effective before the Times article appeared, and 2) that suspected terrorists altered their conduct after the article. MacKinnon added: "I'm not convinced that if they [the Times reporters] didn't have the information for D-Day on June 6, 1944, they wouldn't have revealed that as well."
An April 23 Los Angeles Times editorial falsely asserted that President Bush "has acknowledged with increasing explicitness that he was wrong to believe that Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass destruction [WMD]." In fact, while Bush has described the intelligence as "wrong," has accepted responsibility for "the decision to go into Iraq," and has said he was "responsible for fixing what went wrong by reforming our intelligence capabilities," he has never stated he was wrong to believe the flawed intelligence or assumed responsibility for the intelligence failures.
On CBS' 60 Minutes, former high-ranking CIA official Tyler Drumheller proved that the Bush administration dismissed clear-cut evidence undermining President Bush's central case for war -- that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. But in the nearly two days since this explosive report aired, the media have almost entirely ignored the story.
On Fox News Sunday, William Kristol falsely claimed that President Bush "declassified most" of the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that he reportedly authorized then-vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to leak to reporters. In fact, Libby leaked a very small, cherry-picked series of excerpts from the 90-page NIE, reportedly following Bush's authorization.
Keith Olbermann awarded Bill O'Reilly third place in his nightly "Worst Person in the World" segment. O'Reilly was honored for his statement, first documented by Media Matters for America, that "I have to go on what my military analysts, people paid by Fox News, say to me. I can't base my opinion on anything else."
Loading the player leg...
Fox News host David Asman claimed without basis that "getting to the 30,000 centrifuges" Iran needs to produce a significant amount of weapons-grade nuclear material "is going to be a cakewalk," adding: "Are we going to have to wait until there's a mushroom cloud over Jerusalem before we take a hit in Iran?" But The New York Times noted that Western nuclear analysts have determined that Iran "still lack[s] the parts and materials to make droves of the highly complex [centrifuges] which can spin uranium into fuel rich enough for use in nuclear reactors or atom bombs."
Fox News' John Gibson falsely claimed that the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times report that revealed warrantless domestic wiretaps approved by the Bush administration "probably did do damage to national security because it may have tipped off Al Qaeda that we could listen to their cell-phone calls to people inside this country." In fact, media reports indicate that Al Qaeda was aware that the United States was monitoring its cell-phone calls well before the disclosure of the warrantless wiretapping program.
Bill O'Reilly declared, "I can't base my opinion" about the Iraq war "on anything" other than "what my military analysts, people paid by Fox News, say to me." O'Reilly added that he could trust only Fox military analysts because "[t]he newspapers ... all have an agenda" and "only give you a snapshot of the war." However, Fox News' military analysts made numerous wrong predictions and false assertions in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.
On Fox News Watch, Cal Thomas repeated a theory -- first proposed by Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley -- that the retired generals who have recently called for Donald Rumsfeld's ouster are part of a "cabal." Thomas, however, expanded upon Blankley's original theory and claimed that the alleged cabal is "possibly assisted by Democrats for political advantage."
Loading the player leg...