Days after the White House rebuked a November 12 Washington Post report debunking the administration's claim that Democrats in Congress had access to the same prewar Iraq intelligence as the administration, a November 18 Post article watered down the administration's allegation by introducing a qualifier that makes it less clearly false. In the article written by staff writer Michael A. Fletcher, the Post reported that the administration has responded to accusations that it misrepresented prewar intelligence by asserting that congressional Democrats had access to "essentially" the same intelligence upon which the administration was basing its public pronouncements of the Iraqi threat. In fact, the White House has included no such qualifier in its response to critics: From President Bush on down, administration officials have claimed that Democrats had access to "the same" intelligence, not "essentially" the same intelligence.
From the Post article by Fletcher, who also documented the administration's response to the previous Post report:
The White House has argued that Democrats in Congress received essentially the same intelligence it had about weapons of mass destruction, including the caveats about its potential pitfalls. "The reality is that there was a massive intelligence failure in this country," [White House communications director Nicolle] Wallace said.
In fact, the White House has repeatedly claimed that Congress had access to the same intelligence as the administration, not "essentially" the same intelligence. For example, in a November 14 speech, Bush said: "Leaders in my administration and members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same intelligence on Iraq, and reached the same conclusion: Saddam Hussein was a threat." In a November 11 speech, Bush similarly declared that "more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate -- who had access to the same intelligence -- voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power."
Fletcher's report came less than a week after the White House went on the offensive against the November 12 Post article, which reported that the White House claim that "Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war" was not "wholly accurate." In that front-page article, the Post noted that "Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material." The next day, the White House countered with its memo, titled "Setting the Record Straight: The Washington Post On Pre-War Intelligence."
The Fletcher article did note the November 12 Post article and the White House's response, but that paragraph -- which immediately followed the paragraph reporting that the White House has accused Democrats of seeing "essentially" the same intelligence -- did not include the qualifier:
Meanwhile, the White House is letting few provocations pass unnoticed. Among its official rebuttals was one regarding a Nov. 12 Washington Post article which asserted that it is not "wholly accurate" for the administration to say that members of Congress had access to the same prewar intelligence as Bush.