Media largely ignore ex-CIA official's disclosure that White House dismissed contrary prewar intelligence on Iraq's WMD

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

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 the April 23 edition of CBS' 60 Minutes, former high-ranking CIA official Tyler Drumheller offered first-hand evidence that, months before the United States invaded Iraq, 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 -- with the exception of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann and several brief wire articles -- entirely ignored the story.

In a segment titled, "A Spy Speaks Out," 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley spoke with Drumheller, who recently retired after 26 years in the CIA, most recently as the chief of the agency's European operations. Drumheller disclosed that, more than six months before the Iraq invasion, Naji Sabri Ahmad Al-Hadithi, Saddam's foreign affairs minister, agreed to provide the CIA with Iraqi military secrets. According to Drumheller, when then-CIA director George Tenet personally shared the news with Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and then-National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice, "they were excited that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis." Sabri subsequently informed intelligence officials that Saddam "had no active weapons of mass destruction program." But when the White House learned of Sabri's disclosure in September 2002, "[t]hey stopped being interested in the intelligence." Drumheller further recounted the administration's reaction: "The group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they're no longer interested. And we said, 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said, 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.' "

The 60 Minutes report is the latest in a string of explosive disclosures concerning the Bush administration's apparent cherry-picking of prewar intelligence. But as with previous damaging disclosures regarding the White House's actions in the buildup to the war, major news outlets largely ignored it.

Media Matters for America examined cable and network news coverage on April 24 (from 6 a.m. ET to midnight) and April 25 (from 6 a.m. to midnight) and also looked at newspaper and wire coverage for mentions of the 60 Minutes report. Following are the results of this survey:

  • None of the three major networks reported on the story on either their morning shows or evening news broadcasts. (Remarkably, this included CBS, the network that originally aired Drumheller's disclosure.)
  • While CNN.com ran an April 23 article on the 60 Minutes interview, CNN and Fox News have yet to mention the story on the air. The April 24 edition of Countdown with Keith Olbermann included MSNBC's only report on the story. Drumheller, however, is scheduled to appear on the April 25 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews.
  • The New York Times published an April 22 article on the Drumheller interview, based on partial transcripts released by CBS. But no major newspaper -- on either April 23, 24, or 25 -- printed an additional article on the story.
  • Both the Associated Press and United Press International published brief April 23 articles on Drumheller's revelations before his 60 Minutes interview aired on CBS. UPI ran a subsequent article on April 24. These represent the only wire reports on Drumheller's disclosure.
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