NBC, L.A. Times, Gannett labeled House report "bipartisan," but most of it was written by Republicans

››› ››› ROB DIETZ

Various print and television news outlets discussing a House report of U.S. intelligence on Iran characterized the report as "bipartisan" without noting that it was primarily written by Republican staff members and came under criticism from House Democrats.

Reporting on the House Subcommittee on Intelligence Policy's report of U.S. intelligence on Iran, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, Los Angeles Times staff writer Peter Spiegel, and a Gannett News Service wire story all characterized the subcommittee's report as "bipartisan," without noting that it was primarily written by Republican staff members and came under criticism from House Democrats. An August 24 Wall Street Journal editorial warning of the Iranian threat also referred to the report as "bipartisan." While news reports by CNN's Live Today and ABC's World News with Charles Gibson did not label the report as "bipartisan," they also omitted any mention of the report's Republican origins.

By contrast, The Washington Post noted on August 24 that the report was "principally written by a Republican staff member on the House intelligence committee who holds a hard-line view on Iran, fully backs the White House position that the Islamic republic is moving forward with a nuclear weapons program and that it poses a significant danger to the United States." And an August 24 New York Times article titled "Some in G.O.P. Say Iran Threat Is Played Down" noted that the report "was written primarily by Republican staff members on the committee, and privately some Democrats criticized the report for using innuendo and unsubstantiated assertions to inflate the threat that Iran posed to the United States." Furthermore, the Times article reported that "[s]ome senior Bush administration officials and top Republican lawmakers are voicing anger that American spy agencies have not issued more ominous warnings about the threats that they say Iran presents to the United States." The article added: "Some veterans of the intelligence battles that preceded the Iraq war see the debate as familiar and are critical of efforts to create hard links based on murky intelligence."

According to the Post:

Jamal Ware, spokesman for the House intelligence committee, said three staff members wrote the report, but he did not dispute that the principal author was Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA officer who had been a special assistant to John R. Bolton, the administration's former point man on Iran at the State Department. Bolton had been highly influential in the crafting of a tough policy that rejected talks with Tehran.

The Post noted that the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Rush D. Holt (NJ), "said he agreed to forward it to the full committee because it highlights the difficulties in gathering intelligence on Iran. But he added that the report was not 'prepared and reviewed in a way that we can rely on.' "

The subcommittee report claimed to provide "an unclassified assessment of the Iran question to help the American public understand the seriousness of the Iranian threat."

From the August 23 edition of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:

WILLIAMS: There is a response tonight officially from the Bush administration to Iran's proposal for ending the standoff over its nuclear program. The U.S. says it will review it, but it seems at this point to fall short. And tonight, a bipartisan House Intelligence Committee report has concluded U.S. intelligence has failed to learn just how close Iran may be to producing a bomb.

From Spiegel's August 24 report in the Los Angeles Times:

Even as the administration sought to portray itself as soberly considering the Iranian response, the House Intelligence Committee issued a report Wednesday emphasizing the potential threat posed by Iran and reiterating U.S. intelligence estimates that Tehran could develop a nuclear weapon sometime in the next decade.

The report raised questions as to whether Iran would live up to any international agreement to suspend its nuclear program, and noted that the U.S. intelligence community might lack the resources and information to verify Tehran's behavior.

"American intelligence agencies do not know nearly enough about Iran's nuclear weapons program," the bipartisan report states.

From an August 24 report by Gannett News Service:

Iran bears significant responsibility for the recent violence in Israel and Lebanon and poses a serious security threat to the United States, according to a staff report released Wednesday by the House Subcommittee on Intelligence Policy.

The U.S. intelligence community must collect more and better intelligence on Iran, especially on its nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs, the 29-page bipartisan report says.

From an August 24 editorial in The Wall Street Journal:

Anyone who still thinks a nuclear-armed Iran won't pose a serious, and perhaps mortal, threat ought to consult this week's bipartisan staff report from the House Intelligence Committee. Drawing on open-source information and mindful of classified background, the report lays out the history of Iranian nuclear deception and its attempts to promote trouble throughout the Middle East. It notes that "Iran probably has an offensive biological weapons program." And it discusses in detail Iran's support for Hezbollah and other terror groups, as well as its continuing support for insurgents who are killing Americans in Iraq.

From a discussion between anchor Charles Gibson and chief White House correspondent Martha Raddatz on the August 23 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

GIBSON: So, there's a go-slow approach for now. One other thing involving Iran. There was a House intelligence report today that was interesting, because it basically said, we, the United States, don't know what's going on in Iran.

RADDATZ: It is a pretty disturbing report, Charlie. It says, specifically, "The United States lacks critical information needed for analysts to make many of their judgments with confidence about Iran, including major gaps in our knowledge of Iranian nuclear, biological and chemical programs." And, of course, that is what this is all about, Charlie, the nuclear program.

GIBSON: All right. Martha Raddatz reporting tonight from the White House.

From the August 24 edition of CNN's Live Today:

BRIAN TODD (CNN correspondent): From key intelligence leaders in Congress, new warnings on Iran. While the regime weighs incentive packages and a deadline for suspending nuclear enrichment, they say, Tehran is also playing a familiar and dangerous game.

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI): It's beyond a shadow of doubt for me that they are trying to stall for more time to continue their uranium enrichment and the building of their nuclear program.

TODD: Congressman Mike Rogers says Western leaders have been duped by Iranian diplomacy for the past three years. Rogers is a key player in House Intelligence Committee's new report on Iran's strategic threat to the U.S. and its allies.

ROGERS: These folks are absolutely up to no good. They're developing ballistic missiles. They're developing and trying to enrich uranium. They have chemical and biological weapons programs.

TODD: Information that's not new but does raise new questions about Iran's intentions at this crucial moment in diplomacy.

For instance, the report says the regime has produced enough of a compound called uranium hexafluoride to produce 12 nuclear bombs if it's enriched to weapons grade. Still, U.S. intelligence leaders and outside experts have repeatedly said Iran likely won't be able to produce a nuclear weapon for at least four years.

Ready now? A delivery system for any nuclear weapon, what the report calls the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. A capability that experts say is rapidly being developed further.

JOHN PIKE (director of GlobalSecurity.org): The Shahab-3, which is currently operational, has a range of 2,000 kilometers, can get to Israel. The Shahab-4, twice the range, 4,000 kilometers, can get to much of western Europe. The Shahab-5, also under development, could get all of the way to the United States, but they're years away from having that capability.

TODD: Between four and 10 years for those two longer-range missiles, according to John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org.

After repeated calls and emails, a top Iranian official at the United Nations told us he needed more time to study the House Intelligence Committee report, but he refuted the accusation that Iran is stalling for time on the nuclear issue, and he said his government is ready to begin negotiations at any time.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

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