September 27, 2006

Weak Leak Soup, Ctd: Evolution of a Punk Job

Hatched by Dafydd

I was going to put a post up here noting that the president saw fit Tuesday to declassify the "key judgments" of the National Intelligence Estimate from April (the one we discussed here too early Tuesday morn, before the announcement). If you'll recall, on Saturday, the New York Times published a story that claimed -- falsely, we now discover -- that the NIE concluded that the Iraq War had "worsened" the threat from terrorism:

A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

But when the document itself was released Tuesday, it turns out the key findings were far more mixed and balanced; and nowhere did the NIE say that the Iraq War had made terrorism worse: to use the phrase Hugh Hewitt used all afternoon, the Times got punked. Its sources sold it a bill of goods; and like the Sy Hersh travesty on Abu Ghraib, its reputation (heh) lies in tatters. Tatters.

So the MSM came out swinging, here, here, and here: with grim determination, as soon as the document was made available by the NID, they slapped up their stories saying: it confirms eveything we said before! Don't look! Just take our word for it! We wouldn't lie to you 365 days in a single year, would we? (They're nothing if not persistent!)

So I was going to write a post quoting from AP, Reuters, and the New York Tombs, then quoting from the NIE itself, to make them all look like the farkakte macacas they are. Alas, I spent too long on my hobby of painting extra zeros on all my $10 bills... and you-know-who slithered in ahead of me, posting exactly the article that I was going to post (except mine would have been better; no, really). If only I posted it. Or wrote it. Or came out of my digestive torpor soon enough.

So I'm just posting to let you know I won't be posting on this topic. I think, where one's friends are concerned, it's only polite to keep them apprised of one's good intentions, for future reference.

Well... maybe just a little. This is a brief sketch of what I might have said, if I'd said anything (which I didn't, and I'm not).

Prior to the release, the elite media tried to play the Sy Hersh game of creatively (and tendentiously) misinterpreting classified intelligence someone leaked to them, confident that the "secretive" Bush administration would never dare declassify and release it... thus proving them liars. When Bush double-crossed them, they found themselves like a Wile E. Coyote, when he runs off a cliff but doesn't fall... until he looks down.

For God's sake, don't look down! The MSM's instinctive reaction was to double-down and pretend that the law of gravity had indeed been repealed. Here is how AP began their first story after the publication of the NIE showed the entire world that they had relied upon sources who lied to them (the first link in the "so the MSM came out swinging" paragraph above); this was from late Tuesday morning, shortly after the release:

The war in Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists, breeding deep resentment of the U.S. that probably will get worse before it gets better, federal intelligence analysts conclude in a report at odds with President Bush's portrayal of a world growing safer.

In the bleak report, declassified and released Tuesday on Bush's orders, the nation's most veteran analysts conclude that despite serious damage to the leadership of al-Qaida, the threat from Islamic extremists has spread both in numbers and in geographic reach.

Bush and his top advisers have said the formerly classified assessment of global terrorism supported their arguments that the world is safer because of the war. But more than three pages of stark judgments warning about the spread of terrorism contrasted with the administration's glass-half-full declarations.

Note the specific word "bleak," which they used in their story before the release. In fact, this by and large is the same story they ran before the release; all they did was pop the hood and install an aftermarket clause noting that the report had been "declassified and released."

Don't look down!

By early Wednesday, the AP had added a bit more to their article, softening the hard line that the full document completely vindicated their clumsy hit job:

White House release of a previously secret intelligence assessment depicting a growing terrorist threat gives both political parties new ammunition in the election-season fight over the Iraq war.

For Republicans, the excerpts of the document - declassified under orders from President Bush on Tuesday - are more evidence that Iraq is central to the war on terrorism and can't be abandoned without giving jihadists a crucial victory.

For Democrats, the report furthers their argument that the 2003 Iraq invasion has inflamed anti-U.S. sentiments in the Muslim world and left the U.S. less safe.

In a bleak National Intelligence Estimate, the government's top analysts concluded Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for jihadists, who are growing in number and geographic reach. If the trend continues, the analysts found, the risks to the U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.

For the first time, AP recognized that there were points on the side of those supporting the Iraq War; but they refused to get all radical on us and actually quote any of those findings. That would have been asking too much.

And note that the NIE is still characterized as "bleak," which is interesting; throughout these permutations, they cling to that word as a liferaft... despite the fact that it never appears in the NIE key conclusions themselves, and the fact -- easily ascertainable by reading them -- that they present a picture that is neither bleak nor rosey but simply a list of challenges and assessments.

Later on Wednesday afternoon, AP put up this story -- still written by the same reporter, Katherine Shrader. It begins thus:

The White House refused Wednesday to release the rest of a secret intelligence assessment that depicts a growing terrorist threat, as the Bush administration tried to quell election-season criticism that its anti-terror policies are seriously off track.

Note the counterattack; AP begins to lay the groundwork here for an infamous argument made popular in the days of bulletin-board systems: the lurkers support me in e-mail. (I think it even became a "filk song" -- not a typo.) That is, the Bush administration is suppressing secret evidence that would actually prove we were right all along. Over the next few days (or weeks), this argument will take shape within other branches of the Democratic Party besides the antique media:

Oh, sure, the portion that Bush chose to release doesn't explicitly say that the Iraq War was a fiasco that made the world more dangerous for America... that part is in the sections he deliberately chose to leave classified! We demand he release every section, every paragraph, every line -- including the names of all the sources, all the top-secret intel we got from foreign spy agencies, and the names of every intelligence analyst who worked on this report... and if Bush refuses, then you know he's got something he's still hiding!

After a few paragraphs wasted arguing with Tony Snow over the release of the really heavily classified portions of the report, AP continues:

In the bleak National Intelligence Estimate, the government's top analysts concluded Iraq has become a "cause celebre" for jihadists, who are growing in number and geographic reach. If the trend continues, the analysts found, the risks to the U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.

Peppered with questions Wednesday about the report, he [Snow, we presume] said the NIE report was "not designed to draw judgments about success or failure, it's an intelligence document, it's a snapshot."

Snow said the report confirms the importance of the war in Iraq as a bulwark against terrorists. "Iraq has become, for them, the battleground," he said. "If they lose, they lose their bragging rights. They lose their ability to recruit."

He said that a bleak intelligence assessment depicting a growing terrorist threat was only a "snapshot" - not a conclusion

The last line I quote above is especially illuminating; no, I didn't accidentally cut off the period; it's missing in the original. It's clearly an editing mistake; she rewrote the line and separated "bleak" and "snapshot" onto two different lines, then forgot to go back and erase the original (so much for the vaunted "multiple layers of editing!") But note how important it was for Shrader, hence AP, to keep that word "bleak" prominently in the story. She was only dithering whether to place it lower or higher -- and she chose the latter.

AP picks up the Tony Snow argument again:

"The American people deserve the full story, not those parts of it that the Bush administration selects," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, warned, however, that releasing more of the intelligence assessment could aid terrorists. "We are very cautious and very restrained about the kind of information we want to give al-Qaida," Hoekstra said....

A separate high-level assessment focused solely on Iraq may be coming soon. At least two House Democrats - Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Rep. Jane Harman of California - have questioned whether that report has been stamped "draft" and shelved until after the Nov. 7 elections.

An intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the process, said National Intelligence Director John Negroponte told lawmakers in writing only one month ago that he ordered a new Iraq estimate to be assembled. The estimate on terrorism released Tuesday took about a year to produce.

AP rejects that obviously concocted explanation that an intelligence assessment might take longer than a month to prepare; it's patently obvious to Ms. Shrader that this is just a dodge to avoid releasing a report that would completely vindicate her -- oops, I mean vindicate the Associated Press -- along with the happy side-effect of bringing about the downfall, ah, defeat of the Republicans in the 2006 election. (Secret evidence that would support me...)

It ends with a couple of rollicking quotes from Joe Biden (D-DE, 100%) and John D. Rockefeller (D-WV, 100%), savaging the president and the war without allowing supporters to confuse matters by participating in the discussion. And once again, AP does not quote those paragraphs that actually make Bush's case about the war -- the complete quotation from which the snippet "cause celebre" was cherry-picked:

We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

  • The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

By contrast, here is how the Iraq War's effect was described in the original New York Times story about it that was published when the elite media still thought the NIE would remain forever classified and uncheckable:

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.

Clearly, the Times' source is describing an earlier section before the "key judgments" that come later; but equally clearly, that earlier section cannot have concluded that "the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse," as the anonymous source smirked; because if it had, then the corresponding key judgment would not have been so supportive of continued fighting in Iraq.

At worst, the early sections might have quoted one official saying such a thing (possibly Jay "100%" Rockefeller). But that is why we don't release the entire NIE: it's like a packet of court filings that contain arguments from both the plaintiff's attorney and the defendant's attorney... you can't just grab a claim from one and act as if it's been proven in court.

If there were such an assessment by one specific person -- and we don't even know that much -- clearly it was not accepted in the final analysis, not even for a candid document that none of the principals thought would ever be released.

So far, most of the mainstream news stories about the released NIE have shied away from quoting this paragraph in full... likely because it so clearly argues the case for the Bush policy: if, at the end of the day, the jihadis are seen to be winner in Iraq, they will be emboldened and their recuitment will soar; contrariwise, if they are seen as failures -- if Iraq remains as a democratic state in control of its own destiny, rather than a Somalia-like failed state full of terrorist training camps -- then the jihadis will suffer a terrible blow, and their recruitment will drop off.

So the real conclusion of the NIE anent Iraq is that we must win at any cost; cutting and running is not a viable option, no matter what Joe Biden and Jay Rockefeller -- or Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francsico, 95%) and John Murtha (D-PA, 75%) -- say.

Eventually, the media will be forced to admit this; it's been widely quoted in blogs and on the radio, and even in a few television programs. It's possible they've already snuck it into a few stories, buried deep.

But it won't help: they've been exposed, as Hersh was, not only as rampant partisans... but as DNC house organs so partisan they're willing, even eager, to lie, or at least pass along lies in reckless disregard for the truth, to further the political ambitions of their Democratic friends in Congress.

In Othello, the Moor of Venice, Shakespeare wrote:

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

How much poorer then is a person, an entire organization, that throws its own century-old reputation into the sewer, merely to help elect its favored party into power?

I actually feel sorry for them. What must it be like to live behind those eyes?

Anyway, that's more or less what I would have written. Except I'm not going to post on this topic.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 27, 2006, at the time of 3:10 PM

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The following hissed in response by: ShoreMark

Since they've moved E.D. Hill off of "Fox and Friends," I've been surfing past CBS, NBC, and ABC in the mornings this week. The spin this morning was even more amazing than usual.

I guess it always is, but I'd not seen it for quite some time. I'm going to have to get used to E.D. being missing or adopt a radio show in the AM instead of TV.

The above hissed in response by: ShoreMark [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 27, 2006 4:24 PM

The following hissed in response by: Nuclear Siafu

Meh. I've lost count of how many times the editorialists in the MSM have bitten themselves in the face. They've grown pretty accustomed to shaking off the venom of their own bite.

Still, a good non-post. Your non-existent non-arguments are as nonconvincing as ever.

The above hissed in response by: Nuclear Siafu [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 27, 2006 6:33 PM

The following hissed in response by: MTF

How much poorer then is a person, an entire organization, that throws its own century-old reputation into the sewer, merely to help elect its favored party into power?

An already accomplished fact!

The NYT and it's fellow travelers have every right to support the Democratic party and it's candidates. The infuriating things are that they maintain the patently false pretence of "impartiality"-- nobody likes being so obviously gamed-- and the fact there is no opposing voice among the national print news organizations. This represents a huge opportunity for some enterprising newspaper man, or at least it should!

The newspaper industry keeps telling the world it's in a world of economic hurt, but they always say that fact is mostly due to "new media" challenges. While CNN tanks, MSNBC sinks into anonymity and NBC/CBS/ABC move to "Access Hollywood" type programming in their news divisions, Fox News is wildly successful. The lefty news crowd won't recognize the one reason why this is true: very few people like the leftist agenda driven news presentation. The citizenry want an alternative.

Establishment MSM may be dying financially, but the cause isn't as clear because there isn't a national newspaper equivalent to FOX. The WSJ is just as wildly liberal as the NYT, outside of the editorial page, so you can't count them. If only there was a national version of the NY Sun (with good coverage of baseball)!

The above hissed in response by: MTF [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 28, 2006 8:22 AM

The following hissed in response by: Big D

I'm so glad you chose not to post on this topic.

If I had chose to comment on your non-post, I would have noted the feckless use by the media of the term "excerpts of the document". This implies, does it not, that what was released was cherry-picked? Not the whole story? Random bits and pieces designed to support the administration's position?

Of course, what was released was the key findings section of the report. Calling it an "excerpt" hardly does it justice.

The real comedy is the MSM taking cherry picked excerpts of the material released for use in their articles on the topic. Gotta love the hypocrisy there.

Oh man, an inspiration just hit me. Why doesn't the MSM just print the text of what was released? Then, why, we could all decide for ourselves whether the assessment is bleak or not. Wouldn't that be fair and balanced? It would also be a lot less work for the that poor AP reporter, trying to find the proper place to put the word "bleak".

The above hissed in response by: Big D [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 28, 2006 10:18 AM

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