Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 1, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

NEWSWEEKLY WATCH....Having screwed the pooch last week by ignoring John Kerry's stunning Iowa victory in favor of a feature story about high drug prices, Time magazine is forced this week to screw the pooch yet again by putting Kerry on the cover and ignoring the stunning news about David Kay's WMD revelations. Good news judgment, guys.

And to make it worse, they apparently resorted to one of the most annoying campaign tropes around, the black-and-white photo essay designed to demonstrate gritty, photojournalistic integrity. Give me a break. (I say "apparently" because the wizards at Time-Warner recently decided to put their stories behind a subscription barrier, so I can't see the rest of the photos. Or the story.)

Newsweek, on the other hand, has a great cover this week, don't you think? What's more, they also have a story that I can actually read. It includes this interesting tidbit about two panels that were convened in 1998:

The first panel was an independent group of a half-dozen members, most of them distinguished scientists, called the Arms Control & Non-Proliferation Advisory Board. One of ACNAB's pursuits was to examine what was known about Iraq's weapons programs. Panel members got access to CIA materials, and were able to quiz the analysts. What they found, according to three members reached by Newsweek, was that the CIA's intel on Iraqi WMD was largely speculative. "There were suspicions, hints, but nothing hard," says one member. "The agency analysts' basic argument was: 'Saddam must be hiding something, or why would he be putting his people through all this?' " The absence of hard evidence was so striking, in fact, that panel members recall discussing "the Wizard of Oz theory: that the whole Iraq WMD program was smoke-and-mirrors, and Saddam was just a little guy behind a curtain."

Donald Rumsfeld himself led the second such investigation of Iraq's weapons program that year. The brief of his congressionally appointed commission was to assess the potential ballistic-missile threat to the United States from hostile powers. What is not generally known about Rumsfeld's commission is that it also reviewed current intelligence about the WMD various countries might be able to pack in their warheads. "The commission's findings on Iraq's WMD didn't materially differ from what ACNAB had concluded," says a panel member familiar with both reports.

The rest of the story doesn't really have anything new for readers of this site, but it does a good job of summarizing what we know so far and treats both the intelligence deficiencies and the White House's misuse of that intelligence pretty evenhandedly. Worth reading.

Kevin Drum 5:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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