Fitzgerald issues a correction

Via Byron York at NRO:

An embarrassing move this afternoon from CIA leak prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. In his now-famous court filing in which he said that former Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby testified that he had been authorized to leak portions of the then-classified National Intelligence Estimate, Fitzgerald wrote, “Defendant understood that he was to tell [New York Times reporter Judith] Miller, among other things, that a key judgment of the NIE held that Iraq was ‘vigorously trying to procure’ uranium.”

That sentence led a number of reporters and commentators to suggest that, beyond the issue of the leak itself, the administration was lying about the NIE, because the African uranium segment was not in fact among the NIE’s key judgments. For example, in a front page story on Sunday, the Washington Post reported:

At Cheney’s instruction, Libby testified, he told Miller that the uranium story was a “key judgment” of the intelligence estimate, a term of art indicating there was consensus on a question of central importance.

In fact, the alleged effort to buy uranium was not among the estimate’s key judgments, which were identified by a headline and bold type and set out in bullet form in the first five pages of the 96-page document.

A few hours ago, however, Fitzgerald sent a letter to judge Reggie Walton, asking to correct his filing. The letter reads:

We are writing to correct a sentence from the Government’s Response to Defendant’s Third Motion to Compel Discovery, filed on April 5, 2006. The sentence, which is the second sentence of the second paragraph on page 23, reads, ‘Defendant understood that he was to tell Miller, among other things, that a key judgment of the NIE held that Iraq was ‘vigorously trying to procure’ uranium.” That sentence should read, “Defendant understood that he was to tell Miller, among other things, some of the key judgments of the NIE, and that the NIE stated that Iraq was ‘vigorously trying to procure’ uranium.”

Here’s the direct link to the WaPo story on Fitz’s correction.

Hat tip: Stephen Spruiell, who adds:

Every story. Every story in which reporters picked up this mistaken sentence and used it to imply that Bush and Cheney told Libby to lie to the press — and that’s a lot of stories because, smelling blood, almost every major political reporter piled on — every story needs to have a correction appended for the historical record. It doesn’t matter that the reporters were given mistaken information, because this is the danger when you play games with semantics.

Even if Fitzgerald had never corrected the record, the reporting was wrong. The key judgments section of the NIE may not have included the specific words, “vigorously trying to procure uranium,” but they did include the sentence, “Although we assess that Saddam does not yet have nuclear weapons or sufficient material to make any, he remains intent on acquiring them,” and as Bob Somerby has pointed out, if “sufficient material” means “uranium,” then one of the key judgments was that Saddam was hellbent to get his hands on some.

But now that Fitzgerald has gone and made it official, let’s see some corrections. The Washington Post can start with this article. The New York Times can do this one. And Knight Ridder can start with this story, which might as well have Joseph Wilson as a co-byline.

Indeed.

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