The case of the WaPo whopper

Prepare yourself this morning for a fresh deluge of postings and assertions from the anti-war left who are screaming once again “BUSH LIED!!!!!!!!!!!” after referencing the following Washington Post article, the headline of which reads:

Lacking Biolabs, Trailers Carried Case for War
Administration Pushed Notion of Banned Iraqi Weapons Despite Evidence to Contrary

The first few paragraphs of the four page story tell us:

On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile “biological laboratories.” He declared, “We have found the weapons of mass destruction.”

The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq — not made public until now — had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president’s statement.

The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were stamped “secret” and shelved. Meanwhile, for nearly a year, administration and intelligence officials continued to publicly assert that the trailers were weapons factories.

The authors of the reports were nine U.S. and British civilian experts — scientists and engineers with extensive experience in all the technical fields involved in making bioweapons — who were dispatched to Baghdad by the Defense Intelligence Agency for an analysis of the trailers. Their actions and findings were described to a Washington Post reporter in interviews with six government officials and weapons experts who participated in the mission or had direct knowledge of it.

Bush lied!!!!!! Right? Wrong. If you continue on reading the piece, you’ll note the following:

Spokesmen for the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency declined to comment on the specific findings of the technical report because it remains classified. A spokesman for the DIA asserted that the team’s findings were neither ignored nor suppressed, but were incorporated in the work of the Iraqi Survey Group, which led the official search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The survey group’s final report in September 2004 — 15 months after the technical report was written — said the trailers were “impractical” for biological weapons production and were “almost certainly intended” for manufacturing hydrogen for weather balloons. “Whether the information was offered to others in the political realm I cannot say” said the DIA official, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.

Intelligence analysts involved in high-level discussions about the trailers noted that the technical team was among several groups that analyzed the suspected mobile labs throughout the spring and summer of 2003. Two teams of military experts who viewed the trailers soon after their discovery concluded that the facilities were weapons labs, a finding that strongly influenced views of intelligence officials in Washington, the analysts said. “It was hotly debated, and there were experts making arguments on both sides” said one former senior official who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.

The technical team’s findings had no apparent impact on the intelligence agencies’ public statements on the trailers. A day after the team’s report was transmitted to Washington — May 28, 2003 — the CIA publicly released its first formal assessment of the trailers, reflecting the views of its Washington analysts. That white paper, which also bore the DIA seal, contended that U.S. officials were “confident” that the trailers were used for “mobile biological weapons production.”

I conclude that the headline and the opening paragraphs are willful misrepresentations of the facts as reported by the WaPo.

Furthermore, isn’t it mildly ironic that a piece that discusses “allegations that intelligence was hyped or manipulated in the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003” has done a bang up job hyping and manipulating the intelligence themselves for this ‘story’?

Hat tip: Confederate Yankee, who is all over this story.

Read more via Captain Ed, Riehl World View, Junkyard Blog, James Joyner

PM Update I: Seixon (bookmark him!) absolutely slams the WaPo piece in a post called “Hydrogen Warfare” (hat tip AJ Strata). Lorie Byrd ponders what it feels like to be President Bush everyday.

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