WaPo reporter wishes his name had never been put on “improper but not illegal” pre-Iraq war intelligence story

Remember the WaPo pre-Iraq war intelligence story that was widely reported and discussed last week, the one where they falsely attritubed quotes to the Inspector General that were actually Democratic Senator Carl Levin’s? Just to recap, here’s how the correction read (emphasis added):

A Feb. 9 front-page article about the Pentagon inspector general’s report regarding the office of former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith incorrectly attributed quotations to that report. References to Feith’s office producing “reporting of dubious quality or reliability” and that the office “was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda” were from a report issued by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) in Oct. 2004. Similarly, the quotes stating that Feith’s office drew on “both reliable and unreliable reporting” to produce a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq “that was much stronger than that assessed by the IC [Intelligence Community] and more in accord with the policy views of senior officials in the Administration” were also from Levin’s report. The article also stated that the intelligence provided by Feith’s office supported the political views of senior administration officials, a conclusion that the inspector general’s report did not draw.The two reports employ similar language to characterize the activities of Feith’s office: Levin’s report refers to an “alternative intelligence assessment process” developed in that office, while the inspector general’s report states that the office “developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al Qaida relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers.” The inspector general’s report further states that Feith’s briefing to the White House in 2002 “undercuts the Intelligence Community” and “did draw conclusions that were not fully supported by the available intelligence.”

IOW, the story was spun like a top, hyped and sensationalized thanks to morphing a Democratic Senator’s comments about a Republican policy on to an ‘impartial’ inspector general.

The story has now proven so embarassing for the Washington Post that one of the writers, R. Jeffrey Smith, wishes his name had never been put on the story.

In that same Powerline post, John Hinderaker writes:

So someone– [Walter] Pincus is an obvious candidate–had the two-page public portion of the IG report, and also had an accurate account thereof, but nevertheless managed to misrepresent the report’s contents to make it look more critical of Feith’s group than it actually was. Is there any possible explanation for that “egregious” and “astonish[ing]” error, other than a political agenda that trumps all else?


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