What Fresh Hell Is This?

May 13, 2013

Fact-Checking Ruth Ann...And Her Tweets

In what I suppose is supposed to be a humorous satire on our twitter-infested political conversation, my friend and P-G columnist Ruth Ann Dailey makes a few, shall we say, mistakes of a factual nature.

Take a look:
The Benghazi story broke out of its Fox News ghetto last week as mainstream media biggies decided, months after it was fairly obvious, that the Obama administration had lied -- lied! -- about the tragic event.

Newly released emails show that White House and State Department officials extensively edited the "talking points" (TPs) provided to Congress and to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, insisting on removing from the CIA's original memo any reference to al-Qaida, its affiliates and previous attacks on "foreign interests" in Benghazi. Apparently, renewed terrorist attacks might not have gone over very well during the presidential campaign.

But, as Tommy Vietor, a former National Security Council spokesman, tweeted Friday: "The #Benghazi TPs were written at request of the House intel committee Rs so they could go on TV. Cong forced admin to do them now attack."

You follow? "By requesting information on the murders of four Americans, Republicans ("Rs") forced us to invent things to cover our political backsides! Then these snakes object to our lies!"
Let's start at Ruth Ann's first paragraph.  In this column, as you can see, she's talking about those talking points and how the White House "lied" with them.

But we can look back as far as late November, 2012 to see that this is simply untrue:
CBS News has learned that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) cut specific references to "al Qaeda" and "terrorism" from the unclassified talking points given to Ambassador Susan Rice on the Benghazi consulate attack - with the agreement of the CIA and FBI. The White House or State Department did not make those changes. [Emphasis added.]

There has been considerable discussion about who made the changes to the talking points that Rice stuck to in her television appearances on Sept. 16 (video), five days after the attack that killed American Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, and three other U.S. nationals.

Republicans have accused her of making misleading statements by referring to the assault as a "spontaneous" demonstration by extremists. Some have suggested she used the terminology she did for political reasons.
And about those changes - specifically about the removal of any reference to any specific terror organizations - we can turn to the reporting of a few days earlier:
David H. Petreus, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers on Friday that classified intelligence reports revealed that the deadly assault on the American diplomatic mission in Libya was a terrorist attack, but that the administration refrained from saying it suspected that the perpetrators of the attack were Al Qaeda affiliates and sympathizers to avoid tipping off the groups.

Mr. Petraeus, who resigned last week after admitting to an extramarital affair, said the names of groups suspected in the attack — including Al Qaeda’s franchise in North Africa and a local Libyan group, Ansar al-Shariah — were removed from the public explanation of the attack immediately after the assault to avoiding alerting the militants that American intelligence and law enforcement agencies were tracking them, lawmakers said.
A few paragraphs later:
The talking points initially drafted by the C.I.A. attributed the attack to fighters with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the organization’s North Africa franchise, and Ansar al-Shariah, a Libyan group, some of whose members have Al Qaeda ties.

Mr. Petraeus and other top C.I.A. officials signed off on the draft and then circulated it to other intelligence agencies, as well as the State Department and National Security Council.

At some point in the process — Mr. Petraeus told lawmakers he was not sure where — objections were raised to naming the groups, and the less specific word “extremists” was substituted.
But why?
Some intelligence analysts worried, for instance, that identifying the groups could reveal that American spy services were eavesdropping on the militants — a fact most insurgents are already aware of. Justice Department lawyers expressed concern about jeopardizing the F.B.I.’s criminal inquiry in the attacks. Other officials voiced concern that making the names public, at least right away, would create a circular reporting loop and hamper efforts to trail the militants.
Again this is all from last November.  So Ruth Ann, tell me again about the lies?

Especially in light of this 2008 report from CNN:
President Bush and his top aides publicly made 935 false statements about the security risk posed by Iraq in the two years following September 11, 2001, according to a study released Tuesday by two nonprofit journalism groups.

"In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003," reads an overview of the examination, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity and its affiliated group, the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

According to the study, Bush and seven top officials -- including Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice -- made 935 false statements about Iraq during those two years.
For instance, the Center for Public Integrity wrote:
In his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, President Bush said: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

But as early as March 2002, there was uncertainty within the intelligence community regarding the sale of uranium to Iraq. That month, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research published an intelligence assessment titled, "Niger: Sale of Uranium to Iraq Is Unlikely." In July 2002, the Energy Department concluded that there was "no information indicating that any of the uranium shipments arrived in Iraq" and suggested that the "amount of uranium specified far exceeds what Iraq would need even for a robust nuclear weapons program." In August 2002, the Central Intelligence Agency made no mention of the Iraq-Niger connection in a paper on Iraq's WMD capabilities.

Just two weeks before the president's speech, an analyst with the Bureau of Intelligence and Research had sent an e-mail to several other analysts describing why he believed "the uranium purchase agreement probably is a hoax." And in 2006 the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded: "Postwar findings do not support the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) assessment that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake' from Africa. Postwar findings support the assessment in the NIE of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) that claims of Iraqi pursuit of natural uranium in Africa are 'highly dubious.'"
I include this lie because back then, Ruth Ann wrote about how in "political theatre" "the truth rarely matters." Specifically about the unveiling of Valerie Plame:
It didn't matter that her husband Joe Wilson's investigation and subsequent New York Times editorial had actually bolstered the claim of British and Italian intelligence that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy uranium in Niger.
But we already know that that claim was "highly dubious" and that Joe Wilson's investigation did not "bolster" that claim anyway:
In late February 2002, I arrived in Niger's capital, Niamey, where I had been a diplomat in the mid-70's and visited as a National Security Council official in the late 90's. The city was much as I remembered it. Seasonal winds had clogged the air with dust and sand. Through the haze, I could see camel caravans crossing the Niger River (over the John F. Kennedy bridge), the setting sun behind them. Most people had wrapped scarves around their faces to protect against the grit, leaving only their eyes visible.

The next morning, I met with Ambassador Owens-Kirkpatrick at the embassy. For reasons that are understandable, the embassy staff has always kept a close eye on Niger's uranium business. I was not surprised, then, when the ambassador told me that she knew about the allegations of uranium sales to Iraq -- and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington. Nevertheless, she and I agreed that my time would be best spent interviewing people who had been in government when the deal supposedly took place, which was before her arrival.

I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.
You were saying, Ruth Ann?

1 comment:

Heir to the Throne said...

What Youtube video did the Bush Administration blame?