Monday, October 04, 2004

October Surprise? NY Times edition

On Sunday, the NY Times ran a front-page 10,000 word story about how the Administration and Congress dealt with murky intelligence analyses of certain aluminum tubes Iraq had ordered:
In 2002, at a crucial juncture on the path to war, senior members of the Bush administration gave a series of speeches and interviews in which they asserted that Saddam Hussein was rebuilding his nuclear weapons program. Speaking to a group of Wyoming Republicans in September, Vice President Dick Cheney said the United States now had "irrefutable evidence" - thousands of tubes made of high-strength aluminum, tubes that the Bush administration said were destined for clandestine Iraqi uranium centrifuges, before some were seized at the behest of the United States.
Condoleeza Rice got to spend her Sunday on the TV talk show circuit, defending the Administration (NY Times, ABC, CNN). The NY Times ran a follow-up piece today with the Kerry campaign's POV.

As you might imagine, blogdom has been all over the story. Captain's Quarters has a long memory and points out that the story isn't exactly news:

NY Times Reruns The Golden Oldies

Tomorrow's New York Times runs a 10,000-word article about prewar intelligence on Iraq's nuclear program being called a "smoking gun", "persuasive", with predictions of "significant impact". I agree, although not on the Bush campaign, as Barry Ritholtz suggests. I believe it will have significant impact on the New York Times, because as Tom Maguire and CQ reader Michael K note, the Washington Post ran an article fourteen months ago that tells the exact same story.

At issue is the national-security assessment of aluminum tubes sought by Saddam Hussein in 2000 from China. The administration determined that the type and size of the tubes indicated that they were to be used in a nuclear centrifuge. Now we know that was not the case, especially after the testimony and evidence of Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, but at the time the West had not been in Iraq for two years and had little information on the state of Saddam's programs. The Times article suggests that the Bush Administration deliberately chose the worst-case scenario rather than the more likely explanation that the tubes were meant for rocket production.

Little Green Footballs ties this story to one that CBS decided not to run with:

Given that CBS News was about to run a piece on the very same subject (a piece they suddenly canceled), I question the timing of this overheated report at the New York Times—released a month before the election (and on a Saturday) and (strangely enough!) right after what would have been the first blow by CBS: How the White House Embraced Disputed Iraqi Arms Intelligence. (Hat tip: NC.)

Don’t forget: less than a week ago, the former head of Iraq’s nuclear program told the very same newspaper that he could have reconstituted the program within months if Saddam gave the word: Saddam, the Bomb and Me.

David Limbaugh wonders about their motives (Hat tip Polipundit):
If the New York Times isn't openly trying to influence the presidential election beyond it's [sic] editorial page could someone please explain why it had a 10,000 word, front page story curiously timed just as John Kerry is supposedly enjoying some post-debate bounce, indicting the Bush administration for ignoring evidence that certain aluminum tubes were likely for rockets rather than nukes? Who is regulating this big fat 527 anyway?
Hmmmmmmmmmm. Of course, the press is specifically exempt from 527 rules. Meanwhile, Editor & Publisher notes In Its Critique of Rush to War, 'N.Y. Times' Does Not Spare Itself (emphasis added):
Sunday's article ends with a damning indictment of Secretary of State Powell for giving credibility to the aluminum tube theory in his speech before the United Nations on February 5, 2003. It does not mention, however, that the Times, like most major newspapers, did not at the time dispute Powell's assertions. As the paper concludes today's story, "Six weeks later, the war began."