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Monday, October 04, 2004

NYT Furtively Criticizes Self


In Sunday's 10,000-word indictment of the Bush administration's misuse of prewar intelligence on Iraq's nuclear capabilities, The New York Times did not spare itself in apportioning blame in the fateful rush to war. Readers had to dig deep into the massive story, and understand some of the subtleties in the self-criticism, but it was there.


The first hint of self-criticism in the Times article comes just past the midway point, when the writers observe that on Sept. 8, 2002, the top article on page one of their newspaper "gave the first detailed account of the aluminum tubes. The article cited unidentified senior administration officials who insisted that the dimensions, specifications and numbers of tubes sought showed that they were intended for a nuclear weapons program."


Today's Times story dryly observes: "The article gave no hint of a debate over the tubes," adding, "The White House did much to increase the impact of The Times article."


Today, however, the Times revealed that the vast majority of scientists and nuclear experts at the Energy Department's labs, in fact, disagreed with the CIA assessment. [...]

Finally, much later in today's story, the reporters note that their paper, on January 10, 2003, reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency was challenging the "key piece of evidence" behind "the primary rationale for going to war." The article, the paper said, in passing, appeared on Page A10.

When Daniel Okrent solicited suggestions for a new type of correction last week, I don't imagine anyone chimed in with the Where's-Waldo sorta-culpa.