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Wednesday, June 23, 2004
An Example of Irresponsible Journalism

By Steven Taylor @ 3:48 pm

I meant to comment on this earlier, but didn’t get around to it. Bill Safire’s column from Monday points out something that was not clear in the reporting last week on the “no al Qaeda ties” meme: The Zelikow Report

“Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie” went the Times headline. “Al Qaeda-Hussein Link Is Dismissed” front-paged The Washington Post. The A.P. led with the thrilling words “Bluntly contradicting the Bush Administration, the commission. . . .” This understandably caused my editorial-page colleagues to draw the conclusion that “there was never any evidence of a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. . . .”

All wrong. The basis for the hoo-ha was not a judgment of the panel of commissioners appointed to investigate the 9/11 attacks. As reporters noted below the headlines, it was an interim report of the commission’s runaway staff, headed by the ex-N.S.C. aide Philip Zelikow.

Setting aside the “runaway staff” quip, it is significant that the memo that caused all that buzz last week was not the work of the entire Commission, but rather was a staff memo with interim conclusions. However, this was not the way the info was reported. Instead, it was presented, writ large, as a conclusion of the Commission itself.

Not only was the initial reporting of the contents of the memo skewed (it was reported by many as simply “commission finds no ties between al Qaeda and Saddam” instead of noting that the specific issue was 911 ties), but the authority of the memo was inflated, to say the least.

Filed under: War on Terror

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3 Comments

  1. Well, my whole deal w/ the 9/11 findings was that Bush never said Saddam was linked to 9/11. With the new evidence, it appears that he may have been.

    Regardless, I made a post on my site about reporters spinning this way out of control (and they did, I also made this post minutes after the 9/11 panel came out).

    They are so predictable. (the media that is)

    Comment by MJG — Wednesday, June 23, 2004 @ 3:56 pm

  2. Regardless of what Bush did do, didn’t do, said, or didn’t say, this report was spun for a specific political purpose. It was NOT the commision’s word. That fact was readily apparent the day it was released. This is a very good example of the media bias so many talk about (Also see the article on Kerry’s attempt at voting in the Senate. If that’s not bias, I’m a four-legged fifferfur.)

    Comment by misterhung — Wednesday, June 23, 2004 @ 9:03 pm

  3. I’m really unfamiliar with the process on these things, but is it normal protocol to get preliminary staff reports before you get a full commission report? It seems to me that staff reports would be for the commission members to see, digest and then synthesize into a full report.

    What we have with the 9/11 commission is a bunch of indians running around spouting off without knowledge of the chiefs.

    maybe that’s normal.

    Comment by bryan — Wednesday, June 23, 2004 @ 10:29 pm

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