Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Tiny Revolution is shrill:

A Tiny Revolution: NY Times: Downing Street Memo Background Is Too Good For The Likes Of Us: James Risen's new book State of War... contains critical new background on the Downing Street Memo. And incredibly enough, this information has NEVER been published by the New York Times.... [T]he Downing Street Memo is the official minutes to a meeting of the highest officials of the British government... on July 23, 2002. Part of the memo describes a presentation by Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6, the British equivalent of the CIA:

[Dearlove] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

...[W]ho exactly [did] Dearlove [meet] with in Washington.... Pundits wishing to play down the significance of the memo, such as Michael Kinsley, opined that Dearlove may have just been talking to "the usual freelance chatterboxes" and perhaps was simply reporting on the "mood and gossip of 'Washington.'"

This isn't what Risen writes, to say the least. According to State of War:

Dearlove was in part reporting on a CIA-MI6 summit he attended with other top MI6 officials at CIA headquarters on Saturday, July 20, 2002... the meeting was held "at the urgent request of the British"; CIA officials believe "Blair had ordered Dearlove to go to Washington to find out what the Bush administration was really thinking about Iraq"... Dearlove met privately with CIA head George Tenet for an hour and a half....

But the most puzzling issue may be this: what on earth makes the New York Times just sit on this kind of information?... As various outlets have reported, State of War also reveals that the CIA sent thirty relatives of Iraqi scientists to Iraq to ask them whether they were working on WMD programs. Every single relative reported back that the scientists said they weren't, and that Iraq had nothing. Not a word of this has appeared in the Times.

And it doesn't seem to be because Risen wasn't trying. The New York Observer has reported that:

...according to current and former Times sources familiar with the Washington bureau, Mr. Risen was gathering reporting from sources in the prewar period that cast a skeptical light on Saddam Hussein's alleged W.M.D. stockpiles, but either couldn't get his stories in the paper or else found them buried on the inside pages....

From the Times' perspective, there are some things we members of the great unwashed simply don't need to know.

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