Sunday, April 09, 2006

Fire Fred Hiatt (From A Cannon)

For those who may foolishly think that the blogosphere has unfairly highlighted the "legitimate" media's incessant need to suck up to the administration by acting like irresponsible apologists, Fred Hiatt helps set the record straight with his umpteenth tired-ass apologia:

PRESIDENT BUSH was right to approve the declassification of parts of a National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq three years ago in order to make clear why he had believed that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons. Presidents are authorized to declassify sensitive material, and the public benefits when they do. But the administration handled the release clumsily, exposing Mr. Bush to the hyperbolic charges of misconduct and hypocrisy that Democrats are leveling.

Rather than follow the usual declassification procedures and then invite reporters to a briefing -- as the White House eventually did -- Vice President Cheney initially chose to be secretive, ordering his chief of staff at the time, I. Lewis Libby, to leak the information to a favorite New York Times reporter. The full public disclosure followed 10 days later. There was nothing illegal or even particularly unusual about that; nor is this presidentially authorized leak necessarily comparable to other, unauthorized disclosures that the president believes, rightly or wrongly, compromise national security. Nevertheless, Mr. Cheney's tactics make Mr. Bush look foolish for having subsequently denounced a different leak in the same controversy and vowing to "get to the bottom" of it.

Jesus. How many times does Hiatt manage to contradict and circumvent himself in those two intrductory paragraphs of sheer foolishness? Look, this was a game of political pushback, pure and simple. The Bushies, smug in their secure knowledge that they had cherry-picked the available intel to get the war they wanted, were very upset about Wilson stepping forward to flesh out the whole story, and laying waste to Bush's patently false assertions.

That they decided to push back is not necessarily the problem, in and of itself. The problem, as Hiatt and the rest of kneepad squad at Pravda know all too well, is that Chimpco used a CIA agent's identity as political currency, and didn't even have the balls to own up to it. They ham-handedly filtered out the info through Libby and his chickenhead, and then sanctimoniously lectured us all on how leakers would be punished by the administration. Which, three years and a hell of a lot of revelations later, still has yet to happen.

This is a group of people that took pains to impress upon the proles how much more "character" they had than the evil Clintonistas. Is it too much to ask that the "free press" does its job and afflicts the comfortable for once? There are a million ways a journamalist can eviscerate this administration's mealy-mouthed defenses and endless litany of dog-ate-my-homework excuses for very serious policy errors and official mendacity. And yet this dipshit Hiatt sees fit to engage in logical contortions that should qualify him for the Cirque du Soleil.

I can't help but wonder if Rove doesn't have something on Hiatt. Short of photos of compromising positions with unfortunate ruminants, what the hell could make someone such a mewling toady for a preznit that two out of three Americans do not like?

More importantly, you'd think that at least Hiatt might actually read his own paper once in a while, but apparently not, or he might have thought twice before sharpening his electronic crayon and inflicting his shameless boobism on us.

As he drew back the curtain this week on the evidence against Vice President Cheney's former top aide, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald for the first time described a "concerted action" by "multiple people in the White House" -- using classified information -- to "discredit, punish or seek revenge against" a critic of President Bush's war in Iraq.

Bluntly and repeatedly, Fitzgerald placed Cheney at the center of that campaign. Citing grand jury testimony from the vice president's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Fitzgerald fingered Cheney as the first to voice a line of attack that at least three White House officials would soon deploy against former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

So contrary to Hiatt's idiotic assertion, Fitzgerald does have the goods on these guys. Somebody's full of shit here, and so far Fitz has dotted every "i" and crossed every "t", where Hiatt has become notorious for playing fast and loose with the facts, to squeeze them into his prefab nonsense.

One striking feature of that decision -- unremarked until now, in part because Fitzgerald did not mention it -- is that the evidence Cheney and Libby selected to share with reporters had been disproved months before.

United Nations inspectors had exposed the main evidence for the uranium charge as crude forgeries in March 2003, but the Bush administration and British Prime Minister Tony Blair maintained they had additional, secret evidence they could not disclose. In June, a British parliamentary inquiry concluded otherwise, delivering a scathing critique of Blair's role in promoting the story. With no ally left, the White House debated whether to abandon the uranium claim and became embroiled in bitter finger-pointing about whom to fault for the error. A legal brief filed for Libby last month said that "certain officials at the CIA, the White House, and the State Department each sought to avoid or assign blame for intelligence failures relating to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction."

It was at that moment that Libby, allegedly at Cheney's direction, sought out at least three reporters to bolster the discredited uranium allegation. Libby made careful selections of language from the 2002 estimate, quoting a passage that said Iraq was "vigorously trying to procure uranium" in Africa.

The first of those conversations, according to the evidence made known thus far, came when Libby met with Bob Woodward, an assistant managing editor of The Washington Post, on June 27, 2003. In sworn testimony for Fitzgerald, according to a statement Woodward released on Nov. 14, 2005, Woodward said Libby told him of the intelligence estimate's description of Iraqi efforts to obtain "yellowcake," a processed form of natural uranium ore, in Africa. In an interview Friday, Woodward said his notes showed that Libby described those efforts as "vigorous."

That may actually be the reason for all these circumlocutions from the Pravda editorial staff. It seems ludicrous that they'd all fall all over themselves to sacrifice their collective credibility for a hack like Woodward, but stranger things have happened.

Perhaps a blogger ethics panel is in order.

Libby's next known meeting with a reporter, according to Fitzgerald's legal filing, was with Judith Miller, then of the New York Times, on July 8, 2003. He spoke again to Miller, and to Time magazine's Matt Cooper, on July 12.

At Cheney's instruction, Libby testified, he told Miller that the uranium story was a "key judgment" of the intelligence estimate, a term of art indicating there was consensus on a question of central importance.

In fact, the alleged effort to buy uranium was not among the estimate's key judgments, which were identified by a headline and bold type and set out in bullet form in the first five pages of the 96-page document.

Unknown to the reporters, the uranium claim lay deeper inside the estimate, where it said a fresh supply of uranium ore would "shorten the time Baghdad needs to produce nuclear weapons." But it also said U.S. intelligence did not know the status of Iraq's procurement efforts, "cannot confirm" any success and had "inconclusive" evidence about Iraq's domestic uranium operations.

Iraq's alleged uranium shopping had been strongly disputed in the intelligence community from the start. In a closed Senate hearing in late September 2002, shortly before the October NIE was completed, then-director of central intelligence George J. Tenet and his top weapons analyst, Robert Walpole, expressed strong doubts about the uranium story, which had recently been unveiled publicly by the British government. The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, likewise, called the claim "highly dubious." For those reasons, the uranium story was relegated to a brief inside passage in the October estimate.

But the White House Iraq Group, formed in August 2002 to foster "public education" about Iraq's "grave and gathering danger" to the United States, repeatedly pitched the uranium story. The alleged procurement was a minor issue for most U.S. analysts -- the hard part for Iraq would be enriching uranium, not obtaining the ore, and Niger's controlled market made it an unlikely seller -- but the Niger story proved irresistible to speechwriters. Most nuclear arguments were highly technical, but the public could easily grasp the link between uranium and a bomb.

A lot of this hinges on whether Chimpco's "error" can be considered a "good faith" situation, an honest mistake based on a desire to do the right thing. Almost since the very beginning of the invasion, evidence -- actual, documented evidence -- has steadily come out that counters that good faith argument. Indeed, given the lies and political games these guys were all too happy to indulge in, an excellent case of bad faith can and should be made. A responsible journalist would connect the dots and set about making such a case, because his job is to provide information to the people, not cover for those in power and conduct himself like a shill for the Republican party.

I read the Post's daily online political discussions, and I note the consistency with which all the reporters, when asked about these lapses in their judgment by irritated readers, retreat to their fallback positions that they're doing their best, they care about getting the facts, and maybe they're just a bit wowed or intimidated by the prestige of the office.

Well, bullshit. Get over it, and quit acting like a bunch off goo-goo eyed farm girls that just got off the Greyhound at Hollywood and Vine. This is fucking serious. These people are literally preparing to hit Iran with nuclear strikes, with simultaneous debacles going on in two adjacent countries. They are incompetent and corrupt, and they have misused their power to attack every person who had the nerve to sensibly point out that they were full of it.

And all these chumps can do is softsoap the whole charade, and whinge at all those mean bloggers for doing their research for them, and expecting them to report factual information.

Editor & Publisher sums up WaPo's dilemma quite nicely:

No wonder the Post, in today’s editorial, calls Wilson’s trip to Niger “absurdly over-examined.” This is what people say when they want to change the subject instead of having to renew an indefensible position. The Post's editorial page has been wrong from the start on Iraq so we must at least applaud its consistency.

Amen. These people -- and all journalists who hope to remain "legitimate" and "credible" -- had better get with the program. The paradigm is shifting anyway, thanks to technology, but the majority of of these guys seem to be in on their own demise. They are part of the problem, because their currency is access, and they'll do anything to get it. They'd rather go to off-the-record meetings to schmooze with Bush than grow spines and remind him that their job is to report. They'd rather posture under the guise of "objectivity" than concentrate on the facts of the story. They seem intent on being the engineers of their own undoing.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Last paragraph really nails it.

RonB said...

Yo, Hammer! VDH has a new doozy out! I know you're his biggest fan so I thought Id let you know. My fisking is here, link to the article is within.

You know you want to.

Heywood J. said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Ron. What's funny is that I had the article up on another browser and had skimmed it, and was mulling over some smackdown for my favorite Peloponnesian superhero anyway. Now that you've thrown down the proverbial gauntlet, I guess it's a must.

And speaking of smackdowns, your fisking of the Cockpuncher of Fresno State is mighty. What better way to celebrate Tax Day than a gang-fisking of a well-deserving moron?

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