Sexing-Up Secrets

Sexing-Up Secrets

Sexing-Up Secrets

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
July 12 2004 4:00 AM

Sexing-Up Secrets

The Los Angeles Times leads with word that of the $13 billion in non-U.S aid pledged to Iraq, only $1 billion has been delivered, and half of that is from just one country, Japan. The push to cut Iraq's debt is also moving slowly, with most countries balking at the United States' request that they forgive and forget. The Washington Post's lead notices that, according to the new Senate intelligence committee report, the threat assessment the CIA made publicly available on Iraq in October 2002 added starker phrasing and stripped out caveats and qualifiers that had been in the classified version of the report. For instance, the words "we have little specific information on Iraq's CW [chemical weapons] stockpile" were in the classified version of the report but excised when the report was made public during the run-up to the war. The New York Timesleads with an interview with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who railed against the country's militias, saying they're an even a bigger threat than the Taliban.A few days ago, Afghanistan announced that it's delaying parliamentary elections for six months because of continued violence. USA Today leads with an analysis concluding that Sen. Kerry has spent slightly more money and run slightly more ads in battlegrounds states than has President Bush. Add ads from political groups sympathetic to but not formally associated with either of the candidates, such as Moveon.org, and overall pro-Kerry ads outpace the president's by nearly 2 to 1.

On Saturday, the LAT noted (inside) the discrepancy between the classified and unclassified 2002 Iraq assessments—as did this TPer. That paper pointed out that the classified version of the report stated, "Iraq has some lethal and incapacitating BW [biological weapons] agents and is capable of quickly producing a variety of such agents for delivery." The unclassified version added, "potentially against the U.S. homeland." One Senate staffer told the Times that former CIA chief George Tenet and another top official were asked by committee members about who was behind such changes. "They did not know and could not explain," said the unnamed aide.

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Afghan President Karzai has long tried to placate militia leaders, and despite the tough talk and the NYTimes' lead play, that doesn't seem to be changing.Karzai didn't offer any new policies. In fact, as the paper mentions, "Despite vows to toughen his tactics, Mr. Karzai spent much of the interview explaining the need for accommodation."

A front-page piece in the Post unveils memos from Enron showing that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, known as the Hammer, sent political donations from Enron and other corporations and lobbyists to Texas' Republican Party in 2001 and 2002 as part of a (successful) campaign to push redistricting. As the Post notes, corporate financing of state legislature campaigns is a no-no in the Lone Star state, and there is already an investigation. But the WP may just have upped the ante: "Documents unearthed in the probe make clear that DeLay was central to creating and overseeing the fundraising."

Everybody mentions that two attacks in northern Iraq killed a total of three GIs and one Iraqi civilian. Meanwhile, a bomb exploded in Western Afghanistan yesterday, killing five civilians and wounding 21.

The papers all go with a bombing in Tel Aviv that killed one Israeli soldier and wounded about 20 people. It was the first deadly bombing inside Israel proper in about four months. Prime Minister Sharon cited it as evidence that the World Court's ruling against the security barrier is "immoral and dangerous." Meanwhile, the NYT notices Yasser Arafat's suggestively murky comments about who is responsible. "You know who is behind these acts," he said. "Europe knows it, the Americans know it, the Israelis know it."

The NYT says inside that the 9/11 commission, despite criticism from the White House and hints from some panel members themselves, isn't going to back down from its conclusion that al-Qaida and Iraq never had a "collaborative relationship." The Times says the panel's final report is probably going to come out a few days before the July 26 deadline.

Back to the intelligence report ... The WP's lead, exploring how the public version of the intelligence assessment on Iraq became spicier and less accurate than its classified version, knows where to pin the blame: "REPORT SAYS CIA DISTORTED IRAQ DATA." Knight-Ridder has another (not necessarily mutually exclusive) take. The chain reported the following in October 2002:

A growing number of military officers, intelligence professionals and diplomats in [the] government charge that the administration squelches dissenting views and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House's argument that Saddam poses such an immediate threat to the United States that pre-emptive military action is necessary.

"Analysts at the working level in the intelligence community are feeling very strong pressure from the Pentagon to cook the intelligence books," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A dozen other officials echoed his views in interviews.  No one who was interviewed disagreed.

Eric Umansky, previously the "Today's Papers" columnist for Slate, is currently a Gordon Grey Fellow at Columbia University's School of Journalism.