09 February, 2007

More Media Madness?

[UPDATE VI: Michelle Malkin links with a roundup on the story and a delicious zinger: "Perhaps newspapers should start running disclaimers that they assume no responsibility for the accuracy of AP's information." She starts her post off with an absolutely ghastly error by the WaPo in its front-page article on the IG's report. Amazing, but give the WaPo credit for prominent correction. More here.
UPDATE V: Flopping Aces has detailed background on the story
UPDATE IV: Welcome, Hugh Hewitt and Powerline readers. I have complete screenshots of each version of the article mentioned, but no way to easily post them. I can email them to anyone, though.
UPDATE III: The story/link has been completely overhauled. More info below
UPDATE II: The executive summary (warning: PDF file) of the report in question
UPDATE: Uncle J dismantles the revised version of the article.]

I don't know how to explain the following, but here it is...

As reported by Powerline yesterday, the AP published a story by Robert Burns with the odd headline "Pentagon Says Pre-War Intel Not Illegal."

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Some of the Pentagon's prewar intelligence work, including a contention that the CIA underplayed the likelihood of al-Qaida connections to Saddam Hussein, was inappropriate but not illegal, a Defense Department investigation has concluded.

In a report to be presented to Congress on Friday, the department's inspector general said former Pentagon policy chief Douglas J. Feith had not engaged in illegal activities through the creation of special offices to review intelligence. Some Democrats also have contended that Feith misled Congress about the basis of the administration's assertions on the threat posed by Iraq, but the Pentagon investigation did not support that. [This statement is key.]

...The Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing Friday to receive the findings by Thomas F. Gimble, the Pentagon's acting inspector general. The committee's chairman, Carl Levin, D-Mich., has been a leading critic of Feith's role in prewar intelligence activities and has accused him of deceiving Congress.

Powerline describes it as the resolution of an example of internecine bureaucratic warfare, a fight over who gets to interpret CIA intelligence.

Thirty-seven minutes ago this morning, the AP put up a re-arranged version of this same story [re-written at 1:52 Eastern, but I have a screenshot and here's the "original "revised version Uncle J linked] by the same writer. New headline--"Report says Pentagon manipulated intel." And the entire story has been turned on its head:

WASHINGTON - A "very damning" report by the Defense Department's inspector general depicts a Pentagon that purposely manipulated intelligence in an effort to link Saddam Hussein to al-Qaida in the runup to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, says the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"That was the argument that was used to make the sale to the American people about the need to go to war," said Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich. He said the Pentagon's work, "which was wrong, which was distorted, which was inappropriate ... is something which is highly disturbing."

The investigation by acting inspector general Thomas F. Gimble found that prewar intelligence work at the Pentagon, including a contention that the CIA had underplayed the likelihood of an al-Qaida connection, was inappropriate but not illegal. The report was to be presented to Levin's panel at a hearing Friday.

The first bolded statement above no longer appears in the report [UPDATE: don't know how I missed it, but it is there].

If anybody can show me how those two bolded statements can be reconciled, I'd love to hear it. And an explanation of what happened between 6:51 last night and 5:45 this morning might be helpful, too [I have screen shots of the entirety of both articles in case they change].


UPDATE III: In a version first published at/around 1:52 p.m. Eastern [I'm capturing it in screenshots], the story from the second version linked above appears to have been completely re-written (still the same author). The opening paragraphs and the tenor of the article are much more accurate this time:

WASHINGTON - Pentagon officials undercut the intelligence community in the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq by insisting in briefings to the White House that there was a clear relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, the Defense Department's inspector general said Friday.

Acting Inspector General Thomas F. Gimble told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the office headed by former Pentagon policy chief Douglas J. Feith took inappropriate" actions in advancing conclusions on al-Qaida connections not backed up by the nation's intelligence agencies.

Gimble said that while the actions of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy "were not illegal or unauthorized," they "did not provide the most accurate analysis of intelligence to senior decision makers" at a time when the White House was moving toward war with Iraq.

It goes on to in-depth coverage of the issue, with statements and opinions from all sides. It's actually excellent and informative reading. Considering how many times the story has been rewritten, we'll see how long this version lasts...

And an additional thought: What does this kind of on-the-fly revision without each subsequent version referencing the previous ones say about "journalistic integrity?" Big-name bloggers who constantly erased, revised and changed a single post in ways that changed the meaning of the post without noting the changes would be quickly unmasked and taken to task for it. Yet this is okay for Robert Burns of the vaunted Associated press? And bloggers are the ones who are "unprofessional??" [UPDATE: Powerline also discusses the journalistic implications]