The Times votes for ignorance
Stephen Hayes also weighs in:
The surface has barely been scratched on the exploitation of millions of Iraqi intel files, so what we will know several months or years down the road about the Saddam Hussein regime’s dealings with other governments and terrorist groups is difficult to say. But while a more definitive answer on the Iraq/Qaeda connection awaits, it seems safe to say there is a meaningful connection between author Peter Bergen and the New York Times. Both are invested in there being no connection and both are busy as bees protecting their investment (see here and here).
Today’s assignment is to undercut the weight of the document exploitation which, paltry though it has been, is nonetheless already throwing the “no connection” crowd for a loop. The Times’ anxiousness to call the game “over” and declare an outcome before there can have been any serious study is riotous. Indeed, the newspaper-of-record’s interest in the Iraq intel files is rivaled only by the steely determination it showed in moving heaven and earth to get to the bottom of the case of … uh ... what was his name again? – oh, yeah, Sandy Berger.
Would it really be that dark a day on West 43rd Street if it turned out that Bush was right about Iraq? And just imagine what we’d be hearing from the Times’ editors if, say, the Scooter Libby investigation had been dropped without charges or further inquiry after about one percent of the documentary evidence had been examined (and had shown indicia of guilt!).
There is much more.
THE NEW YORK TIMES today joined the debate about Iraqi documents with a front-page news article and an op-ed by Peter Bergen. It's been nearly two weeks since the first documents were released, but a belated acknowledgement of the news is better than nothing. One might have expected such a longtime champion of open government as the Times to have aggressively led the effort to have these once-secret documents released. Not this time.
The front-page story seeks to dismiss the importance of the documents while the op-ed by Bergen seems to find them only significant enough to warrant an attempted deconstruction. Both of these efforts fail badly. Reading the two pieces together, one gets the unmistakable impression that the Times doesn't want to know more about the documents, their contents and what they tell us about prewar Iraq. The Times, it seems, has chosen ignorance.
The news piece deserves little in the way of a response. Reporter Scott Shane casts the story as a battle between diehard supporters of the Bush administration and the truth, noting most helpfully that in other Internet projects "volunteers have tested software, scanned chemical compounds for useful drugs and even searched radiotelescope data for signals from extraterrestrial life."
Lost on Shane, it seems, is that these documents were released in large part so that we would no longer have to rely on the opinions of anonymous intelligence officials who, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee's bipartisan report, knew very little about Iraq before the war. It should hardly be surprising that the U.S. intelligence community would seek to downplay the significance of these documents after paying them little attention for three years. In any case, the release of the documents allows the debate to move from speculation to fact. It is a development one would expect the Times to welcome.