As Paul noted earlier today, the Washington Post’s story this morning on the mobile biological weapons labs in Iraq was highly misleading. (The Post reported, as if it were an expose, that one team that was sent to examine the purported mobile labs reported that they were not intended to produce biological weapons. But buried deep in the Post’s story is the fact that three teams examined the trailers, and two of the three thought that they were indeed intended for bioweapon production.) But ABC, on today’s Good Morning America, went the Post one better, twisting the Post’s already-deceptive story into a “Bush lied” claim:
They’d found a couple trailers that he said actually were the mobile biological laboratories that he said showed that they were indeed developing WMD, and The Washington Post has a story today that says the President knew at the time that was not true.
Actually, the Post story doesn’t say anything of the sort. What it says is, “even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.” This is based on the fact that on May 27, 2003, the field team that examined the trailers transmitted to Washington its preliminary field report expressing the minority view (at the time) that the trailers were innocuous. Only later did the group submit its official report to the same effect.
The very next day, May 28, 2003, the CIA and DIA publicly issued a ten-page report titled “Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants.” You can download the report here. The joint CIA/DIA report unequivocally and enthusiastically proclaimed the mobile trailers that had been discovered in Iraq to be mobile bioweapon facilities. It included photographs of the trailers, descriptions of various components, comparisons of the trailers to descriptions given by Iraqi informants. The report said:
Coalition forces have uncovered the strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program. … US forces in late April also discovered a mobile laboratory truck in Baghdad. The truck is a toxicology laboratory from the 1980s that could be used to support BW or legitimate research. The design, equipment, and layout of the trailer found in late April is strikingly similar to descriptions provided by a source who was a chemical engineer that managed one of the mobile plants.
The intelligence agencies concluded:
[W]e nevertheless are confident that this trailer is a mobile BW production plant because of the source’s description, equipment, and design.
The next day, May 29, 2003, President Bush gave an interview to a Polish television station in which he said:
We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They’re illegal. They’re against the United Nations resolutions, and we’ve so far discovered two.
It is obvious that when President Bush said on May 29 that two mobile bioweapon facilities had been found, he was accurately repeating what the CIA and DIA had not only told him privately, but had publicly reported to the American people, just the day before. There is no reason to assume that President Bush had any knowledge of a preliminary field report, representing a then-minority view, that had been shipped back to Washington only 48 hours before; nor would such a preliminary report of a minority view have justified ABC’s claim–even had Bush become aware of it–that “the President knew at the time that was not true.”
We are living through an extraordinary era, in which our principal news media have little regard for truth, and have dedicated themselves monomaniacally to destroying the President of the United States and his administration.
UPDATE: The Associated Press piles on with a story titled “Report Raises New Questions on Bush, WMDs.” If you read far enough, though, you can figure out that there actually isn’t any story at all. The only real news in the AP’s account relates to the mis-reporting on ABC’s “Good Morning America”:
The Post did not say that Bush knew what he was saying was false. But ABC News did during a report on “Good Morning America,” and McClellan demanded an apology and an on-air retraction. ABC News said later in a clarification on its Web site that Charles Gibson had erred. McClellan said he had received an apology.
Well, maybe. I couldn’t find the “clarification” on either the main ABC News site or the Good Morning America site. In any event, what is needed is an on-air correction and apology, not an on-line “clarification.”