A Glimpse Into the Sausage Factory

We noted here, and Michelle Malkin noted in more detail here, the extreme embarrassment of the Washington Post in connection with the Defense Department Inspector General’s report on Douglas Feith’s Office of Special Plans. Feith’s group dissented from the CIA’s interpretation of intelligence on the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, which the Inspector General found to be “inappropriate” for reasons which remain mysterious.
The Post’s problem was that it ran a front-page story, by reporters Walter Pincus and R. Jeffrey Smith, which falsely attributed certain characterizations of Feith’s group to the Inspector General’s report, when in fact they originated with Democrat Senator Carl Levin of Michigan. In essence, the Post reprinted Levin’s inaccurate press release as though it were news. The Post’s abject correction and apology soon followed.
One of our readers has now penetrated inside the Post through an email exchange with Jeff Smith, one of the Post reporters “credited” with the story. Smith is unhappy at being associated with the debacle. This is what Smith emailed to our reader:

I agree with you that this was an egregious error. I also had nothing to do with it. All I did was obtain a copy of the unclassified summary of the IG report and write a precisely correct account, which I turned over to the other reporters. I’m not happy my name was put on that story by the editors, and I was astonished by the mistake. I blew the whistle on it internally. So don’t attribute the mistake to me.
Jeff Smith

So someone–Pincus is an obvious candidate–had the two-page public portion of the IG report, and also had an accurate account thereof, but nevertheless managed to misrepresent the report’s contents to make it look more critical of Feith’s group than it actually was. Is there any possible explanation for that “egregious” and “astonish[ing]” error, other than a political agenda that trumps all else?
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