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The Washington Post's Biolab Deception

Updated

The Washington Post has a page one article today which deceives its readers about the findings on mobile biolabs in Iraq:

On May 29, 2003, 50 days after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush proclaimed a fresh victory for his administration in Iraq: Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."


The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

A secret fact-finding mission to Iraq -- not made public until now -- had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons. Leaders of the Pentagon-sponsored mission transmitted their unanimous findings to Washington in a field report on May 27, 2003, two days before the president's statement.

What's deceptive about this? The Post reporter, Joby Warrick, failed to disclose for the reader that there were three teams that investigated those trailers. Two teams believed the trailers were biolabs. However, we don't learn this information until the 12th paragraph:

Intelligence analysts involved in high-level discussions about the trailers noted that the technical team was among several groups that analyzed the suspected mobile labs throughout the spring and summer of 2003. Two teams of military experts who viewed the trailers soon after their discovery concluded that the facilities were weapons labs, a finding that strongly influenced views of intelligence officials in Washington, the analysts said. "It was hotly debated, and there were experts making arguments on both sides," said one former senior official who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.

Joby Warrick knew while writing this article that there were several teams that examined those trailers, the majority of which concluded that they were used as biolabs. However, Warrick ignored the majority and instead cherry-picked the information provided by the one team that thought these trailers were not biolabs.

Placing the findings of this one team in the first few paragraphs of the article made it look as if this team's findings were the only ones of any importance or authority. Rather than reporting the facts, that most of the teams that examined the trailers concluded that they were in fact biolabs, this reporter proves once again that the MSM don't care about facts; they care only about the template: Bush lied.

Update: A reader points out that ABC News has an article on the same topic with the same Bush lied template.

Hat tip: Confederate Yankee

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Comments (25)

ABC has the same thing on t... (Below threshold)
Rick13:

ABC has the same thing on their news site.

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=1833457


The title is "Trailer Trash: Did Bush Ignore Intel on Iraq WMD?"

Waaaaaahhhhh...Why... (Below threshold)
Invertebrate Hankee:

Waaaaaahhhhh...

Whys' the big bad elite media always pickin' on us poor, pious, penniless (and penisless) republicans?

How come your right-wing oracle, Faux News isn't towing the Bushie line on this?

Even worse, perhaps, is tha... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Even worse, perhaps, is that this seems to be a feckless attempt at re-hashing old news and somehow, bizarrely trying to make it seem like new news. We heard the doubt about these mobile biolabs 3 years ago for crying out loud! We know the intel was bad! This isn't news, this a goddamn agenda.

So the President missspoke at the time. What does that prove? Jack f-ing diddly is what.

Jesus H. Christmas, where does this MSM misleading crap end? At least pretend to have some journalistic integrity.

What a great title "Traile... (Below threshold)
virgo:

What a great title "Trailer Trash " what exactly did they use these bio labs for ?
disecting frogs?

The Post reporter, Joby ... (Below threshold)
mantis:

The Post reporter, Joby Warrick, failed to disclose for the reader that there were three teams that investigated those trailers. Two teams believed the trailers were biolabs. However, we don't learn this information until the 12th paragraph:

Failed to disclose yet provided that info in the article? How does that work?

And what about those various assessments and Warrick's supposed cherry-picking? From the article:

Yet reaction from Iraqi sources was troublingly inconsistent. Curveball, shown photos of the trailers, confirmed they were mobile labs and even pointed out key features. But other Iraqi informants in internal reports disputed Curveball's story and claimed the trailers had a benign purpose: producing hydrogen for weather balloons.

Back at the Pentagon, DIA officials attempted a quick resolution of the dispute. The task fell to the "Jefferson Project," a DIA-led initiative made up of government and civilian technical experts who specialize in analyzing and countering biological threats. Project leaders put together a team of volunteers, eight Americans and a Briton, each with at least a decade of experience in one of the essential technical skills needed for bioweapons production. All were nongovernment employees working for defense contractors or the Energy Department's national labs.

So the technical team described in the lede was sent out to settle the dispute, and their findings were that the trailers were not biolabs. A little further down:

The reason for the nervousness was soon obvious: In Washington, a CIA analyst had written a draft white paper on the trailers, an official assessment that would also reflect the views of the DIA. The white paper described the trailers as "the strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program." It also explicitly rejected an explanation by Iraqi officials, described in a New York Times article a few days earlier, that the trailers might be mobile units for producing hydrogen.

But the technical team's preliminary report, written in a tent in Baghdad and approved by each team member, reached a conclusion opposite from that of the white paper.

...

The technical team's preliminary report was transmitted in the early hours of May 27, just before its members began boarding planes to return home. Within 24 hours, the CIA published its white paper, "Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants," on its Web site.

It seems entirely probable that this early draft report would not have made it thru the intelligence channels to the White House in time for the President's 3/29 speech to be amended, however the administration continued to claim these were weapons labs for months despite their own conclusive report to the contrary.

In any case the technical team's mission was to end the dispute about the trailers, which it did, though we only find this out now. The earlier assessments should not be considered valid in light of the comprehensive analysis, and thus the assertions of this post, and ConYank's, are false and dishonest.

Here's a real gem from the ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Here's a real gem from the article:

None (of the inspectors) would consent to being identified by name because of fear that their jobs would be jeopardized.

Ah, now there's a familiar BDS meme that'll ring true with moonbats: Paranoia over speaking out because they're dissenting! Ohhh, they're so brave, so truth-revealing, so courageous in standing up to the Evil and Repressive Bush Regime!

Pfffffffffffft.

VirgoSince you are... (Below threshold)
Confederate PeePee:

Virgo

Since you are going to be deported to Iraq for absuing the English language (and pretending to be a redneck), maybe you can take that "bio-lab" and use it as a mobile day spa for hairy Arab men. You'll need a job in Baghdad.

And since there is so much good news in Iraq these days, I'm sure there will be plenty of need for an experienced hairdresser (say your sister-wife, Boobs?).

WTF! Kim, you really need t... (Below threshold)
cat:

WTF! Kim, you really need to work on your attention span. Here's a good rule - read to the end of an article before publicly commenting on it.

As Mantis has already pointed out, some people thought the trailers were biolabs, some thought they weren't. A team of experts was sent to investigate and settle the issue...and that team unanimously said they could NOT be biolabs.

So, if this is true, far from cherry-picking, Joby Warrick appears to have presented the story in a completely fair and balanced order.

Bush, meanwhile, preferred to stick with the people like Curveball and say categorically that they WERE biolabs... in other words, he cherry-picked...some would say he lied.

Good advice mullah confede... (Below threshold)
virgo:

Good advice mullah confederate PeePee. how much does it start out at?

10 dinars an hour (which is... (Below threshold)
Hair Salon:

10 dinars an hour (which is about 9 more than you make now cleaning chicken poop).

Good job mantis.... (Below threshold)

Good job mantis.

It seems perfectly reasonab... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

It seems perfectly reasonable that, over the course of the following months and given the dispute over the actual purpose of the labs, the administration would tone down their language or downplay the importance of the labs, as the article admits and points out:

Throughout the summer and fall of 2003, the trailers became simply "mobile biological laboratories" in speeches and press statements by administration officials.

So where's the play up of "weapons labs"? It's not here in this article. And if does appear elsewhere, which I'm sure it does, what exactly does that prove the Administration is guilty of? Going about PR poorly? Not downplaying it enough? Not going on "Dr Phil" and admitting they were wrong? Nonsense. That's not how leaders lead.

If you recall, a certain President downplayed a certain bombing of what (may or may not have) turned out to be a certain aspirin factory (cough, cough) in the Sudan. I don't recall him getting raked over the coals by the WaPo for the faulty intel three years after the fact, or for still sticking to his guns for it being the right move months later. Did he lie? No. Did he downplay it? Sure. The point is he went on the best intel he had at the time. And that's the President's job, Repub or Dem, go with the best intel possible. So what if they change the words or downplay the event months later, it was still the right intel at the time and still the right course of action to take.

Hindsight is a blind dog in the present.

Side note to anyone:

I found the most fascinating issue of the article is that of the Iraqi informant, code-named Curveball (great code name by the way). Warrick warbles a bit in calling him the "CIA's star informant" when in actuality Curveball "passed secrets about alleged Iraqi banned weapons to the CIA indirectly, through Germany's intelligence service.".

Oops, does that make a partial case for ALL the intel from ALL the sources--US, British, UN, Russian AND, you got it, German--was wrong? Or, as David Kay put it, "we were all wrong." Meaning everyone, not just Bush and the CIA. I'm thinking so.

Even more curious is why were Curveball's detailed descriptions officially dismissed in 2004? As the article points out:

Curveball, shown photos of the trailers, confirmed they were mobile labs and even pointed out key features. But other Iraqi informants in internal reports disputed Curveball's story and claimed the trailers had a benign purpose: producing hydrogen for weather balloons.

So all of sudden a guy who has been a trusted informant for 4 years, and someone who can point out key features and even make accurate drawings of the biolabs, is suddenly dismissed and discredited? Over a simplistic explanation of weather balloons!? Come on, get serious. What's next, stories of swamp gas?

Sounds like the CIA hung their star informant out to dry when things didn't pan out. It doesn't mean Curveball was wrong, though, especially given the amount of seemingly accurate information he had provided. But Warrick fails to dig deeper into this, which is a missed, albeit minor, story.

Peter,You want War... (Below threshold)
mantis:

Peter,

You want Warrick to dig deeper into the Curveball story, which has long since been covered?

Besides lying about a great many things (for example he said he was first in his class at university, he was actually last yet claimed he headed Iraq's bioweapons program), "Curveball" served time for fraud and embezzlement in Iraq before fleeing to Germany, was described by German Intelligences as an out of control and crazy alcoholic and may be the brother of one of Chalabi's top aides (reported by the LA Times), which doesn't exactly add to his credibility.

The UN provided the WH with evidence that Curveball was wrong. Kay investigated and found Curveball to be unreliable in 2003. The CIA determined his information was fabricated in May 2004. In light of all this, your assertion that:

Sounds like the CIA hung their star informant out to dry when things didn't pan out. It doesn't mean Curveball was wrong, though, especially given the amount of seemingly accurate information he had provided. But Warrick fails to dig deeper into this, which is a missed, albeit minor, story.

seems like the flailings of someone who just can't come to grips with the truth. And btw, what "seemingly accurate" information did he provide? And isn't accurate better than seemingly so?

Peter, please read this: <a... (Below threshold)
cat:

Peter, please read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curveball_%28informant%29

Note the sentence:

"He was described by German intelligence as an individual not living in Iraq and as an "out of control" and crazy alcoholic."

and:

"In November 2002, UN weapons inspectors investigated Curveball's claims, and found that details and information given by Curveball could not be verified."

How does that

Generally speaking, you usu... (Below threshold)
Proud Kaffir:

Generally speaking, you usually don't get good intelligence information from honest people. You will usually get it from a low life who was just as involved in the behavior being investigated as the target. A person of good moral character usually is not in a position to squeal on co-conspirators.

A day after the team's report was transmitted to Washington -- May 28, 2003 -- the CIA publicly released its first formal assessment of the trailers, reflecting the views of its Washington analysts. That white paper, which also bore the DIA seal, contended that U.S. officials were "confident" that the trailers were used for "mobile biological weapons production."


Still, as late as February 2004, then-CIA Director George J. Tenet continued to assert that the mobile-labs theory remained plausible. Although there was "no consensus" among intelligence officials, the trailers "could be made to work" as weapons labs, he said in a speech Feb. 5.

Tenet, now a faculty member at Georgetown's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, declined to comment for this story/

The CIA continued to assert the possibilty that the trailors were mobile units, despite the final report done by experts for the DIA. Unfortunately this is another example of 2 intelligence agencies failing to coordinate and giving contradictory intelligence analysis.

The Iraqi Survey Group was given the task of reviewing the Intelligence and squaring it with the known realities. They agreed with the DIA experts and their report was published. No one contends anymore that this were biolabs. This is old news.

The Post's article is misleading in that it insinuates that the Bush administration knowingly stated false info. They may have known about the doubts but still had the CIA reports to back up the claim.


LOL. OK, Wow, I did make a ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

LOL. OK, Wow, I did make a mistake. I totally and completely had a brain fart and forgot who Curveball was. Just totally forgot, but the links jogged my old brain, so thanks. (The final link doesn't work, by the by.)

While there are certainly questions about Curveball's cred, even according to today's WaPo article he provided 'accurate drawings' and was someone who "pointed out key features" in the biolabs, so there was obviously some credibility to his information. Information from a source, by the way, that "George J. Tenet and his chief deputy, John E. McLaughlin, furiously denied that they had been told not to trust Curveball".

And what of Tyler Drumheller's accounts on the matter?

Drumheller said he passed that warning up to Pavitt's office. He said he also informed another senior official in the European division and sent a notice to WINPAC, where the chief bioweapons analyst was considered the Curveball expert.

In a separate interview, Pavitt said he didn't recall when he learned of the German warning. "A meeting took place without question," he said. "And I remember being told what he said. My recollection is I was told much, much later." He said commission investigators were unable to find a reference to it in his CIA calendar.

Pavitt rejected the notion that Drumheller should have issued a CIA-wide "burn notice" on Curveball's reports after the lunch, saying it would be inappropriate to unleash a sweeping condemnation after a single meeting with a foreign officer from an agency unwilling to stand behind its statements.

A week before Christmas 2002, McLaughlin's executive assistant held two meetings to discuss Curveball. One of Pavitt's aides told the group about Drumheller's meeting, and expressed other doubts. She also "made clear" that Pavitt's division "did not believe that Curveball's information should be relied upon."

The Curveball expert from WINPAC angrily argued back and apparently prevailed, the commission found. An official summary of the meeting later "played down" any doubts and said Curveball had been judged credible "after an exhaustive review."

"An exhaustive review."That's good enough for me. And apparently is was good enough for the CIA to submit their pre-war assessment to Congress, the President and the public.

And no, I don't find the fact that he was charged with embezzlement in Iraq to be of any importance and proves nothing whatsoever; thousands of Iraqis were charged with alleged and often false crimes under Saddam's regime. This ditty is nothing but a worthless character assisination attempt.

As for being a "crazed alcoholic" that's opinion, an opinion without fact or context. Yeah, I think any of us might be crazed alcoholics too if we were talking to some guys in black coats about a clandestine bioweapons programs after fleeing our former country. I'd be scared shitless, frankly. And we expect more from an informant with little or no clandestine operations experience? Please, he's not James Bond for crying out loud.

As telling me I can't "come to grips with the truth" that's just a crock of shit. I fully accept there was apparently no stockpiles of WMD in Iraq. It doesn't negate the fact that the right call--going to war with a reckless and unpredicctable regime--was made on the bets intel available at the time. Just because that intel proved to be false and wrong later does not mean any one--including Clinton, who also conducted operations against Iraq on almost the same intel--lied! It's just flatout dishonest stance to take that stance.

PIMFA day after . ... (Below threshold)
Proud Kaffir:

PIMF

A day after . . .

and

Tenet, now a faculty . . .


should have been in blockquotes. They are taken from the article.

Small confederate - -... (Below threshold)
virgo:

Small confederate - -

I may absue the english language but you abuse it with your lack of spelling and word knowledge!

did,nt you finish the 4th grade !

Virgo,I can... (Below threshold)
Get Virgo a Dictionary:

Virgo,


I can just feel the love. Give that hairy gorilla wife of yours a bigt sloppy one...courtesy of your fellow righties.

As telling me I can't "c... (Below threshold)
mantis:

As telling me I can't "come to grips with the truth" that's just a crock of shit. I fully accept there was apparently no stockpiles of WMD in Iraq. It doesn't negate the fact that the right call--going to war with a reckless and unpredicctable regime--was made on the bets intel available at the time. Just because that intel proved to be false and wrong later does not mean any one--including Clinton, who also conducted operations against Iraq on almost the same intel--lied! It's just flatout dishonest stance to take that stance.

Ok, ok. I did say that's what it seems like; judging people's thoughts based on written comments on a blog isn't exactly science. But let me address the larger point and respond to your comments and by way of a hypothetical:

Let's say for the sake of argument that Japan never bombed Pearl Harbor, and never intended to push the US into the war (which was, after all, a bad move strategically). Roosevelt thought we needed to become involved in the war in a larger way long before the the attack in Hawaii. Suppose that the White House used what shaky intelligence they had to convince the public that an attack on the US was being planned by Japan or Germany. They cobbled together a case that made people believe that we were in danger of attack and we needed to preemptively attack that was based upon unreliable intelligence, leaving out all of the doubts in their effort. Would this have been wrong? I say no. We needed to come to Europe's aid in WWII as much for our own survival as for theirs. The fact is that sometimes the public has to be fooled into doing what is right, what is necessary.

There are two questions that rise from this assertion in relation to the Iraq war. Was this war necessary and right, and did the government try to fool the public into believing so? I believe the first question is debatable, but the second question is not. The Bush administration did ignore doubts and inconsistencies in the intelligence, they did "cherry pick" when presenting the Iraqi threat to the American public and the UN. What astounds me is that many defenders of the war and this administration itself choose to ignore or spin all of the evidence that has come to light in this regard in order to justify the war. If they wanted to be honest about it they would admit the truth. If Bush wanted to be honest he could say "look, we knew that Saddam needed to be overthrown, that democracy needed to be planted in the Middle East, and we presented the best case we could, and yes, we ignored some intelligence in doing so because we were trying to do what was right." I would respect Bush a lot more if he just said that.

Does democracy need to spread in the Middle East? Absolutely. Was the Iraq war the best way to go about it? I don't think so. I have always thought that Iran was a much better candidate, and we could have supported democracy there without invading. But Iraq, and the administration's posturing on Iran has all but ruined that possibility.

Anyway, when it comes to WMDs and the Iraqi threat to the US, I would welcome an honest admission that a noble cause was justified by the somewhat dishonest manipulation of intelligence, even if I disagreed with the likelihood of the desired results being realized.

In any case I'm not about to join the "Bush lied, people died!" chorus. These aren't lies, this is politics, baby. All lies are truths, and all truths are lies.

Just a quick point, if I ma... (Below threshold)

Just a quick point, if I may, mantis:

I believe the first question is debatable, but the second question is not. The Bush administration did ignore doubts and inconsistencies in the intelligence, they did "cherry pick" when presenting the Iraqi threat to the American public and the UN.

I have to quibble with this line, which, while you try to refute it at the end of your post, is, in fact, completely and utterly the 'bush lied' line of attack. Unfortunately it is a poor argument for several reasons. One, no matter what you think of the Bush push for war, we did go to the UN for that last resolution and it passed. If you try to argue that the whole security council (and we won't even get into the shady dealings with oil for food here) was so utterly bamboozled by Bush's lies about Iraq's WMD that they ignored contradictory intelligence from their own intelligence services to go along with Bush's crazy lies, then I would have to say 'bullspit' unto you. If you (and here I'm using a broad 'you', not necessarily mantis personally) try to argue that Bush's lies and cherry picking were so clever that everyone was fooled into thinking that there was still something for Saddam to disarm or disclose, then, again, 'bullspit'. The CIA wasn't running foreign intelligence services (although that'll probably be coming down the pike soon enough from the NYT).

As for cherry picking and hiding, again I have to say 'bullspit' to you. Every time, every single frickin' time someone has tried to make this claim the administration or intelligence services has come through with counter-assessments (indicating how screwed up and uncooperative all our intelligence services were, hopefully they're getting better, but who knows) that bolstered the claim of the administration. I hear it now...'aha! that is cherry picking!'. Alas, no. It is bullspit. To the best of my knowledge at least two congressional investigations have been done into pre-war intelligence and whether or not intelligence was manipulated, analysts were pressured, data was cherry picked. Unfortunately for the anti-bush side, each investigation has concluded that no such thing took place. The most damning rebuttal to that argument was the Robb-Silberman report that concluded the exact opposite, that the administration was given more dire-sounding information than was passed along. So, if you want to argue that the administration cherry picked the less frightening things, then by all means, please proceed, Robb-Silberman will back you up.

Frankly, mantis, you sound like a liberal newspaper editorial writer. For all I now, you might be one. You try to couch the argument in a way that sort of makes sense, but slip in a point that is, frankly, complete fabrication. The point that it is not debatable that intelligence was manipulated. Again, Congressional investigations do not agree with you. For just a moment, just one brief moment, does it not occur to you that maybe, just maybe, the fact that every actual investigation has denied this and the fact that there was more 'evidence' being presented by the CIA for the WMDs than against them, shows that Bush was not lying? Don't you think that maybe, just maybe, you have to come up with actual evidence, that is not refuted by other evidence from equally 'reliable' sources or actual bipartisan congressional investigations? If not, don't you have to agree that you're full of spit?

If you're the President, and you've committed to this line of inquiry, and you've committed to going to the UN to actually do their damn job and enforce one of their stupid resolutions, when you have to make the call, who do you listen to? Your director of the CIA who calls it a 'slam dunk', or conflicting reports below that level from various agencies with varying levels of expertise in varying areas? Do you second guess your CIA director, who has already sifted through the varying opinions to conclude 'slam dunk' based on your own sifting through all the differing opinions?

That is the call you have to make. And lest you worry about relying too heavily on just one ultimate concluding opinion (slam dunk) by your own head of intelligence, you also have the benefit of hearing from numerous other intelligence services around the world who also, while acknowledging varying opinions on numerous matters, essentially conclude the same thing...that the WMDs were there. They were so convinced that they voted for yet another resolution, even knowing where Bush would take it, because he had been clear where it would go. In the face of all that, the answer is still 'bush lied'? Sorry, but give me a break or give me evidence. Seriously, how many times do you have to repeat "two congressional inquiries found no evidence of intelligence manipulation" and "none of these stories show any sort of real evidence of cherry picking or manipulation" before it dries up? I know, the answer is 'never'. Keep on truckin'.

(If you still believe Bush lied, please begin calling, immediately, for an investigation into how Bush manipulated President Clinton into believing the same things that Bush said after he took office. Clearly there was something sinister going on by Halliburton or maybe just Dick Cheney that requires probably a very expensive independent counsel investigation. And just think how excited everyone will be to see Billy back on TV every day explaining how Bush was working behind the scenes in the 90s to manipulate him. Otherwise, please provide evidence that Saddam destroyed all his WMDs somewhere around early 2001 and that Bush knew about it. Cuz, frankly, if you can't do that, you've got nothing, sound and fury signifying nothing and all that jazz.)

Stranger to a dictionary</p... (Below threshold)
virgo:

Stranger to a dictionary

( bigt )??

why does a reference to bigot always subconsciously come thru in your typing?

Mantis Yeah Right ... (Below threshold)
virgo:

Mantis

Yeah Right , sure you thought Iran would have been a better candidate sice we did Iraq first!
And if we would have went to Iran first you would have said the same thing about Iraq, they both have to be dealt with either way so trying to take credit for your superior revisionist intellect is self absorbsion in the least ...

Thank you for the link, I a... (Below threshold)

Thank you for the link, I appreciate it.

I posted another post on Warrick's follow-up article today. I was stunned that the WaPo posted a link to it on their website.

Gaius

To illiterate Hair Dresser<... (Below threshold)
virgo:

To illiterate Hair Dresser

I will be sure to let the scumbums that have,nt blown themselves up^ know how much you miss them when i get back from Iraq.




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