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Bush was intent on invading Iraq long before he sought congressional approval: Memo

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A London newspaper rocked British elections when it leaked a top intelligence official's report that President Bush was intent on invading Iraq long before he sought Congress' approval. Bush called Iraq an urgent threat, but the memo says "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." British officials are not denying the memo's accuracy, and a former senior American official called it "an absolutely accurate description of what transpired.

This revelation nearly cost Prime Minister Tony Blair his re-election, and it was all over the British press. But American newspapers barely mentioned this new evidence that Bush twisted the facts to justify war. The major newspapers ran one or two stories rehashing the British reports. Worse, TV network news shows haven't covered the memo at all.

Readers of the New York Times recently demanded coverage of the British memo, and the newspaper finally wrote a full story. We can do the same for network news.

So with that I wrote 4 e-mails and sent them to Peter Jennings of ABC News...

CBS News

NBC News and...

PBS. And demanded them to cover this very important story.

The effect is working. Why? Because recently, people have written letters to the New York Times and demanded them to cover the story. The NYT responded and has done so.

bcalame - 4:29 PM ET May 24, 2005 (#1 of 3)

New Public Editor Looks at 'Downing Street Memo' Coverage

(Editors' Note: This post was originally published in Daniel Okrent's Web Journal)

The flood of reader e-mail criticizing The Times's coverage of the so-called Downing Street Memo has moved me to post about the issue.

Some background: The secret minutes of a July 2002 meeting of top advisers to British Prime Minister Tony Blair were published May 1 by The Sunday Times in London. Critics of the Bush administration and the Iraq war have focused on two matters in the minutes. One is the suggestion that Mr. Bush had decided to go to war earlier than he has acknowledged. The other is the statement that the chief of Britain's secret intelligence service had returned from a visit to Washington where he found that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Here's one of the less strident reader e-mails, from Leslie Lowe of New York City:

* "After all the mea culpas about the poor job the NYT did on pre-invasion news analysis, I find it noteworthy that the paper has barely mentioned the memo by Matthew Rycroft [the foreign policy aide to Mr. Blair who prepared the minutes, according to The Sunday Times] that rocked the U.K. and nearly cost Blair the election. According to the Rycroft memo, the authenticity of which has not been disputed, the decision to invade Iraq had already been taken as of July 2002 and the 'intelligence' was subsequently cooked to justify what the U.K. Attorney General deemed an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation.

* "Please be good enough to explain why this story has not been the subject of further investigation on this side of the Atlantic and editorial demands for explanations from the White House? This memo is a bombshell and your one-day story, buried on page 9, certainly makes me wonder about your editors' news judgment. Or is it news censorship?

* "Once again, The NYT is failing to give its readers the full story of how we got into the present disaster. Increasingly, we must turn to the foreign press and the Internet for critical information and analysis."

The Times's coverage of the once-secret memo started alertly with a May 2 article by Alan Cowell that laid out its contents in the context of the possible impact on the May 5 British election. But the news coverage languished until this morning when a Times article from Washington focused on the reaction to the memo there. This has left Times readers pretty much in the dark until today — and left critics of the paper's news columns to suspect the worst about its motives. (On the Op-Ed page last Monday, Paul Krugman did cite the memo high up in his column.)

My checks find no basis for Ms. Lowe's concern about censorship or undue outside pressures. Rather, it appears that key editors simply were slow to recognize that the minutes of a high-powered meeting on a life-and-death issue — their authenticity undisputed — probably needed to be assessed in some fashion for readers. Even if the editors decided it was old news that Mr. Bush had decided in July 2002 to attack Iraq or that the minutes didn't provide solid evidence that the administration was manipulating intelligence, I think Times readers deserved to know that earlier than today's article.

Phil Taubman, The Times's Washington bureau chief, believes that Mr. Cowell's May 2 story met some of this need for readers. That story, however, didn’t deal at all with the impact in Washington. (Ms. Lowe wasn’t the only reader to complain about the story's play inside the front section, but I think the play appropriate given its British election context.) Mr. Taubman explained in an e-mail to me how the bureau sorted out the need to follow up on the memo's suggestion that Mr. Bush had already decided to go to war:

* "Given what has been reported about war planning in Washington, the revelations about the Downing Street meeting did not seem like a bolt from the blue. The minutes of the meeting suggest a degree of certainty about going to war that is newsworthy, but in thinking about this, the bureau recognized that Cowell had covered the report. If we were going to do something, it should, if possible, add to the story and offer some perspective."

I then asked Mr. Taubman about the comment in the minutes that was the most striking to me — the assertion that the Bush administration was manipulating intelligence estimates. His response, slightly defensive but holding fast to a high reporting standard:

* "As I read the minutes, they described the impressions of the head of MI6, who had recently returned from Washington, where he had met with George Tenet. It is mighty suggestive that Lord Dearlove, the chief of MI6, came home with the impression, or interpretation, that 'the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.' However, that's several steps removed from evidence that such was the case. The minutes did not say that Mr. Tenet had told that to Lord Dearlove or that Lord Dearlove had seen specific examples of that. The minutes, in my estimation, were not a smoking gun that proved that Bush, Tenet and others were distorting intelligence to support the case for war."

In the end, Mr. Taubman said Thursday:

* "All these considerations were factored into the decision that the bureau did not have to jump on the story immediately after The London Times account appeared. Given continuing reader interest, we decided to do the story that Doug [Jehl] is filing today."

(Mr. Jehl, it should be noted, was tied up earlier this month on the coverage of the John Bolton confirmation battle and was assigned early this week to do today's story.)

So Times readers finally have the Washington bureau's take on the Downing Street Memo to go with the alert coverage on the minutes the foreign desk provided back on May 2. Overall, it's better than the readers of most other newspapers got. It's just unfortunate that today's Washington perspective, much of it based on reporting that could have been done days ago, didn't land in readers' hands sooner.


you will need to suscribe to the NYT to view it from there. It's free.

If you want to read the memo, go here:


Here's the result of pressure by the people to get the media off their duffs to report this important story.

'Downing St. Memo' fizzling in U.S.



Fox News also reported it...


And more sources here:


Bush is fucked!

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