Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Spinning the NIE

I swear that our rotting press corpse must be completely incompetent, illiterate, or mainlining payola to have transformed the NIE on Iran's lack of nuclear capability into the opposite of what the intel estimate says. Crooks and Liars posted up a Google search of "bogus and misleading headlines." More about that in a minute. First, check this priceless lame-ass excuse from Hadley that makes the WH look supremely stupid and unabashedly craven:

As Shuster and Maddow point out, the Bush administration has no shame, which is why they had no problem trotting out National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, to float the ridiculous notion that the report wasn’t completed until Tuesday of last week and that President Bush only learned that Iran halted its nuclear program four years ago — the following day.
Uh huh. So while, "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb, Iran" played in the background over the years, Hadley fed a howler to the American public yesterday to cover the wild assertion that Bush didn't know what the intel folks were debating over the summer. As the Washington Post noted in its front page story about the NIE this morning (with emphasis):

[Keep reading...]
A major U.S. intelligence review has concluded that Iran stopped work on a suspected nuclear weapons program more than four years ago, a stark reversal of previous intelligence assessments that Iran was actively moving toward a bomb.
The new findings, drawn from a consensus National Intelligence Estimate, reflected a surprising shift in the midst of the Bush administration's continuing political and diplomatic campaign to depict Tehran's nuclear development as a grave threat. The report was drafted after an extended internal debate over the reliability of communications intercepts of Iranian conversations this past summer that suggested the program had been suspended.
But Hadley would have us believe that Bush only learned of the "stark reversal" of intel on Iran just last week. OK, maybe things go real s-l-o-w at the WH and/or Bush reads real s-l-o-w. Or, George -- expecting so many dignitaries for his Annapolis bash, celebrating Thanksgiving, attending all the festivities, meetings, and summits of which a preznut must undertake along with summer vacations -- got distracted. Shucks, keeping up with nukes in the world is indeed hard work.

Another possibility: Incurious George decided to treat the NIE as adeptly as he handled the August 2001 PDB, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S" or the Iraq Study Group's recommendations. He ignored it, in denial of anything that didn't fit his own biased agenda. We'll get to learn the scoop today since he's called a press conference. Oh, joy!

As for the misleading stories that headline the opposite of what the NIE says... how did it happen? Spencer Ackerman at The Horse's Mouth captured a screen shot last evening of an AP story that got picked up by numerous news outlets repeating the erroneous, US Officials: Iran Has Nuke Capability. Ackerman rightfully surmised:
These misleading AP headlines aren't free of consequences.... casual readers will come away with an impression of the Iranian nuclear weapons non-program that's exactly the opposite of what the U.S. intelligence community says it is -- or, at the least, they'll be needlessly confused. And when Bush administration hawks or GOP politicians or Joe Lieberman lie about the nuclear threat from the Tehran Islamofascists, they'll be playing to an already-bamboozled audience. Nice work!
This morning I googled the identical headline text (see screen shot above) just as Ackerman and Crooks and Liars did. When I clicked through, the faulty headlines in all 10 instances that I found displayed appropriate headlines representative of the NIE. For example, the WaPo story headline after the click reads, "U.S. Finds That Iran Halted Nuclear Arms Bid in 2003." Ackerman also noted the same was true yesterday.

I know from work experience that GoogleBot spiders online news editions at various times throughout a 24-hour period. The question is, did the errant AP headline -- indicative of a first pass by GoogleBot recording initial online errors, possibly of a first print edition repurposed for the Web -- show up in the wire story in dead-wood newspapers? Check your local newspapers and let us know in Comments. Hopefully, copy editors caught the mistake before the presses rolled. At this posting, the wrong headlines in Google's search remain unchanged.