Newsweek: Bush Administration Manipulated Journalists Regarding Iraqi WMD

A Newsweek article written by Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball currently posted at MSNBC.com once again offered the view that the Bush administration lied to journalists about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to justify the March 2003 invasion:

“Oct. 19, 2005 - The lengthy account by New York Times reporter Judy Miller about her grand jury testimony in the CIA leak case inadvertently provides a revealing window into how the Bush administration manipulated journalists about intelligence on Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.”

To bolster their view, Isikoff and Hosenball cited the opinion of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

“The assertion that still-secret material would bolster the administration’s claims about Iraqi WMD was  ‘certainly not accurate, it was not true,’ says Jessica Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who coauthored a study last year, titled ‘A Tale of Two Intelligence Estimates,’ about different versions of the NIE that were released.  If Miller’s account is correct, Libby was ‘misrepresenting the intelligence’ that was contained in the document, she said.”

Yet, like many journalists that have used CEIP as a reference, Isikoff and Hosenball neglected to inform their readers that CEIP wasn’t always so convinced about the absence of WMD in Iraq. In fact, Eric Pfeiffer of National Journal’s “Hotline” wrote about this very issue in a January 2004 op-ed for National Review:

“As recently as late 2002 in their report titled ‘Deadly Arsenals,’ CEIP compiled a detailed list of Iraq's suspected chemical weapon stockpiles, staunch refusal to fully cooperate with coercive inspections, and the ability to reconstitute their nuclear program, including the production of a nuclear weapon, within a matter of months.”

Pfeiffer cited some examples from this report:

“‘Iraq's ambitions and accumulated nuclear technical expertise remain, however, and with them the capability to restart the program covertly ... If Iraq were to acquire material from another country, it is possible that it could assemble a nuclear weapon in months.’"

“In summary, the report concludes, ‘Saddam Hussein may have begun to reconstitute Iraq's WMD programs, including the nuclear weapons program.’"

Pfeiffer’s own conclusions as to why CEIP changed their position on Iraqi WMD:

“CEIP's pivot on Iraq's WMD threat appears to have political implications beyond saving face in light of the as-yet failure to locate stockpiles of chemical weapons. The report calls for ending the policy of preemptive military action a half-dozen times, even going so far as to require ‘United Nations approval before engaging in defensive military action in the face of imminent threats.’ Such a stark contrast to their previous findings led to a source no less than the BBC to describe the group as ‘The left-leaning Carnegie Endowment.’"

For those interested, here is a link to CEIP’s 2002 Report on Iraqi WMD.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.