Washington Post Uses Incorrect Quotes in Feb. 9 Front-Page Story on Prewar Intelligence

As NewsBusters reported Friday, the Pentagon on Thursday released its much-anticipated analysis concerning prewar intelligence. It was pointed out that there was a wide array of takes on this report, and that, in particular, Walter Pincus of the Washington Post presented a rather negative impression of the Bush administration in his front-page story on this issue.

Well, it turns out that Pincus’s article incorrectly attributed quotes to this report that were actually taken from statements made in October 2004 by Democrat Senator Carl Levin. The Post has issued the following correction (h/t NB member Steve L., emphasis mine throughout):

Feb. 9 front-page article about the Pentagon inspector general's report regarding the office of former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith incorrectly attributed quotations to that report. References to Feith's office producing "reporting of dubious quality or reliability" and that the office "was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda" were from a report issued by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) in Oct. 2004. Similarly, the quotes stating that Feith's office drew on "both reliable and unreliable reporting" to produce a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq "that was much stronger than that assessed by the IC [Intelligence Community] and more in accord with the policy views of senior officials in the Administration" were also from Levin's report. The article also stated that the intelligence provided by Feith's office supported the political views of senior administration officials, a conclusion that the inspector general's report did not draw.The two reports employ similar language to characterize the activities of Feith's office: Levin's report refers to an "alternative intelligence assessment process" developed in that office, while the inspector general's report states that the office "developed, produced, and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al Qaida relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers." The inspector general's report further states that Feith's briefing to the White House in 2002 "undercuts the Intelligence Community" and "did draw conclusions that were not fully supported by the available intelligence."

It will be fascinating to see what, if anything, happens to Pincus for this egregious error. Stay tuned.

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