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Advice For Reporters: Follow The Niger Forgeries

Advice For Reporters: Follow The Niger Forgeries

By Richard Myers

So, the head of CIA has fallen on his sword to protect his boss. Yet this feels like Watergate, with the floodgates poised to open wide.

I've been pleased in recent days to discover that the corporate media actually has a pulse. I'd like to suggest a couple of areas for them to sharpen their thinking about the issues.

We have seen a minor media frenzy since the State of the Union address admission. This is welcome, although it baffles anti-war activists. Mainstream reporters with surprised expressions are telling the public an amazing array of apparently newly-discovered details, almost all of which have been staples in the anti-war movement for months. Reporters should broaden their horizons, browse the web now and then.

Admittedly, the mainstream media has resources and access not available to the alternative media. If our democracy is to function properly the mainstream and alternative media need each other, and activists regret the extent to which our legitimate observations have been ignored.

The current buzz concerns inappropriate use of intelligence developed from forged Niger documents, yet we hear almost nothing about the documents themselves.

Who has them? Who has seen them?

Did they really come from an Italian intelligence agency, as has been suggested in some stories?

Why haven't reporters camped on the doorstep of the Italian embassy, demanding answers from the Italian government and their media?

Documents don't just appear out of thin air. Someone obtained them from someone else, and that someone else has an address.

The administration's current defense seems to be that the controversy concerns just "sixteen words". Aside from reminding us of the 18 minute Nixonian gap, the administration's counter-attack implies falsely that the only WMD intelligence failure has involved accusations about a nuclear program.

But there were separate WMD accusations-many of them very specific-suggesting that huge quantities of poisons and their locations had already been identified. We heard assertions that the Iraqis possessed nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons capable of threatening not just the Middle East, but also major cities in the United States: anthrax, smallpox, ricin, sarin, cyanide gas... yet each report of actual weapons relating to Iraq has so far been discredited.

Intelligence involves collection and analysis of data. Pronouncements and policies must be based upon that data rather than on political convictions. Barring some sudden, dramatic discovery, each accusation increasingly appears to represent a separate lie. The sixteen word tapdance should be challenged.

One tantalizing question concerns the timing of the forged document admission.

In theory, the current media firestorm could have been avoided if the administration had continued to stonewall (a Bush administration specialty). Was the admission forthcoming because the press drumbeat was so intense (unlikely), or was disassociation from this particular intelligence source forced due to fear of a greater controversy when the public learns who was actually responsible for the forgeries?

Dig deeper. Follow the forgeries to their source. Our democracy is in greater danger from within this country than it ever was from Iraq, and it is possible that only elements of the media working together can unravel the knots.


- Richard Meyers is a Denver area anti-war activist who claims no relationship to that other fellow with the same name. This opinion is also published here:

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