Safire echoed O'Reilly's distortion of Senate intelligence report

››› ››› GABE WILDAU

A day after FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly responded to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's recently released report on prewar intelligence by declaring that "the Senate committee says he [President George W. Bush] didn't lie" about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq," New York Times columnist and former Nixon speechwriter William Safire repeated this false claim in his July 14 column.

From the July 14 edition of The New York Times:

The salient news in the Senate Intelligence Committee report is this: all you have been hearing about "he lied to us" and "they cooked the books" is a lot of partisan nonsense.

The 511-page Senate report concluded this: Nobody in the White House or the Pentagon pressured the C.I.A. to change an intelligence analysis to conform to the judgment that the world would be a safer place with the monstrous Saddam overthrown.

But as Media Matters for America previously noted, the committee's report does not address the accuracy of Bush's public statements regarding the Iraqi threat. The 30-page summary of its conclusions doesn't mention Bush's name. That is because, as MSNBC reported, the committee decided at the outset -- to the consternation of many Democrats -- that the first phase of its investigation would not include analysis of the Bush administration's use of intelligence. The second phase of the investigation will probe these questions, but the committee is unlikely to issue its report on that phase until after the November election, as The New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported July 14.

Moreover, as Media Matters for America also noted, the question of whether the Bush administration pressured CIA analysts to alter their assessments of the Iraqi threat is distinct from the question of whether, in his public statements, Bush or senior members of his administration exaggerated or misrepresented the intelligence he received. But even the former question is far from settled. Safire failed to mention that several Democrats on the committee issued dissenting statements accompanying the report (long pdf; dissenting statements begin on page 449) in which they took issue with the conclusion that CIA analysts did not encounter pressure from the White House or the Pentagon. At the July 9 press conference announcing the release of the report, Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, offered evidence to support his view that CIA analysts did feel pressured.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Intelligence, War in Iraq
Stories/Interests
Prewar Intelligence/WMD
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