Flashback: The White House’s Single, Anonymous, Unreliable Source

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"Flashback: The White House’s Single, Anonymous, Unreliable Source"

Today, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan lectured the media about a “journalistic standard that should be met” before running with a story. Fine, but isn’t there also a political standard of accountability that should be met as well? McClellan’s issue with the Newsweek story was that it was “based on a single anonymous source who cannot personally substantiate the report.”

Remember when we learned that the evidence for Iraq’s supposed mobile biological weapons labs came from an unreliable source? What was McClellan’s response then?

QUESTION: Does it concern the President that the primary source for the intelligence on the mobile biological weapons labs was a guy that U.S. intelligence never every interviewed?

MCCLELLAN: Well, again, all these issues will be looked at as part of a broad review by the independent commission that the President appointed… But it’s important that we look at what we learn on the ground and compare that with what we believed prior to going into Iraq.

[White House Press Gaggle, 4/5/04]

There you have it. When confronted with an anonymous source who provided faulty intelligence that the President relied upon to go to war, McClellan chose not to talk about standards of accountability that should be met. Instead, the White House passed the buck to an independent commission and suggested that it didn’t matter what subsequent information they learned about Iraq’s intelligence because they didn’t know it when they went to war. Newsweek has taken responsibility by retracting its story. Will President Bush take responsibility for his own errors?

QUESTION: He’s the president of the United States. This thing he told the country on the verge of taking the nation to war has turned out to be, by your own account, not reliable. That’s his fault, isn’t it?

MCCLELLAN: No.

[White House Press Briefing, 7/17/03]

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