The New York Times today published a front-page story by Michael Gordon which recites administration claims about Iran’s involvement in Iraq “without the slightest questioning, investigation, or presentation of ample counter-evidence.” Greg Mitchell notes, via Glenn Greenwald, that it was Gordon “who, on his own, or with Judith Miller, wrote some of the key, and badly misleading or downright inaccurate, articles about Iraqi WMDs in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.”
The Times story comes even as evidence grows that the administration planned to release contained cooked intelligence in a “briefing” on Iranian involvement in Iraq .
In little noted comments on Feb. 2, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley acknowledged that the Iran briefing washeld back because it was “overstated” and not “focused on the facts.”
HADLEY: The reason we put the intelligence briefing on hold was really two reasons. One, we thought we’d better get the NIE out so people could see the full context, which you now can. And secondly, quite frankly, we want to make sure that if we put out intelligence, the intelligence community and MNFI can stand behind it, because we are sensitive to try and put out the facts as accurately as we can. …
Q And now [the briefing has] been pushed back. Can we conclude anything from that other than people looked at the intelligence that was set to offered and said, this is not good enough?
MR. HADLEY: No, I wouldn’t —
Q Does that mean there was a willingness to overstate it?
MR. HADLEY: The truth is, quite frankly, we thought the briefing overstated. And we sent it back to get it narrowed and focused on the facts.
But a new report in the National Journal states that it was the intelligence community, not the White House, that demanded the briefing be “scrubbed” of overstated claims:
At least twice in the past month, the White House has delayed a PowerPoint presentation initially prepared by the military to detail evidence of suspected Iranian materiel and financial support for militants in Iraq. The presentation was to have been made at a press conference in Baghdad in the first week of February. Officials have set no new date, but they say it could be any day.
Even as U.S. officials in Baghdad were ready to make the case, administration principals in Washington who were charged with vetting the PowerPoint dossier bowed to pressure from the intelligence community and ordered that it be scrubbed again.
Despite the intelligence community’s intervention, there is still no guarantee that the intel on Iran that is eventually made public will be factual or comprehensive. As yesterday’s report on Douglas Feith reinforced, senior administration officials are perfectly willing to work around intelligence professionals to obtain the “facts” that justify their ideology.
UPDATE: U.S. officials leak the intelligence to Joe Lieberman, who says he approves:
U.S. military commanders in Iraq have shown members of Congress explosive devices that bear Iranian markings as evidence Tehran is supplying Iraqi militants with bombs, a senior U.S. government official said Saturday.
One of the lawmakers, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, said he has seen some of the evidence, though he would not be specific. “I’m convinced from what I’ve seen that the Iranians are supplying and are giving assistance to the people in Iraq who are killing American soldiers,” said Lieberman, who was attending an international security conference in Munich.