Thursday, September 14, 2006

Nuke Watchdog Blasts "Dishonest" US Report On Iran

Great reporting from Reuters.
VIENNA (Reuters) - U.N. inspectors have protested to the U.S. government and a Congressional committee about a report on Iran's nuclear work, calling parts of it "outrageous and dishonest," according to a letter obtained by Reuters.

The letter recalled clashes between the IAEA and the Bush administration before the 2003 Iraq war over findings cited by Washington about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that proved false, and underlined continued tensions over Iran's dossier.

Sent to the head of the House of Representatives' Select Committee on Intelligence by a senior aide to International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, the letter said an August 23 committee report contained serious distortions of IAEA findings on Iran's activity.

The letter said the errors suggested Iran's nuclear fuel program was much more advanced than a series of IAEA reports and Washington's own intelligence assessments have determined.

It said the report falsely described Iran to have enriched uranium at its pilot centrifuge plant to weapons-grade level in April, whereas IAEA inspectors had made clear Iran had enriched only to a low level usable for nuclear power reactor fuel.

"Furthermore, the IAEA Secretariat takes strong exception to the incorrect and misleading assertion" that the IAEA opted to remove a senior safeguards inspector for supposedly concluding the purpose of Iran's program was to build weapons, it said.

The letter said the congressional report contained "an outrageous and dishonest suggestion" that the inspector was dumped for having not adhered to an alleged IAEA policy barring its "officials from telling the whole truth" about Iran.

Diplomats say the inspector remains IAEA Iran section head.[Emphasis mine - C]
The report in question was much talked about, with uber-right commenters using it as a call to yet more war. It was primarily written, according to reports at the time, by "Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA officer who had been a special assistant to John R. Bolton, the administration's former point man on Iran at the State Department".

I'm going to make a couple of assumptions that to me make sense. It is impossible to imagine a world in which the CIA or any other intelligence agency could have made such monumental mistakes in reading the IAEA's reports. Which means the authors of the report quite arrogantly and deliberately decided to bend the truth. They must have known that the IAEA would say something about their deceptions so the obvious reading is that they just didn't care. Their judgement had to be that by the time the Agency got around to protesting The report would have done its job of scaring people and furthering the narrative for war with Iran. They must have banked on the spineless U.S. media not giving any rebuttal the same overage as the original report - and so the meme would have passed into "known fact". Mission accomplished. Facts fixed around the policy, at least in the public's memory, yet again.

In a world where normal rules applied, Flietz would now be forced to resign and the House committee members who voted to pass this report on from the subcommittee would make full public recantations of their votes. Especially the Democrat members, like Rep. Rush D. Holt (N.J.), the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee that prepared the report, who should be ashamed of the ease with which they were taken in.

None of that is going to happen, of course.

Update Kevin Drum and the Tiny Revolution blog point out that the Washington Post's version of the IAEA's rebuttal makes it to page A17 while the original report made, of course, page A01.

Tiny Revolution also reminds us of the Post's mea culpa from August 11, 2004:
Prewar Articles Questioning Threat Often Didn't Make Front Page

...An examination of the paper's coverage, and interviews with more than a dozen of the editors and reporters involved, shows that The Post published a number of pieces challenging the White House, but rarely on the front page. Some reporters who were lobbying for greater prominence for stories that questioned the administration's evidence complained to senior editors who, in the view of those reporters, were unenthusiastic about such pieces...

"The paper was not front-paging stuff," said Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks. "Administration assertions were on the front page. Things that challenged the administration were on A18 on Sunday or A24 on Monday"...

In retrospect, said Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., "we were so focused on trying to figure out what the administration was doing that we were not giving the same play to people who said it wouldn't be a good idea to go to war and were questioning the administration's rationale. Not enough of those stories were put on the front page. That was a mistake on my part."
Same old, same old.

By contrast, the BBC's version is currently the headline on their website. Not just the news portion of the site...the whole BBC company website! It has a PDF of the IAEA's letter and the original report. And it has Rush Holt trying hard to weasel-word his way out of his massive mistake:
There was no immediate comment from Washington over the letter.

But Rep Rush Holt, a Democratic member of the House intelligence committee, which released the report, said it had never been meant for release to the public.

"This report was not ready for prime time and it was not prepared in a way that we can rely on. It relied heavily on unclassified testimony," he told the BBC's PM programme.
He still voted for its release and its moment in prime time though. What an asshat.

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