Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Spin Cycle Of Doom (Updated With A New Rinse)

By Cernig

I said yesterday we'd be hearing more about the dreaded Laptop Of Doom and its alleged evidence of Iran's nuke plans, as provided by the MeK terror group to US intelligence. And lo and behold, today the WaPo has a report on exactly that, saying details contained on the laptop prove Iran hasn't been entirely honest about it's weapon activities. It's one of those "when did you stop beating your wife?" situations. But the WaPo report isn't being entirely honest either, it seems.

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis, the Arms Control Wonk, writes:

today, Warrick and Lynch have a story based on notes from Heinonen’s briefing — a good bit of reporting — suggesting that the IAEA had collected “corroborating evidence” from the intelligence agencies of several countries (echo chamber warning) and presenting some new information.

Unfortuantely, the example of “new” information that Warrick and Lynch provide, pertains to documents “described studies on modifying Iran’s Shahab missile to allow it to accommodate a large warhead, which would detonate 600 meters above its target.”

This is not new. Those details were first reported in March 2005 by Carla Anne Robbins and later recycled by Robbins in July 2005 and then David Sanger and Bill Broad in the New York Times.

Indeed, that information, as Robbins reported in 2005, was briefed to the IAEA by Bob Joseph.

So, two questions: What was in the 2008 briefing that wasn’t in the 2005 briefing? And, what else is in those notes?
I'm not sure where Dr. Lewis gets the impression that presenting old news as new and scarier news is "a good bit of reporting". Absent answers to Dr Lewis' two questions - and even more importantly, prehaps, knowing the identity of their source who supposedly took these notes at an IAEA briefing - it looks very much to me like yet another case of press stenographers catapulting the propaganda by a process of rinse and repeat.

Update I see the NYT's Sanger and Broad have their version of the story out too. Like the WaPo version, it concentrates on the warhead details that, as Dr. Lewis points out, were last recycled by Sanger and Broad in 2005.

At this point, the really big question is "who is this un-named diplomat who has so kindly let both WaPo and NYT use his notes -- and what's his agenda?"

Update 2 Siddharth, in comments at Dr. Lewis' blog, puts his finger on the real story:
And wonderful timing too, for all those “notes” being made available to NYT, WaPo and Reuters, just in time for Monday’s big UNSC sanctions vote. In my book – and I speak as a journalist – being handed over notes/documents etc (esp. by a party with a patent interest in the contents being reported) is not “good reporting”. What makes it even worse is that Schulte hands over shady documents to IAEA, gets old Oli to brief everyone, takes notes of said briefing, and hands over said notes to gullible hacks. Much more effective than directly plugging a line to the media.
Go on, someone in the press - ask Schulte if he was indeed the Masked Diplomat.