NY Times Says It Was Duped
By Pentagon 'Cunning'

By David Teather
The Guardian - UK

NEW YORK -- The New York Times donned sackcloth and ashes again yesterday when its ombudsman said the newspaper had been duped by "the cunning campaign" of those that wanted the world to believe that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
Some stories, Daniel Okrent said, "pushed Pentagon assertions so aggressively you could almost sense epaulets on the shoulders of editors". The half-page critique of the newspaper's coverage during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq followed a separate admission signed by "the editors" last week that said the newspaper had not been as "rigorous as it should have been" in questioning Iraqi exiles.
Mr Okrent said that in the run-up to the invasion, "cloaked government sources ... insinuated themselves and their agendas into prewar cov erage". The newspaper's failure, he said, was institutional. "To anyone who read the paper between September 2002 and June 2003, the impression that Saddam Hussein possessed, or was acquiring, a frightening arsenal of WMD seemed unmistakable."
Mr Okrent said much of the inaccurate WMD coverage was "inappropriately italicised by lavish front-page display and heavy-breathing headlines". Other stories that had challenged the assertions or tried to put the claims into perspective "were played as quietly as a lullaby".
In one instance, a story by James Risen - "CIA aides feel pressure in preparing Iraqi reports" - was completed several days before the invasion and "unaccountably" held for week. The report finally appeared three days after the war broke out and was buried on page 10 of the newspaper's second section.
Many "scoops" based on unsubstantiated revelations have still to be revisited, the ombudsman said.
Mr Okrent said he hoped the failings would produce not further contrition, but rather "a series of aggressively reported stories detailing the misinformation, disinformation and suspect analysis that led virtually the entire world to believe Hussein had WMD.
"The aggressive journalism that I long for ... would reveal not just the tactics of those who promoted the WMD stories, but how the Times was used to further their cunning campaign."
The latest act of self-flagellation has further bruised the New York Times's reputation. The newspaper is still struggling to recover from the revelation last year that a reporter, Jayson Blair, invented elements of dozens of stories.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004,3604,1228111,00.html



This Site Served by TheHostPros