More On the Inspector General and Douglas Feith
The Washington Post's ombudsman explains how the Post attributed to the Pentagon inspector general's report words that were actually from a statement made by Sen. Carl Levin in 2004. (I blogged about this last week.)
The answer: Reporter Walter Pincus was operating off a Levin press release, which set off two blocks of quotations, one from the IG's report and one from Levin's 2004 statement, preceded by the words "the report concluded" in one case and "the report states" in the other. The ombudsman says that "Levin and the inspector general reached some similar conclusions" but concedes that "Levin's quotes were more pointed and accusatory." I'd disagree with that characterization. The IG report said, without justification in my view, that it was "inappropriate" for Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith to present a briefing contradicting or questioning the intelligence community consensus. Levin said that Feith's office "was predisposed to finding a significant relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda" and produced intelligence "reporting of dubious quality or reliability." That goes a lot farther than the IG did--and that's what got the story on the front page. I'd guess that Pincus tends to share Levin's view and that this may have made him predisposed to attribute it to the IG as well. But it's still an astonishing and embarrassing mistake.
Here's my Creators Syndicate column this week on the use and misuse of intelligence.
By Michael Barone