MORE ON SABRI....

MORE ON SABRI. Jonah Goldberg links to this earlier NBC news report on the Naji Sabri issue. Jonah and his readers seem to have two points to make. One is that the NBC account allegedly contradicts the CBS account. The other is to mock CBS for being "a month behind" on the story. Both claims are false and, indeed, somewhat contradictory. The NBC story is different from the CBS story. This, however, is exactly why CBS wasn't "late" with their account. Rather, building on previously reported information, they added new information to the story. NBC reported that Sabri told the CIA that they were all wrong about Iraq's WMD programs. What CBS added is that this didn't just vanish into some CIA black hole but, according to Tyler Drumheller, the administration's top officials were apprised of Sabri's information and chose to ignore it.

Jonah's readers also want to make a big deal out of the fact that Sabri apparently did say that Iraq had stocks of chemical weapons. Thus, in a semantic sense, Sabri's account supported the contention that Iraq "had WMD programs." But, of course, as has always been the case, chemical weapons are a red herring here. They don't cause "mass destruction" and are nothing to worry about. The serious debate about Iraq always concerned the nuclear program. Sabri provided apparently accurate information about this to the CIA, and the CIA apparently provided it not just to George Tenet, but also to the President, the vice president, the secretary of Defense, and the national security advisor, all of whom ignored it. If this was the only thing they ignored, of course, that would be one thing. But it entirely fits a pattern -- information that contradicted the line they wanted to deliver just never penetrated into their consciousness, and the classification process was used to ensure that pieces of evidence bolstering their case were prominently displayed in the media, while pieces of evidence undermining it were left to fester in secrecy.

--Matthew Yglesias

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