Friday, November 18, 2005


Raven is cackling hysterically in front of the computer, crumbs of pan de dulce spewing out of his beak.

Mind your manners, Rave. You aren’t the one sweeping the floor around here.

Raven glances down at the less-than-pristine floor.

“Seems like I am not the only one. The latest blunder by New York Times reporters will ring your ears with deja-vu. On CommonDreams, John McGlynn writes:

‘On November 13, 2005, the Times published a report by William J. Broad and David E. Sanger headlined, “Relying on Computer, U.S. Seeks to Prove Iran's Nuclear Aims”. The report contains allegations of secret Iranian plans to obtain a nuclear warhead based on information contained in a stolen laptop computer. The allegations are made by anonymous US “officials”, in the mode of former Times reporter Judith Miller, whose fabulously wrong pre-Iraq invasion September 2002 report on Iraq’s quest for aluminum tubes for use in a clandestine nuclear weapons program set the stage for Bush administration heavies Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice to start talking about tubes + Saddam Hussein x 9-11 = mushroom clouds over America.

‘Like Miller before them, in their story Broad-Sanger rely heavily on anonymous “American officials”, “American intelligence officials”, “officials” in the Bush administration, etc. to roll out the “strongest evidence yet that, despite Iran's insistence that its nuclear program is peaceful, the country is trying to develop a compact warhead.”

‘What is the evidence found in the laptop? “More than a thousand pages of Iranian computer simulations and accounts of experiments” that show “a long effort to design a nuclear warhead.” Where did the laptop come from? “American officials have said little. . . about the origins of the laptop, other than that they obtained it in mid-2004 from a source in Iran who they said had received it from a second person, now believed to be dead.” Is the evidence (or intelligence) convincing? “[W]hile the intelligence has sold well among countries like Britain, France and Germany, which reviewed the documents as long as a year ago, it has been a tougher sell with countries outside the inner circle.” What is Iran’s response? Not in the Broad-Sanger article but in a Reuters article, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said: “The baseless claim made us laugh. We do not use laptops to keep our classified documents.''
‘Returning to Judith Miller, the beauty of her articles is that they had a thumping insistence that something had to be done to stop Iraq. That insistence managed to live on long after the reported facts themselves were disproved or shown to lack credibility or logic.
‘The Broad-Sanger story also has a thumping insistence, but bad as Miller’s articles were on the facts, the Iranian laptop story appears to be a real stinker. Within 24 hours of the appearance of the Broad-Sanger piece, David Albright, a nuclear arms expert and president of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), weighed in to say that Broad-Sanger got the basic facts seriously wrong. In fact, Albright went so far as to accuse Broad of journalistic malpractice. Here's what Albright had to say:
“William J. Broad and David E. Sanger repeatedly characterize the contents of computer files as containing information about a nuclear warhead design when the information actually describes a reentry vehicle for a missile. This distinction is not minor, and Broad should understand the difference between the two objects, particularly when the information does not contain any words such as nuclear or nuclear warhead.”

You’re right, Rave. It reminds me very much of the Graham Greene novel, Our Man in Havana, where the guy recruited by British intelligence almost sent their entire operation into the toilet forever by passing off the schematic diagram of one of the vacuum cleaners he was selling as one for Soviet weaponry!

“Didn’t read the book, but the movie was a riot. Where is Alec Guiness when we need him? Maybe they’ll make a remake with some third rate silly actor.”

Save us from silly actors, Rave. And from third rate silly journalists.