'NYT' Reporter Who Got Iraqi WMDs Wrong Now Highlights Iran Claims
By Greg Mitchell
Published: February 10, 2007 10:30 PM ET Friday updated Saturday
NEW YORK Saturday's New York Times features an article, posted at the
top of its Web site late Friday, that suggests very strongly that Iran
is supplying the "deadliest weapon aimed at American troops" in Iraq.
The author notes, "Any assertion of an Iranian contribution to attacks
on Americans in Iraq is both politically and diplomatically volatile."
What is the source of this volatile information? Nothing less than
"civilian and military officials from a broad range of government
Sound pretty convincing? Well, almost all the sources in the story are
unnamed. It also may be worth noting that the author is Michael R.
Gordon, the same Times reporter who, on his own, or with Judith
Miller, wrote some of the key, and badly misleading or downright
inaccurate, articles about Iraqi WMDs in the run-up to the 2003
Gordon wrote with Miller the paper's most widely criticized -- even by
the Times itself -- WMD story of all, the Sept. 8, 2002, "aluminum
tubes" story that proved so influential, especially since the
administration trumpeted it on TV talk shows.
When the Times eventually carried an editors' note that admitted some
of its Iraq coverage was wrong and/or overblown, it criticized two
Miller-Gordon stories, and noted that the Sept. 8, 2002, article on
page one of the newspaper "gave the first detailed account of the
aluminum tubes. The article cited unidentified senior administration
officials who insisted that the dimensions, specifications and numbers
of tubes sought showed that they were intended for a nuclear weapons
This, of course, proved bogus.
The Times "mea-culpa" story dryly observed: "The article gave no hint
of a debate over the tubes," adding, "The White House did much to
increase the impact of The Times article." This was the famous
"mushroom cloud" over America article.
Gordon also wrote, following Secretary of State Colin Powell's
crucial, and appallingly wrong, speech to the United Nations in 2003
that helped sell the war, that "it will be difficult for skeptics to
argue that Washington's case against Iraq is based on groundless
suspicions and not intelligence information."
Now, more than four years later, Gordon reveals: "The Bush
administration is expected to make public this weekend some of what
intelligence agencies regard as an increasing body of evidence
pointing to an Iranian link, including information gleaned from
Iranians and Iraqis captured in recent American raids on an Iranian
office in Erbil and another site in Baghdad." Gordon's unnamed sources
throughout the story are variously described as "Administration
officials," "intelligence experts" and "American intelligence."
Today, in contrast to the Times' report, Dafna Linzer in The
Washington Post simply notes, "Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert M.
Gates said serial numbers and markings on some explosives used in Iraq
indicate that the material came from Iran, but he offered no
For some perspective, here is how that "mushroom cloud" Gordon-Miller
story of Sept. 8, 2002, opened:
"More than a decade after Saddam Hussein agreed to give up weapons of
mass destruction, Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons
and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic
bomb, Bush administration officials said today.
"In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially
designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were
intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium. American
officials said several efforts to arrange the shipment of the aluminum
tubes were blocked or intercepted but declined to say, citing the
sensitivity of the intelligence, where they came from or how they were
"The diameter, thickness and other technical specifications of the
aluminum tubes had persuaded American intelligence experts that they
were meant for Iraq's nuclear program, officials said, and that the
latest attempt to ship the material had taken place in recent months.
"The attempted purchases are not the only signs of a renewed Iraqi
interest in acquiring nuclear arms. President Hussein has met
repeatedly in recent months with Iraq's top nuclear scientists and,
according to American intelligence, praised their efforts as part of
his campaign against the West.
"Iraq's nuclear program is not Washington's only concern. An Iraqi
defector said Mr. Hussein had also heightened his efforts to develop
new types of chemical weapons. An Iraqi opposition leader also gave
American officials a paper from Iranian intelligence indicating that
Mr. Hussein has authorized regional commanders to use chemical and
biological weapons to put down any Shiite Muslim resistance that might
occur if the United States attacks….
"'The jewel in the crown is nuclear,'' a senior administration
official said. 'The closer he gets to a nuclear capability, the more
credible is his threat to use chemical or biological weapons. Nuclear
weapons are his hole card. The question is not, why now?' the official
added, referring to a potential military campaign to oust Mr. Hussein.
'The question is why waiting is better. The closer Saddam Hussein gets
to a nuclear weapon, the harder he will be to deal with.'
"Hard-liners are alarmed that American intelligence underestimated the
pace and scale of Iraq's nuclear program before Baghdad's defeat in
the gulf war. Conscious of this lapse in the past, they argue that
Washington dare not wait until analysts have found hard evidence that
Mr. Hussein has acquired a nuclear weapon. The first sign of a
'smoking gun,' they argue, may be a mushroom cloud."
Last month, Byron Calame, public editor at The New York Times, and the
paper's Washington bureau chief, Phil Taubman, agreed that Gordon had
stepped over the journalistic line in a recent TV appearance by
starkly backing the "surge" in Iraq. Gordon had said, "So I think, you
know, as a purely personal view, I think it's worth one last effort
for sure to try to get this right, because my personal view is we've
never really tried to win. We've simply been managing our way to
The Washington Post joined in on Sunday in trumpeting the Iran weapons
Greg Mitchell (email@example.com