Sonic Puke
It's all fun and games until somebody pokes out an eye

11/18/2003

Why is the press avoiding the Weekly Standard's intelligence scoop?

Who's afraid of the Weekly Standard?

Everybody knows how the press loves to herd itself into a snarling pack to chase the story of the day.

But less noticed is the press's propensity to half-close its lids, lick its paws, and contemplate its hairballs when confronted with events or revelations that contradict its prejudices.

The press experienced such a tabby moment this week following the publication of Stephen F. Hayes' cover story in the most recent Weekly Standard about alleged links between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. The Hayes piece, which went up on the Web Friday, quotes extensively from a classified Oct. 27, 2003, 16-page memo written by Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith at the request of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee, which is investigating the administration's prewar intelligence claims, asked Feith to annotate his July 10 testimony, and his now-leaked memo indexes in 50 numbered points what the various alphabet intelligence agencies (CIA, FBI, DIA, NSA) had collected about a Saddam-Osama connection.

A classified memo by a top Pentagon official written at Senate committee request and containing information about scores of intelligence reports might spell news to you or me—whether you believe Saddam and Osama were collaborating or not. But except for exposure at other Murdoch media outlets (Fox News Channel, the Australian, the New York Post) and the conservative Washington Times, the story got no positive bounce. Time and Newsweek could have easily commented on some aspect of the story, which the Drudge Report promoted with a link on Saturday. But except for a dismissive one-paragraph mention in the Sunday Washington Post by Walter Pincus and a dismissive follow-up by Pincus in today's (Tuesday's) Post pegged to the news that the Justice Department will investigate the leak, the mainstream press has largely ignored Hayes' piece.

What's keeping the pack from tearing Hayes' story to shreds, from building on it or at least exploiting the secret document from which Hayes quotes? One possible explanation is that the mainstream press is too invested in its consensus finding that Saddam and Osama never teamed up and its almost theological view that Saddam and Osama couldn't possibly have ever hooked up because of secular/sacred differences. Holders of such rigid views tend to reject any new information that may disturb their cognitive equilibrium.

But except for exposure at other Murdoch media outlets (Fox News Channel, the Australian, the New York Post) and the conservative Washington Times, the story got no positive bounce. Time and Newsweek could have easily commented on some aspect of the story, which the Drudge Report promoted with a link on Saturday. But except for a dismissive one-paragraph mention in the Sunday Washington Post by Walter Pincus and a dismissive follow-up by Pincus in today's (Tuesday's) Post pegged to the news that the Justice Department will investigate the leak, the mainstream press has largely ignored Hayes' piece.

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