A shoddy October surprise
The Times did not discuss the difficulty of looters trying to remove a vast store of explosives, with coalition forces constantly moving around in the area. And the paper remained incurious about the role of IAEA Director General Mohammed El Baradei in promoting the "October Surprise." No word in the paper that the Bush administration has been trying to deny him a second term as director for his weakness in confronting the Iranian nuclear-weapons program and for misreading the extent of Libya's nuclear efforts.
By Thursday, the Times -CBS scoop seemed to be coming apart. ABC was reporting that, according to IAEA documents, the missing explosives amounted to only 3 tons, not 377 or 380. Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, told the Washington Post that the Times article had been rushed into print because the Internet had gotten wind of it. The blog Power Line offered this comment: "When the Times runs a false, half-baked story, it isn't their fault; they had to do it lest people get wind of the false, half-baked story from some other source first." Keller also said there should be no fuss over the Times coverage because the newspaper's original story allowed the possibility that the looting had preceded the troops' arrival. Not really. That Times story said "White House and Pentagon officials acknowledge that the explosives vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year." That sentence turned the whole article into yet another Times indictment of Bush. Isn't this journalistic malpractice?