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October 06, 2004

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» Nope wouldn't want it to affect the election from Hellblazer
Sebastian is always one to find microscopic specs and enlarge under an electron microscope to almost unbelievable proportions. Or to see the vast left wing conspiracy in absolutely everything. So of course, I'm sure he doesn't see any problems what... [Read More]

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I await Slartibartfast's comments on this post with interest.

Our local CBS affiliate's GM ran an O'Reilly type email review in an opinion piece, trying to support HIS station's position on awaiting the results of the 'inquiry'. They're getting hammered. Just hammered. Email after email of local folks sharing their disgust with Rather's insidious behavior. CBS is trying to hold on with old tires, losing lap after lap in the process.

Great point, Blogbudsman. We all understand how accurate those email surveys are.

Sebastian: It's not true that CBS 'only wants to affect the election if they can help Kerry'. From Salon (first link I found; this story was reported extensively elsewhere):

"One measure of the debacle is a "60 Minutes Wednesday" segment that millions of viewers now will not see: a hard-hitting report making a powerful case that in trying to build support for the Iraq war, the Bush administration either knowingly deceived the American people about Saddam Hussein's nuclear capabilities or was grossly credulous. CBS News president Andrew Heyward spiked the story this week, saying it would be "inappropriate" during the election campaign."

I think they're just feeling burned, and (completely inappropriately, in my view) trying not to do anything 'controversial' between now and the election. -- I mean, the problem with the memos wasn't that they might affect the election; it was that they were forged. Truths that affect the election should be aired, whichever side they benefit.

I await Slartibartfast's comments on this post with interest.

What? You mean there's even more that needs to be said?

hilzoy,

See this post from Jim Lindgren at volokh.com re that story. I don't subscribe to the broad-brush "liberal media" attack at all, but CBS News is looking rather less than "fair and balanced" these days.

Just to be clear, regardless of the truth value of the Niger yellowcake claims, what I find eyebrow-raising in that post is that CBS "gave a tape of their half-hour story (before its scheduled broadcast) to organizations that share CBS's orientation, such as Salon."

I thought that Salon got a copy from CBS for standard pre-release publicity, and then, when CBS spiked it, decided to air it. I have no idea whether they sent the story to anyone else.

In reality, Sebastian's "simple investigation" isn't as simple as he'd like to portray.

Did he rely on a source known to be unreliable? Yes.

The facts are that Burkett was in a position to know what was going on in the TANG. His integrity and honesty had been vouched for by fellow officers. OTOH, he clearly had an axe with the guard over a medical problem.

Did he say that the source was 'unimpeachable'?
Yes.

Yes, he did. Subjective term not disproven.

Once more, Burkett enjoyed a very good reputation within his unit among his fellow officers.

Were the documents forged? Yes.

Not established.

Did CBS have a good reason to believe they were genuine? No.

In your opinion. CBS felt otherwise. Obviously, the content has been verified by what was previously known and accounts of COL Hodges and Ms. Knox.

Did CBS's experts warn them that the documents appeared to be fake? Yes.

And some experts said they appeared genuine. Again, the content isn't in dispute.

Did CBS claim the documents came for a personal file? Yes.

Yes.

Did they know any such thing? No.

Wrong. COL Via and Ms. Knox have noted Killian did keep a personal file. COL Hodges has concurred with the content. From my own experience, I know most COs (certainly those at O-5 or above) keep such personal files.

Did CBS tell the Kerry campaign about these documents before they aired? We don't know.

CBS also informed the WH.

Did Lockhart talk to Burkett about the documents? Of course, there was nothing else for them to talk about, but that will never be proven.

Lockhart has addressed.

What? You mean there's even more that needs to be said?

What? You're not going to object to Sebastian stating unproved hypotheses as if they were fact?

I have no idea whether they sent the story to anyone else.

Hmm... I just drilled down to the Wizbang post that Lindgren used as the source, and there was nothing in the way of a cite to back up his claim, so maybe I should lower my eyebrows for now.

Sebastian treats us, once again, to his manufactured "outrage" over CBS's incompetence and malevolence toward the right. Hello, the corporate right-wing media is incompetent, every damn day, and that incompetence serves the interests and purposes of radical conservatism, every damn day. And, CBS/Rather's misadventures with the fraudulent Killian memo's is no exception.

You want to know the ultimate source and purpose of these frauds, then look to consequences to suggest motive, and you are right back where you would be, if you were trying to explain Fox News or Tim Russert or Hardball or Wolf Blitzer or what passes for political or war reporting in the New York Times. The corporate right-wing media is habitually incompetent, and that incompetence serves the purposes of the Right. Nearly half the country are able to cling to idiotic opinions, because they live inside a fantasy world, "knowing" things, which just ain't so, unchallenged by the corporate right-wing media, which is reporting lies or giving 24/7 coverage to Scott Peterson. A singularly malevolent Administration can reliably lie, because the corporate right-wing media will report whatever they say, with little or no comment.

Cheney just lied his way through a "debate" on national television. Sebastian needs to wake up.

Bruce: Sebastian treats us, once again, to his manufactured "outrage" over CBS's incompetence and malevolence toward the right.

You know, I don't think Sebastian's outrage is manufactured. (Misplaced, sure. But that's a different thing.) I don't share Sebastian's opinions (no surprise there) and he's made more than a few unproven claims stated as if they were factual that I'm still waiting for Slartibartfast to jump on... ;-)

A singularly malevolent Administration can reliably lie, because the corporate right-wing media will report whatever they say, with little or no comment.

Actually - which I have written about at more length the last time Sebastian did a "liberal bias in the media post" - the tension between the corporate ownership of the mass media, and the crusading/questioning impetus of journalism, is of long standing. It's my impression that of late the corporate ownership has been tending to win out, but figuring this out would take more sustained work that I imagine we'll see in a blog post.

Cheney just lied his way through a "debate" on national television. Sebastian needs to wake up.

Everyone makes their own choices what to write about.

I feel that Katherine's posts on extraordinary rendition are the most important topic being covered, not just in the blogosphere, but anywhere. But that's no reason why Edward or Sebastian or Von or anyone should refrain from writing about other things.

Sebastian: It's well-known by now that CBS has quashed Josh Marshall et al's story about the origin of the forged Nigerean yellowcake documents (remember, the important forged document scandal - the one about a case for invading a nation supposedly reconstituting its nuclear capability, as opposed to the one about some dopey rich kid getting strings pulled for him in the 70s) because they didn't want to "influence the election." So please, spare us the "liberal media" claptrap. CBS, like most of the mainstream media, is biased towards sensationalism and whatever will hold viewers off from changing channels, not towards politics - and right now, after the memo blowup, they're desperately trying to keep from driving viewers away by making any more waves.

The facts are that Burkett was in a position to know what was going on in the TANG.

So, Burkett has connections to the TANG? And here I thought he was Texas Army National Guard. Well, could be ignorance on my part. As far as Burkett being unreliable, I seem to recall that Burkett claimed to have witnessed the trashing of Bush's ANG records. Even Burkett's witness can't verify. What Bush's records might be doing at Camp Mabry is a mystery unto itself.

The truly interesting question of the day: Given what we've seen from CBS news in this bit of reporting, how much weight do you give their reporting when they provide evidence that such and such person *without* a powerful press-spinning machine did such and such bad thing.

Of course, it's depressing that Bush's ANG records were thought by *anyone* to be more than a passing bit of irrelevance in this presidential race. You're electing someone for president. This guy's got a clear four-year track record in the job, and extensive spoken comments from himself and his administration. What possible use can additional evidence about his national guard service (or lack of same) provide to a voter?

--John

So, Burkett has connections to the TANG? And here I thought he was Texas Army National Guard. Well, could be ignorance on my part.

You said it. You could have easily researched how LCOL Burkett came to become involved with Bush's TANG files and the assorted controversies via a simple Google search.

A good summary may be found here.

The link above also points out the contradictions you note with Mr. Conn, who seems to have changed his story out of concern for his job. However, the link also notes others remembered Burkett telling them about the file shenanigans.

"Sebastian: It's well-known by now that CBS has quashed Josh Marshall et al's story about the origin of the forged Nigerean yellowcake documents (remember, the important forged document scandal - the one about a case for invading a nation supposedly reconstituting its nuclear capability"

Really? The available reported evidence is the Italians are blaming French intelligence for forging the documents. Marshall has hinted, but never reported otherwise. If he knows better, he ought to report it. I hear he has a website. The importance of those documents is overblown on the left, especially since we now have former darling-of-the-left Joe Wilson's book admitting that he had reports from the former Prime Minister of Niger that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger. Since Bush's statement went to Saddam's intentions, such evidence would be important.

"The facts are that Burkett was in a position to know what was going on in the TANG."

No he wasn't. He wasn't even in TANG.

"CBS also informed the WH."

Nice dodge. CBS informed the White House of the story only hours before. It informed the Kerry campaign days before, and revealed the 'confidential' source to the Kerry campaign. The 'confidential' source was not revealed to the Bush campaign.

"In your opinion. CBS felt otherwise. Obviously, the content has been verified by what was previously known and accounts of COL Hodges and Ms. Knox."

Obviously you haven't been following along. Hodges says that he was asked to verify the content with assurances that the notes were handwritten. He responded that if Killian wrote such notes, that is what Killian meant. That is a far cry from verifying the computer generated notes. CBS did not rely on Ms. Knox until after the fact. Her reports also contradict what Killian told his family and others. But most importantly she had nothing to do with the verification process which is clearly broken at CBS.

I'm not manufacturing outrage about the liberal media. I am however shocked to find that people upthread still hang on to the fiction that the documents are not forged. Still believe Hiss and the Rosenbergs were innocent?

Pure partisan spin from Sebastian.

There's a lot more evidence that the Niger yellowcake documents were forged than that the Bush national guard memos were.

If Sebastian were actually outraged about falsehoods and lies, he would be a lot more scandalized by the administration than by CBS. CBS used documents that may have been forged to support a story that was in broad outline pretty much true, and has little effect in the real world. The administration used documents that may have been forged to support a story that turned out to be completely false, and had enormous negative real world impact.

I suspect his motivation has more to do with puffing up the tired old Republican spin of "liberal media bias". I don't think many people who aren't already convinced right-wing partisans are going to fall for that after what we've seen over the last seven or eight years.

No he wasn't. He wasn't even in TANG.

Kindly see my link above.

Nice dodge. CBS informed the White House of the story only hours before.

Untrue. Are you seriously suggesting Dan Bartlett was interviewed--on camera-- about the issue 120 minutes or so before the 8 Sep 04 60 minutes show was aired? Actually, Bartlett received the documents about 12 hours before the show aired and he was interviewed about 3 hours after that.

Obviously you haven't been following along. Hodges says that he was asked to verify the content with assurances that the notes were handwritten.

That's a deflection. Let's assume Hodges was told the notes were handwritten; if the content was wrong or in error, why would Hodges assert the content was accurate regardless of how they were recorded?

MQ, I'm going to try not to be snarky. But it is going to be hard, so I'm just going to include my quote and then yours and we can let other people judge if yours makes sense.

Sebastian: "The available reported evidence is the Italians are blaming French intelligence for forging the documents."

MQ: "There's a lot more evidence that the Niger yellowcake documents were forged than that the Bush national guard memos were."

Why do you think that I believe the Niger documents were not forged?

Who isn't interested in truth here?

Kids, this isn't LGF, dKos, Free Republic and/or DU; none of you have telepathy*, so everybody playing the "What X is REALLY thinking" schtick on regulars should, like, stop. Now.

Moe

*Those who actually do should give me a call; I've got this (nonpolitical and completely legal) scheme for... well, if you're so telepathic, you already know. :)

Jadegold,

Kerry's team got the CBS info days before, Bush's hours before. You just reiterated my argument right after saying it was untrue.

Your link does not explain how Burkett would have obtained Killian's personal files. Killian died in 1984. Burkett's issues involve a start in the late 1990s. It does not explain how Burkett would have obtained personal files. It does not explain why if he had them, he would not have turned them over years earlier since he has had an axe to grind with Bush since Bush was governor. It does not explain why if he recently received such documents he destroyed them, leaving only 'copies'. It explains none of that. Your link is unconvincing, especially since your source (Kevin Drum) has also written : "I talked with Burkett at length back in February, and speaking as someone who believes his story about Bush's files being purged, I still wouldn't trust him for a second if he suddenly produced a bunch of never-before-seen memos out of nowhere. If he really is CBS's "unimpeachable source," they've got some very serious problems with their news judgment."

Well, Sebastian is making a Freeper type post here, so he deserves a DKos type of response. CBS is backing off from a number of hard-hitting exposes, including one that would clearly aid Kerry (on the yellowcake story and the other falsehoods during the buildup to the war). Sebastian presumably knows this, since it has been widely reported. Yet here we get this little hissy fit about CBS not playing into the calculated right-wing crusade to make the trivial incident with the Bush memos a major campaign issue. (Trivial compared to other issues on the table in this campaign). Which is supposed to demonstrate that CBS is a left wing tool?

Contrast his reaction to the forged Niger yellowcake documents. He admits that the documents were forged (sorry, I got this wrong). But "the importance of these documents is overblown", since there is (he claims) other credible supporting evidence that Saddam was seeking uranium from Niger. Well, again, I would say that there is a lot more credible supporting evidence that Bush got favoritism during his national guard duty than that Saddam had any real possibility of getting uranium from Africa. So I would also say the importance of the National Guard memos is overblown. But I doubt Sebastian would agree.

And you're right, motivations are subjective and cannot be known. So I withdraw any statement about Sebastian's true motivations. In fact, it is much more interesting to speculate about exactly why otherwise intelligent conservatives who get sucked into the Republican spin machine feel such intense outrage and indignation about these trumped up sorts of issues.

"Well, again, I would say that there is a lot more credible supporting evidence that Bush got favoritism during his national guard duty than that Saddam had any real possibility of getting uranium from Africa."

MQ, I dealt with this too. Please feel free to read my words instead of imagining them. But to restate: Bush argued that Saddam was seeking uranium. This was an argument about Saddam's intentions and his willingness to pursue them. Whether or not the allegedly airtight third-world country controls would have been sufficient to stop Saddam from obtaining uranium from Niger has very little to do with the fact that Saddam was willing to actively seek banned substances while right in the middle of being sanctioned for obstructing UN inspectors. This strongly suggests that Saddam was not detterable in the long run--that he would keep fighting against the rules regarding nuclear research until he found a way to successfully evade them.

Kerry's team got the CBS info days before, Bush's hours before. You just reiterated my argument right after saying it was untrue.

You're grasping for straws, Sebastian. The WH received the Killian documents at 0745 ET on 8 Sep 04. They had been informed of their existence the day before. Bartlett sat down for an interview with John Roberts of CBS at 1115 ET. The show was broadcast at 2000 ET.

If the Kerry campaign received the documents several years ago--what did they do with them? Tell us how the campaign exploited them or was complicit in their distribution.

Your link does not explain how Burkett would have obtained Killian's personal files.

My link addressed those questions you asked previously about Burkett and his association with TANG.

You said it. You could have easily researched how LCOL Burkett came to become involved with Bush's TANG files and the assorted controversies via a simple Google search.

Well, to be honest I avoid Drum's site like the plague, when searching for fact. I've seen quite a lot written about this elsewhere, though, and not one bit of it explains how Bush's records came to be at the Adjutant's office, or how any shredding of paper records there would affect records in Guard storage in St. Louis or Denver or wherever.

And...how convenient that Conn recanted. Do you have that claim backed up anywhere else, other than by Burkett? Because no one at all seems to be able to corroborate Burkett.

"If the Kerry campaign received the documents several years ago--what did they do with them? Tell us how the campaign exploited them or was complicit in their distribution."

I'll presume you meant days, because Kerry's campaign wasn't in existance several years ago. That said, how about their 'independent' push on the Guard issue on the very same day that CBS was to run the story?

What more in the way of evidence of coordination could you get short of Lockhart breaking down and admitting it on television?

especially since we now have former darling-of-the-left Joe Wilson's book admitting that he had reports from the former Prime Minister of Niger that Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger...

I believe that's incorrect. The more precise version was, IIRC, that the minister (don't remember whether he was the former PM or not) had been approached by Saddam Hussein to open trade negotiations. Nothing came of them, though; they were never held at all. It was the Nigerien minister who, after the fact, declared that he couldn't think of any reason why Iraq would have wanted trade negotiations with them except for uranium.

IOW, it's not that Saddam was seeking uranium in Africa (something we'll probably never know the truth of) but that the Nigerien minister's imagination failed him when talking to Joe Wilson. That's a markedly different proposition.

What? You mean there's even more that needs to be said?

From you, "Wait and see" would be de rigueur...

"Well, Sebastian is making a Freeper type post here, so he deserves a DKos type of response."

You seem to be operating under the mistaken belief that you are allowed to argue with official pronouncements made by the moderators of this weblog. I don't care what your opinions are; but if you want to act in a manner like somebody on dKos, go to dKos.

From you, "Wait and see" would be de rigueur...

Hmmm...with respect to which issue do you think I've done an inadequate wait/see? It's certainly possible that I've failed to follow my own advice.

"IOW, it's not that Saddam was seeking uranium in Africa (something we'll probably never know the truth of) but that the Nigerien minister's imagination failed him when talking to Joe Wilson. That's a markedly different proposition."

That is not what the prime minister said. According to Wilson: "It was Saddam Hussein's information minister, Mohammed Saeed Sahhaf, often referred to in the Western press as "Baghdad Bob," who approached an official of the African nation of Niger in 1999 to discuss trade -- an overture the official saw as a possible effort to buy uranium."

And that is exactly the kind of evidence you would expect--an official who got under the table signals that he interpreted as efforts to buy uranium. Combine that with the fact that Niger doesn't export anything else Saddam might need, and you have as good a case as you are ever likely to get. Saddam wasn't going to write a letter for people to find entitled "Secret Plan to get Uranium, do not tell the US." He would personally send a high ranking minister. That minister would feel things out. The prime minister of Niger would not allow discussions to continue in that direction (we hope). Talks would then be cut off and fail to resume.

In other words, exactly what happened.

Well, to be honest I avoid Drum's site like the plague, when searching for fact.

Your choice. However, Kevin Drum does furnish cites to back up his claims. I'll admit I find Drum pretty credible; I chose to use his post because it neatly summarizes the pre-CBS/Killian memos issue WRT Burkett and charges the Bush Guard records were scrubbed.

I've seen quite a lot written about this elsewhere, though, and not one bit of it explains how Bush's records came to be at the Adjutant's office, or how any shredding of paper records there would affect records in Guard storage in St. Louis or Denver or wherever.

The answer is that a state's National Guard falls under both the particular state's auspices (the Texas National Guard based at Camp Mabry) as well as the approriate federal entity--in this case, the US Air National Guard. As such, personnel records would be maintained at both locations, though I doubt there'd be exact document for document match in both sites.

And...how convenient that Conn recanted.

Again, Conn has told the story to several sources. And he hasn't fully recanted Burkett's account. As for saying nobaody else corroborates Burkett's story--that's simply not true. Dennis Adams, Harvey Gough, and at least one anonymous source refute your assertion.

That said, how about their 'independent' push on the Guard issue on the very same day that CBS was to run the story?

Looks bad in a vacuum, huh, Sebastian? Of course, if we ignore the fact the GOP was singing the praises of the Swift Boat Liars at the time, it would seem unreasonable for the Kerry campaign to hit back on Bush's dubious service.

"Looks bad in a vacuum, huh, Sebastian? Of course, if we ignore the fact the GOP was singing the praises of the Swift Boat Liars at the time, it would seem unreasonable for the Kerry campaign to hit back on Bush's dubious service."

And an interesting co-incidence that CBS should happen to also select that very time for their broadcast.

Maybe it is just a coincidence, but the fact is that Kerry's team knew about the story quite a few days in advance, knew when it would air, and had talked to Burkett. Which makes it sound like a non-coincidence.

And an interesting co-incidence that CBS should happen to also select that very time for their broadcast.

Not really; remember, Ben Barnes had just been recorded at KE04 campaign rally openly admitting he had used his influence to get Bush a uard billet.

Again, Conn has told the story to several sources. And he hasn't fully recanted Burkett's account.

Haven't read the Globe article, have you? It's not a recant, technically, because recant implies contradiction. Conn said initially that Burkett was the soul of veracity without specifically addressing any of Burkett's claims. When commenting directly on what Burkett said, Conn says that none of it happened.

As such, personnel records would be maintained at both locations, though I doubt there'd be exact document for document match in both sites.

Great. If that's true, I'd fully expect the DNC would be demanding that Bush release the TANG files at Camp Mabry. And under Texas state law, personnel documents must be maintained on microfilm at the Texas archives. So, the utility of keeping paper originals around and discarding them at some later date is highly questionable, given that the records are on microfilm.

Moe Lane: Those who actually do should give me a call; I've got this (nonpolitical and completely legal) scheme for... well, if you're so telepathic, you already know.

I do, and it won't work.

If that's true, I'd fully expect the DNC would be demanding that Bush release the TANG files at Camp Mabry. And under Texas state law, personnel documents must be maintained on microfilm at the Texas archives.

As you read but did not cite the AP article, you know the AP has sued for the Teaxs records.

I do, and it won't work.

You forgot to carry the two.

You forgot to carry the two.

Didn't. You forgot that tomato isn't enough.

Didn't. You forgot that tomato isn't enough.

A-hem. It's a leap year, remember?

Sebastian, many of us think deterrence is not about preventing people from *intending* to do stuff, it is about preventing them from actually doing it. The anti-war argument about containing/deterring Saddam was always that in terms of any real capacity he was likely to get in the near future, Saddam was pretty low on the list of actual threats to the U.S. So the question of just how likely he was to get WMDs is quite relevant. The war could never have been sold on the basis of "Saddam: still wishes he could get uranium from some African countries!".

Regardless, you are avoiding the main thrust of my argument. Which is: you are willing to introduce all kinds of external considerations/evidence to justify the Bush administration's use of forged documents (external to the documents themselves that is), while refusing to extend any of the same consideration to CBS. Despite the much greater intelligence and fact-checking resources possessed by the Bush administration and the greater importance of the issue. You refuse to look at any of the broader evidence for the "Bush received favoritism in the Guard" story to excuse the CBS memos, while you eagerly seek out broader evidence that Saddam was seeking WMDs to excuse the administration's memos.

I suspect the difference has something to do with your general trust in the Bush administration's motivations for war, and your general suspicion of CBS as (presumably) a left wing media outlet determined to unfairly smear the right. Such "issuelets" as the CBS memos, the Niger yellowcake memos, and the exact details of Bush's national guard service only have power insomuch as they symbolize something larger. This is not a rap on the people who bring up the issues, but pretty much a fact about how political communication works. No one would or should care that much about the Niger memos if there was broad trust in the competence and honesty of the Bush administration; it would be written off as an understandable error. I wouldn't really care about them Likewise with the right and the media.

I of course disagree strongly with you about our supposedly left wing media (which I view as an empty right wing propaganda trope which is at best a distraction from real issues). But regardless of who is correct on that: surely if there is a "left wing media conspiracy" (including CBS or otherwise), they have been remarkably unsuccessful in achieving any left wing goals. The Republicans control every major Federal institution. In fact, the left hasn't even been able to prevent the mainstream media from hounding such Democrats as Clinton and Gore, while giving Bush a much easier time of it up until pretty recently. So how important can the issue these memos are supposed to symbolize -- our supposedly prejudiced, dishonest, left-biased media -- really be?

"You refuse to look at any of the broader evidence for the "Bush received favoritism in the Guard" story to excuse the CBS memos, while you eagerly seek out broader evidence that Saddam was seeking WMDs to excuse the administration's memos."

To quote a great man: "There you go again."

Whose memos?

The Italian memos? The one's not relied upon for Bush's statement? The report from Wilson showing that the ex-prime minister of Niger thought that Saddam was seeking uranium?

Frankly I don't understand why you think I'm uninterested in the Niger forgeries. I would love to find out why French intelligence passed forged memos to an Italian who gave it to the US. I just don't see that explanation as likely to help your case much.

A-hem. It's a leap year, remember?

Not in 5765.

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Whatnot


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