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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Disphasia II

Republicans on the SSCI have agreed (again) to conduct an investigation of whether policy makers deceived the public about prewar intelligence on alleged Iraqi WMD and ties to al Qaeda. However it does't look like the phase II report is going to be unanimous. For one thing Chairman Roberts is suggesting to the public, in effect, that phase I was phase II and the policy makers were cleared.

More specifically, it is clear that he plans to hold the administration to a very low standard.

Under last year's agreement, it was unclear whether the committee would consider whether there were contradictory or competing intelligence reports circulating at the time public statements were made that could call them into question, or whether the panel would simply check to see whether each statement could be backed up by at least one piece of intelligence.


As one senior committee staff member put it, "This study will not punish 'cherry-picking' intelligence, whether by the administration or by Democrats."

This basically allows total dishonesty. According to the staff member, whose desire for anonymity is completely comprehensible, it is not deception to state as a know 100% certain fact anything that any nut or crook in the world claims. I would consider the astrology standard. Prof Behe of Lehigh U, a (the?) biology professor who believes in "intelligent design," had to agree, under oath, that according to his standard astrology was science. I think senator Roberts has to be asked if he would or would not consider it deceptive for Bush to state that astrology is 100% reliable.

If the standard is that it is ok to say that if there is some CIA report that notes that a source is completely convinced by astrology, then, I think, such a claim is OK. I'm sure some CIA analyst has written something like "x claims the Soviet Union is attempting to get a communist elected Pope. This is implausible partly because x also claims that astrology is valid." or something.

An authentic example of how far one can go with cherry picking. Trying to make fun of Richard Clarke, Stephen Hadley (now NSA) claimed that Clarke had written something which he had not written. Clarke wrote that Bush's policies were so useful to al Qaeda that it was as if Osama bin Laden controlled Bush's mind. Hadley misquoted Clarke leaving out the "as if" and suggested that Clarke thought that Bin Laden was magically controlling Bush. This is a case of Hadley (who was clearly lying) said that Clarke said. I think that according to Roberts' standard, that counts as some hint of evidence that Bin Laden is indeed controlling Bush's mind. Would it be OK for say Cheney to tell the public that it is 100% certain that Bush is an agent of Bin Laden based on Hadley's distortion of Clarke's statement ?

I would consider that to be a bit of a no no, but its relationship to the truth is very similar to, say, this claim from the Post article "For example, in a Sept. 8, 2002, appearance on CNN, Condoleezza Rice said Iraq was receiving 'high-quality aluminum tubes that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.'".

Given the mass of lies and fantasies drifting out in cyberspace alone (forget about the real world) there is no real difference between cherry picking and plain old fashion lying.

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