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Saturday, March 18, 2006

It depends on what the definition of dissenters is.

Atrios notes and interesting exchange here.

I had the impression that New York Times journalist Michael Gordon lied blatantly. Re-reading I realise that this view depends on the definition of dissenter. In context it clearly does not refer to anyone who disagrees but rather an expert or official who disagrees. Gordon insists that it can only be interpreted as an expert or official who disagrees and is affiliated with the US government (even though it can't refer only to US public employees).

My interest in this tiny aspect of the interveiw is clearly pathological. The whole post at democracynow is worth reading. Anyway, indulging myself I edit, comment in <> and add emphasis by bolding and with asterisks to show why I am outraged at Gordon (who was clearly being questioned harshly and admirably agreed to be interviewed at a little known harshly critical organisation).

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about some of the mistakes, and I wanted to go now to some of the reporting by the media, which was certainly part and parcel of the whole lead-up to the invasion, and I wanted to go to Michael Gordon and ask you about that September 8 piece that you wrote with Judith Miller, the article that was on the front page of the New York Times, that was cited by Dick Cheney, when he went on "Meet The Press," where you wrote from the beginning -- you said, “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 administrations 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. [snip]


AMY GOODMAN: Let me just ask something on that. Are you sorry you did the piece? Are you sorry that this piece --

MICHAEL GORDON: No, I'm not. I mean, what – I don't know if you understand how journalism works, but the way journalism works is you write what you know, and what you know at the time you try to convey as best you can, but then you don't stop reporting.

[a long back and forth which does not get more amicable after Gordon told Goodman that she doesn't know how journalism works removed here].

MICHAEL GORDON: Okay. I'm the person that wrote the IAEA story when they challenged it. I'm the person that suggested the New York Times cover it. I wrote it twice. The second time I wrote it with a reporter named Jim Risen [snip]

Had I had perfect information, and had I had -- many of these experts who have now, after the war, like Joe Wilson, decided to share their reservations with us. Had they shared all of this with *us* at the time, I would have happily put in more caveats and dissenting views, but the dissenters were not dissenting to the New York Times at the time. But as soon as the IAEA went public with its assessment, I covered it, [snip]

AMY GOODMAN: The dissenters themselves disagree, and they say they did contact the New York Times. For example --

MICHAEL GORDON: No, I’m sorry, that’s not true.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me make my point, and then you can answer it.


AMY GOODMAN: For example, David Albright, who is the U.N. weapons inspector, and I am quoting from Michael Massing's letter to the editor, responding to your objection to his piece in the New York Review of Books. Albright writing that the Times’ September 13 story, which you also co-authored with Judith Miller, was heavily slanted to the C.I.A.'s position, and the views of the other side were trivialized. Albright says – and this is the man who contacted the Times. Let me just quote for our audience, this is Albright saying, “An administration official was quoted as saying that the best technical experts and nuclear scientists at laboratories like Oak Ridge supported the C.I.A. assessment. These inaccuracies made their way into the story, despite several discussions that I had with Miller on the day before the story appeared, some well into the night. In the end, nobody was quoted questioning the C.I.A.'s position, as I would have expected. He says.

MICHAEL GORDON: Are you going to let me talk now?

AMY GOODMAN: If you could respond to that, please.

MICHAEL GORDON: Yeah. You're not well-informed on this issue, because – I don't have any, you know, criticism of you as an individual, but you're not very well informed on this, because if you were well-informed on this – I'm friends with David Albright. I think David Albright's an upstanding person who is doing very good work. I'm actually not Judy Miller, so I'm not the person he had the conversation with, but David certainly took the view early on, and he deserves a lot of credit for this, that the aluminum tubes were not intended for nuclear purposes. That's absolutely true, and as a person outside government, he did that analysis.

However, and this is a very important point for you and your viewers to keep in mind, David Albright, at the very same time he made this analysis, believed Iraq was probably pursuing nuclear weapons [snip]

AMY GOODMAN: But the tubes were key, [snip]

OK now Gordon is being criticized but he responded by attacking Goodman claiming that her assertions were false and that she is ignorant. the challenged assertion by Goodman assertion is clearly true as stated. She is in no way obliged to accept let alone anticipate the claim that an IAEA inspector is not one of "these experts who have now, after the war, like Joe Wilson." David Albright is more expert than Wilson, like Wilson he is not employed by the US government. The fact that he is outside of government is completely irrelevant to the question of whether Gordon and Miller should have quoted him in an article on Alumininum tubes and Iraq. Finally Gordon objects to interpreting the word "we" to refer to "the two authors of the article including Miller" as opposed to interpriting it correctly as referring to the royal Gordon.

The qualification of experts as experts "who have now, after the war, like Joe Wilson, decided to share their reservations with us." makes the statement a non lie. It could be argued that such experts must have been asked to study the question by the US government or that the claim is tautalogical because "after the war" is to be interpreted as "after but not before the war". The claim could be deliberately misleading.

The fact is that in addition to being very rude Gordon attempted to defend the article using a deliberately deceptive argument or a lie, then when called on the deception blamed his interviewer for discussing the article and its authors and not just his role in it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amy Goodman is a notorious pain in the ass, but she's very well known, and she's got extremely good credentials as a journalist (on the whole, toughing it out under extreme circumstances and exposing oppression beat, something you'd think relevant here.) Gordon's condescension is a sign of character deficiency, and suggests he deserves no credit for agreeing to an interview with "little-known harsh" interviewer. The idea that Goodman is underinformed because she busts him -- that's gotta be Judy Miller talking.