Thursday, November 10, 2005

More on an anatomy...

I have been advised on how to search the BBC’s website using the Google search engine rather than the BBC’s inadequate engine. Doing so returned a few articles which I had not previously seen, all of which simply added to the number of times in which the BBC had misreported the Wilson saga. More significantly, however, is that, as with previous searches using the BBC engine, the Google search did not unearth any BBC reporting on the Wilson revelations that came out of the July 2004 Senate Intelligence Committee report on pre-war intelligence. Given the high profile that the BBC had given to Wilson following his original charges, and would proceed to give him as the Plame investigation carried on and came to a head, this incuriousness over what the Senate report revealed about him is itself a bit, well, curious (to put it mildly).

Also, although I briefly mentioned and linked to it yesterday, my sense of fairness compels me to give a slightly higher profile to the single BBC piece which I think did do a fair and accurate job of laying out the facts without trying to lead the reader into drawing preferred conclusions. There is little to be found in this Q&A by Paul Reynolds, from a week after Wilson’s article came out in the NYT, with which to take issue. Interestingly, it was not aimed directly at answering questions about Wilson’s accusations, but was instead directed at explaining the difference in intelligence views between the US and Britain regarding the Niger/Iraq link. In it Reynolds accurately portrays Wilson’s mission and conclusions; notes that senior admin officials were not briefed on those conclusions; notes that the CIA did not view Wilson’s observations as having resolved anything; and notes that the British intel claim was not derived from the forged documents, and that therefore, as far as British intelligence was concerned, the fact that the documents were forged had no impact on its belief.

Having pointed all this out, however, one can’t help but wonder: If, a mere one week after Wilson’s charges first appeared, the BBC had these facts at hand, what explains its distorted and misleading coverage over the course of the next 2+ years?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

To those of you breathlessly following what Scott himself says might be a "tedious" exchange (it is certainly long)I am preparing a response. Mever convict until you have heard the defence. An old reporter's rule which holds today.

Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only way Paul Reynolds or the BBC generally can regain any credibility on all this is if he makes a major feature of the core fact that WILSON LIED, and that WILSON WAS ON A VENDETTA.

So far, the BBC simply repeats the WaPo/NYT/DNC bias. As usual.

Will Reynolds deal forensically with the facts? Here are some for him :

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"An old reporter's rule which holds today."

Pompous patronizing ass.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Simon Lazarus said...

The evidence shows that Joseph Wilson is a liar.

The evidence shows that Democrats in the United States are covering up for Wilson, for some reason.

The evidence shows that Wilson's wife got him sent to Niger - and no one else did.

Mr. Libby should call Wilson to the stand in his trial and have his lawyers rake Wilson over the coals. And if Libby is convicted, President Bush should issue a pardon.

After all, if Bill Clinton can pardon Marc Rich, then Bush can pardon Lewis Libby.

10:27 PM  
Anonymous tired & excitable said...

Who Is Lying About Iraq? The article by Podhoretz mentioned by Anonymous II is comprehensive, clear and balanced -- namely everything the BBC is not -- and is the context needed to nail the BBC's sloppy-assed witch hunt to the floor.

All that British taxpayer money, all the staff and resources, all the bragging about the size and depth of BBC news operations in the US... all directed at foisting cheap shills like Reynolds/Frei on a credulous public. Again.

5:29 AM  
Anonymous David H said...

"Never convict until you have heard the defence. An old reporter's rule which holds today."

Paul Reynolds might want to pass that bit of information on to his colleagues at BBC News - they're certainly ready to convict (especially if GW Bush is involved) before having all the evidence to hand. What about Matt Frei's reports from New Orleans and the '10,000 dead'? I watched Paul Reynolds' colleague Jeremy Bowen on BBC World last night placing the blame for the Jordanian bomb attacks at the door of the Jordan government for their supposed 'close ties to the US'. Perhaps Paul Reynolds would be better off having a word with his colleagues before he starts pontificating on here.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tired and excitable

As you say, the article by John Podhoretz I posted above is definitive. ALL OF IT is supported by reference TO FACT, to Senate enquiry results, to Wilson's own words etc. Therefore it presents a very different picture to the BBC's reporting which is based in party propaganda that plays to the BBC's overall anti-Bush, anti-war theme.

For all its huge resources (which we are forced to pay for) the BBC presents us with lies. Do they KNOW they are lying ? Podhoretz is simply a working lawyer who also helps run a blog, Powerline. The blog that helped expose the lies of Dan Rather/Mary Mapes of CBS that were intended to rock Bush's election campaign, lies which the BBC was happy to peddle repeatedly, lies which the general thrust of BBC reporting never exposed. At the same time they remained notably silent about the parallel news about the statements by the Swift Boat Vets. Bush bad, Kerry good was the motto at the BBC. And Bush is still bad in their book as they march in lockstep with the Guardian, the Indie, the NYT, the LA and Washington Times. And with the DNC.

"The BBC - first with the lies, and lots of repeats". Brilliant. And then Reynolds tries to patronise us. Creepy.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Scott Callahan said...


FYI, Podhoretz is a columnist for the NY Post and National Review Online. As far as I know, he is not a lawyer and has no conncections at all with Powerline.

Still, his article was a good one.


2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The other and more important running lie that the BBC condones by virtually never challenging (eg lsst night's Question Time) is that "Bush lied over WMD". Any commentator or interviewee is allowed to get away with that lie, virtually any time. And the BBC makes sure it happens plenty of times by its choice of interviewees and audiences.

BBC interviewers, presenters and writers virtually never point out the contrary facts and the 2002/early 2003 context. The Wilson lies are just part of this pattern.

3:10 PM  
Anonymous tired & excitable said...

So far as I know, the author Norman Podhoretz is the father of John (NY Post) and is editor-at-large of Commentary, a monthly publication of the American Jewish Committee.

Only an anti-semite would object to its contents on those grounds. In the "four legs good/two legs bad" world of the BBC ideologue, that's probably enough. For the rest of us, the article stands or falls on its contents. Make your own mind up.

FWIW, I believe Commentary magazine is suitable for ladies, gentlemen, boys and girls and children of all ages -- and I say that as a not-very-devout-at-all-in-fact-decidely-lukewarm Christian.

I do not feel the same way about the BBC/Grauniad. How could that be?

3:22 PM  
Anonymous paul reynolds said...

I sent Scott my response by e-mail on Friday afternon and am looking forward to seeing it on his site.

Paul Reynolds

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Paul Reynolds said...

The Callahan Calumnies

Scott Callahan, the American Expatriate, has made a serious accusation against the BBC in his article “Anatomy of a False Narrative.” I am going to describe my response as “The Callahan Calumnies.”

They are indeed calumnies – false charges.

Callahan’s case is that the BBC misrepresented both the nature and results of a visit to Niger by a former US ambassador Joseph Wilson in February 2002.

Let me deal first with the nature of the visit, which Callahan himself says is the “primary question.” Much of his criticism flows from this charge and if it can be shown to be false, that criticism necessarily fails.

It is false.

He says that the BBC, in its online reporting, failed to understand that Wilson was going to Niger, in Callahan’s own words, “to look into the notion that Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger, not that it had simply sought to obtain it.”

He claims that this distinction is important on the following grounds: when Wilson reported that he could find no evidence of an actual sale, the “myth had thus been fixed in place” that “no such attempt had ever been made.”

I will deal with the results of the visit in a moment.

But let me first dispose of this “primary question”.

The basis of the US concern about Niger was a report from an unnamed foreign intelligence service, which later provided the text of an alleged contract between Iraq and Niger for the sale of uranium yellowcake, the refined form of the original ore.

Common sense indicates that anyone sent on a mission to investigate whether a sale had taken place would want to check the whole background. This might include whether any discussion of a sale had taken place and any approach made.

But one does not have to rely on what common sense says.

We have Wilson’s instructions.

They show that the Callahan distinction is wholly bogus and artificial.

The Senate Intelligence Committee on intelligence and the Iraq war, released in July 2004, looked into the Wilson visit in some detail.

On page 41 it describes how the CIA’s Counter Proliferation Division (CPD) briefed him on what to do.

“On February 20, 22002 CPD provided the former ambassador with talking points for his use with contacts in Niger. The talking points were general, asking officials if Niger had been approached, conducted discussions, or entered into any agreements concerning uranium transfers with any ‘countries of concern’…” (my italics).

So much for the Callahan distinction.

Let me now consider Callahan’s claims about the results of the mission.

He says that Wilson’s trip “did lend support to the idea that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium” from Niger. He claims that the BBC misrepresented this finding. to presumably downplay the results of the mission.

The basis for Callahan’s claim was a conversation Wilson had with a former Prime Minister of Niger Ibrahim Mayaki. Mayaki reported that in June 1999 (to quote from the Senate report) a “businessman approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. Mayki interpreted this to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium, as Niger had nothing else to sell.

Now, it is true that CIA regarded this information as the most interesting aspect of the Wilson mission. However it failed to convince others, especially the State Department, as the Senate report makes clear.

And let us not forget what Wilson told the Senate Committee staff. “He had told …US officials [the ambassador and another unnamed US official in Niger] he thought there was ‘nothing to the story,’” the Senate report stated. It added that the US ambassador in Niger said she recalled Wilson saying he had reached “the same conclusions that the embassy had, that it was ‘highly unlikely anything was going on.’”

Nevertheless, Callahan clearly expected the media to take the Mayaki supposition fully on board as supporting his case that there was fire behind the smoke.

Yet let us read on in the Senate report to find out what transpired at this meeting between Mayaki and the Iraqi delegation.

It tells us on page 44.

It turns out that Mayaki never even asked the delegation what they meant by “expanding commercial relations” and they never explained!

Mayaki claimed that he “made a successful effort to steer the conservation away from a discussion of trade..”, on the grounds that Iraq was under UN sanctions.

Now this does not mean that the Iraqis did not hope to discuss uranium but they did not make a very serious effort it appears.

One wonders how this delegation explained itself to Saddam Hussein.

So much for the strength of the Callahan claims about the results of the mission.

Callahan ranges far and wide across the field of this episode and I will not go through all the details. This, he himself has suggested, would be tedious. I have dealt with the main charges.

I will add two things though.

The first is that I accept that some of the wording on this story needs more care. I myself was guilty of implying in one story that Wilson had gone to Niger to investigate the British government’s belief (still held) that Iraq had sought uranium there.

The second is that I now intend to do an updated Question and Answer column on the Niger issue, which I hope will help resolve these issues. Such background is needed anyway to accompany stories about the charges against Lewis Libby.

But the plea, milud, to the charge of pursuing a “false narrative” is “not guilty.”

8:59 AM  

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