Forget Jayson Blair

Here’s the real scandal: when the administration leaks false information to a New York Times reporter in full stenographer-to-power mode — and then uses the fact that the information has been published in the New York Times to justify their policies.

Somehow I suspect the Times’ chorus of critics on the right aren’t going to be making too much noise over this one, though.

Take the case of staff reporter Judith Miller, who covers the atomic bomb/chemical-weapons-fear beat, and hasn’t heard a scare story about Iraq that she didn’t believe, especially if leaked by her White House friends. On Sept. 8, 2002, Ms. Miller and her colleague Michael Gordon helped co-launch the Bush II sales campaign for Saddam-change with a front page story about unsuccessful Iraqi efforts to purchase 81-mm aluminum tubes, allegedly destined for a revived nuclear weapons program.

Pitched to a 9/11-spooked public and a gullible, cowardly U.S. congress, the aluminum tubes plant was a big component of the “weapons of mass destruction” canard, which resulted in hasty House and Senate war authorization on Oct. 11.

Months later, when the tubes connection was thoroughly discredited (UN weapons inspectors past and present said the tubes were intended for conventional rocket production), the Times did not think it necessary to run a clarification. Nor was Ms. Miller disciplined for shoddy work; on the contrary, when the A-bomb threat had faded, the Bush administration astutely shifted the media’s focus to chemical and biological weapons — and Ms. Miller fell into line with the program.

— snip —

When officials leak a “fact” to Ms. Miller, they then can cite her subsequent stenography in the Times as corroboration of their own propaganda, as though the Times had conducted its own independent investigation. On Sept. 8, Dick Cheney cited the Times’s aluminum tubes nonsense on Meet the Press to buttress his casus belli.

— snip —

Meanwhile, the White House-Judith Miller teamwork has had its intended impact. A Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) poll found that 41 per cent of Americans “either believed that the U.S. had found WMD, or were unsure” and that 31 per cent thought Iraq had actually used chemical or biological weapons in the war (or were unsure). These numbers led PIPA director Steven Kull to suggest that “some Americans may be avoiding having an experience of cognitive dissonance.” No, they’re just reading The New York Times.

Link, via Atrios.