CBS and New York Times Do it Again

As Ronald Reagan might have put it: There they go again.

During the 2004 presidential campaign CBS News and the New York Times blatantly tilted their news coverage in an effort to turn the electorate against President Bush. CBS, of course, used forged documents to attack Bush’s National Guard service. According to a Lexis-Nexis search, the Times has run 697 stories this year mentioning Abu Ghraib prison (where a few U.S. soldiers abused Iraqi prisoners) since that story first broke on January 17. Ninety-eight have run on the front page.

Last week, eight days before the election, CBS News and the Times did it again. This time jointly launching what they believed would be an explosive October surprise.

It blew up in their faces.

The Times carried a front-page headline: “Huge Cache of Explosives Vanished From Site in Iraq/U.S. Admits the Loss of Material It Was Urged to Safeguard–Inquiry is Set.” The story said 380 tons of powerful plastic explosives had disappeared from an Iraqi installation. The paper claimed unnamed “White House and Pentagon officials acknowledged that the explosives vanished sometime after the American-led invasion last year.” The paper also said the “article was reported in cooperation with the CBS News program ’60 Minutes,'” which, in turn, conceded it had originally planned to broadcast the story October 31–about 36 hours before the polls would open. It was the network’s Halloween treat for John Kerry–and dirty trick for George Bush.

But rival and alternative media outlets immediately began raising questions about the CBS/Times story.

Deep in its original report, the Times noted: “As a measure of the size of the stockpile, one large truck can carry about 10 tons, meaning that the missing explosives could fill a fleet of almost 40 trucks.” Critics wondered how looters got this fleet of trucks past the U.S. forces rolling up and down Iraq’s highways in the days following the invasion (when the explosives were allegedly looted). By October 28, the International Atomic Energy Commission (which probably leaked the story in the first place) was admitting to the Associated Press that “the explosives were stored in hundreds of large, heavy cardboard drums that probably would have required trucks and forklifts to handle.”

Meanwhile, Bill Gertz reported in the Washington Times: “John A. Shaw, the deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, said in an interview that he believes [that] Russian [special forces] troops, working with Iraqi intelligence, ‘almost certainly’ removed the high-explosive material that went missing from the Al-Qaqaa facility, south of Baghdad.” That would mean the explosives were removed before the invasion that John Kerry says came too soon.