The Times' November Surprise Backfires

The Times 2006 attempt at a Democrat-boosting November surprise leads Friday's paper ("U.S. Web Archive Is Said to Reveal a Nuclear Primer" by William Broad).

"Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to "leverage the Internet" to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

"But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.

"Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended 'pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.'"

The Times knows just who to blame: "The campaign for the online archive was mounted by conservative publications and politicians, who said that the nation's spy agencies had failed adequately to analyze the 48,000 boxes of documents seized since the March 2003 invasion. With the public increasingly skeptical about the rationale and conduct of the war, the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees argued that wide analysis and translation of the documents - most of them in Arabic - would reinvigorate the search for clues that Mr. Hussein had resumed his unconventional arms programs in the years before the invasion. American search teams never found such evidence."

But here's the buried lead: "Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990s and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq had abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein's scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away."

Broad doesn't probe the implications of that nugget- which suggests Bush was right to consider Saddam Hussein a threat. Instead, there's more Republican blaming: "Thomas S. Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a private group at George Washington University that tracks federal secrecy decisions, said the impetus for the Web site's creation came from an array of sources - private conservative groups, Congressional Republicans and some figures in the Bush administration - who clung to the belief that close examination of the captured documents would show that Mr. Hussein's government had clandestinely reconstituted an unconventional arms programs.

An inside text box reads: "Conservatives thought the site might help find illicit arms."

Conservatives aren't impressed; in fact, many think the Times has unwittingly proved Bush right on the matter of the threat dictator Saddam Hussein posed to the world.

Here's Jim Geraghty at National Review Online: "The antiwar crowd is going to have to argue that the information somehow wasn't dangerous in the hands of Saddam Hussein, but was dangerous posted on the Internet. It doesn't work. It can't be both no threat to America and yet also somehow a threat to America once it's in the hands of Iran. Game, set, and match."

NRO's Stephen Spruiell adds: "I would add that the story appears to have been written to maximize damage to Congressional Republicans -who called for the creation of a web site where these types of documents could be posted - but I'm not even sure itsucceeds atthat. If these documents were as dangerous as the Times and its experts claim they are, why didn't the intelligence officials responsible for posting them recognize that and redact them? From the way the Times describes intelligence officials as lacking enthusiasm for this project to begin with, it sounds to me like they had a job they didn't want to do and half-assed it. How is that Pete Hoekstra's fault?"

Conservative radio host Mark Levin adds(again at the invaluable NRO):

"The Times has just confirmed two things: 1. President Bush was right when he said that Hussein was a threat to the world because, among other things, he would continue topursue weapons of mass destruction; and 2. congressional Republicans were right in demanding a more aggressive and thorougheffort by the Pentagon to interpret theenormous number of documents captured from the Iraqi regime.

"The Times 's emphasis on 'Republicans' demanding the release of these documents and the administration's posting them on a public website was an obvious attempt by the newspaper to cause some kind of eleventh-hour Republicanembarrassment.The Times had hoped the weekend before the election would be spent debating the handling of this information rather than its existence and substance.But it was wrong.This is a stunning find that confirms a primary basis forthe president ordering the military to remove Hussein from power.This finding also strikes a blow to the Democrat mantra that the president lied to get us into the war with Iraq.

"The Democrats and their partners in the liberal media demandto know what the president plans to do to stop Iran and North Korea from securing nuclear weapons.Yet, when he did, in fact, stop Iraq from getting those same weapons, he is loudly denounced for it.

"Thanksto the New York Times for disclosing this important information four days before a crucial election.Your November surprise has just backfired."