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935 Bush administration misstatements about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda, 2001-2003

- January 31, 2008

The Center for Public Integrity has issued a new report in which it presents the results of what it describes as a painstaking process of documenting and fact-checking statements about the security threat posed by Iraq by eight key Bush administration officials (Bush himself, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House Press Secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan) between October 2001 and August 2003 — the two-year period immediately following the September 11 attacks. The result is a catalogue of what the Center researchers claim to be 935 explicit or implicit falsehoods, featuring a crescendo of misstatements leading up to the onset of coalition airstrikes on Baghdad in mid-March, 2003, and winding down thereafter. Here’s a time line:


The premise guiding the identification of falsehoods was straightforward: “It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al Qaeda.” Thus, any statement indicating otherwise was regarded as a misstatement of fact.

Below the fold are some particulars about the study. For a fuller description, click here.

[Hat tip to via Jim Johnson’s blog]

bq. The statements that served as the focus of the analysis pertained either to Iraq’s purported possession of weapons of mass destruction or to Iraq’s links to Al Qaeda — two of the most frequently cited rationales for the war.

bq. All public statements on these two topics by the eight administration officials identified above were collected from the the White House, State Department, and Defense Department websites and from transcripts of interviews and briefings, texts of speeches and testimony, prepared statements, and the like. Also included were statements that appeared in major newspapers or on television programs, that were part of public statements by other officials, or that were contained in government studies or reports, books, and the like.

bq. In press briefings, interviews, and other question-and-answer venues, each answer was categorized as a distinct statement. In speeches or briefings, only when one statement clearly ended was the next statement considered, and then only if a “buffer” of at least 50 words separated them.

bq. False statements were classified as “direct” when they specifically linked Iraq to Al Qaeda or referenced Iraq’s possession, possible possession, or efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction. In addition, any use of the verb “disarm” was categorized as a direct statement because of the literal meaning of the word.

bq. Statements were classified as “indirect” if they did not specifically link Iraq to Al Qaeda but alleged, for example, that Iraq supported or sponsored terrorism or terrorist organizations, or if they referred to Iraq’s former possession of weapons of mass destruction or used such general phrases, for example, as “dangerous weapons.” These statements were not included in the total count of 935.