The Downing Street Memo Story Won't Die
Tuesday, June 7, 2005; 9:18 AM
More than a month after its publication, the so-called Downing Street Memo remains among the top 10 most viewed articles on The Times of London site.
It's not hard to see why this remarkable document, published in The Times on May 1 (and reported in this column on May 3), continues to attract reader interest around the world, especially with British Prime Minister Tony Blair visiting Washington Tuesday.
The July 2002 memo, labeled "SECRET AND STRICTLY PERSONAL - UK EYES ONLY," reports the views of "C," code name for Richard Dearlove, the chief of British intelligence. Dearlove had just retuned from a visit with Bush administration officials eight months before the war in Iraq began.
"Military action was now seen as inevitable," Dearlove told Blair and his senior defense policy advisers. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
A separate secret briefing paper for the meeting said Britain and the United States had to "create" conditions to justify a war.
The story attracted some news coverage in the United States, but not much. Last month, the Chicago Tribune concluded that "the Downing Street memo story has proven to be something of a dud in the United States.
"The White House has denied the premise of the memo, the American media have reacted slowly to it and the public generally seems indifferent to the issue or unwilling to rehash the bitter prewar debate over the reasons for the war," wrote reporters Stephen J. Hedges and Mark Silva.
Still the story won't go away, thanks to the attention it gets on the Internet.
"I think it's a . . . profoundly important document that raises stunning issues here at home," Sen. John Kerry told a Massachusetts audience last week. "And it's amazing to me the way it escaped major media discussion. It's not being missed on the Internet, I can tell you that."
Kerry promised to raise the issue when he returned to Washington this week.
On Sunday, "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert asked Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman about the memo. Mehlman said "that report has been discredited by everyone else who's looked at it since then."
When Russert noted that the authenticity of the report has not been discredited, Mehlman said "I believe that the findings of the report, the fact that the intelligence was somehow fixed have been totally discredited by everyone who's looked at it."