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The Memo That Won't Quit

The memo doesn't come entirely out of context. For instance, as Danner writes: "We have long known, thanks to Bob Woodward and others, that military planning for the Iraq war began as early as November 21, 2001."

Similarly: "As Woodward recounts, it would finally take a personal visit by Blair on September 7 to persuade President Bush to go to the United Nations."

And there was that perplexing Catch-22 that Bush presented the public, saying that if Saddam Hussein were to produce some weapons of mass destruction at the last minute, that meant he had them, and if he didn't, that meant he was hiding them.

Walter Pincus weighed in with a story on page A18 of The Washington Post last Friday. He noted: "Although critics of the Iraq war have accused Bush and his top aides of misusing what has since been shown as limited intelligence in the prewar period, Bush's critics have been unsuccessful in getting an investigation of that matter."

And Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler wrote on Sunday about the relative paucity of coverage thus far: "The New York Times, alertly, did a story right away from London on May 2, including some of the language from the memo and some reaction from Blair. The Knight Ridder news service distributed a story from Washington on May 6 putting the memo in the context of what official Washington had been saying at the time in 2002. It also quoted an unnamed 'former senior U.S. official' as describing the account of the senior British intelligence officer's visit to Washington as 'an absolutely accurate description of what transpired.' Last Thursday, the Los Angeles Times also contributed an article prepared in London and Washington headlined 'Indignation Grows in U.S. Over British Prewar Document.' None of these stories were on the front page. Even though it was late, The Post should have broken that pattern.

"How significant this memo may turn out to be is still to be determined. But the reaction to the failure to cover it, even with the hyperbole and worst assumptions about journalistic motives by some of the e-mailers, is understandable. It is a reminder of how powerfully the circumstances leading up to this war still reverberate within a sizable chunk of the population and why the press should not let go of any loose ends that may shed light on how this happened."

The Newsweek Admission

The White House that the press frequently raps for not admitting its mistakes yesterday pressured Newsweek to fully retract its report that U.S. investigators have confirmed that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated Korans -- and now says that was only a first step.

Howard Kurtz writes in The Washington Post that Newsweek issued a formal retraction yesterday of the flawed story.

"The damage-control efforts by Newsweek followed criticism by White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who called it 'puzzling' that Newsweek, in his view, had 'stopped short of a retraction.'

" 'That story has damaged the image of the United States abroad and damaged the credibility of the media at home,' McClellan said in an interview. He said that Americans, including President Bush, 'share in the outrage that this report was published in the first place.' . . .

"McClellan said the story 'appears to be very shaky from the get-go' and rests on 'a single anonymous source who cannot substantiate the allegation that was made.' "

Terence Hunt reports this morning for the Associated Press: "The White House says Newsweek took a 'good first step' by retracting its story that U.S. investigators found evidence interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Quran, but it wants the magazine to do more to repair damage caused by the article. . . .


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