Monday, September 15, 2003

Major Misattribution

The Washington Post today has a frontpage story summarizing VP Cheney's appearance on Meet the Press with Tim Russert yesterday. Near the end of the story, Milbank & Pincus (the authors) write about what Cheney had to say on the Saudi connection question:
    Cheney was less forthcoming when asked about Saudi Arabia's ties to al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 hijackers. "I don't want to speculate," he said, adding that Sept. 11 is "over with now, it's done, it's history and we can put it behind us."
In other words, it seems that Cheney believes that 9/11 is over and done with, and that we have to move on.

The problem is, this is the exact opposite of what Cheney meant. If you peruse the transcript of Cheney's appearance, you find Cheney's quote; here it is in its original context:
    RUSSERT: There are reports that the investigation Congress did does show a link between the Saudi government and the hijackers, but that it will not be released to the public.

    CHENEY: I don't want to speculate on that, Tim, partly because I was involved in reviewing those pages. It was the judgment of our senior intelligence officials, both CIA and FBI, that that material needed to remain classified.

    At some point we may be able to declassify it, but there are ongoing investigations that might be affected by that release, and for that reason we kept it classified.

    The committee knows what's in there. They helped to prepare it. So it hasn't been kept secret from the Congress, but from the standpoint of our ongoing investigations we needed to do that.

    One of the things this points up, that's important for us to understand, there's this great temptation to look at these events as discrete events. We got hit on 9/11, so we can go investigate it. It's over with now. It's done, it's history, and we can put it behind us.

    From our perspective, trying to deal with this continuing campaign of terror, if you will, the war on terror that we're engaged in, this is a continuing enterprise. The people that were involved in some of those activities before 9/11 are still out there. We learn more and more as we capture people, detain people, get access to records and so forth that this is a continuing enterprise.

    And therefore, we do need to be careful, when we look at things like 9/11, the commission report from 9/11, not to jeopardize our capacity to deal with this threat going forward in the interest of putting out information that's interesting that relates to the period of time before that. These are continuing requirements on our part, and we have to be sensitive to that.
It's clear from what Cheney says before and after the line quoted in the WP that he is offering the view that 9/11 is over and done as a perspective with which he disagrees! His view -- which is really Bush's view -- is that 9/11 and the war on terrorism are linked (obvious), and that the war on terrorism is continuing (obvious), therefore, 9/11 is, in a sense, not over. His point is that we can't expect to write the definitive book on 9/11 yet, because the historical context of 9/11 is not yet at an end.

Now, one can argue with Cheney on this (I tend to agree with him), but the fact remains that he clearly disagrees with the view which the WP attributes to him! As I said in my letter to the editor, perhaps the authors should spend as much time fact-checking their own assertions as they did Cheney's.

[Thanks to Ramesh Ponnuru for pointing this out.]

No comments: