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June 19, 2004
Putin's Statement: One Story, Wildly Different Treatments In Broadsheets

Yesterday's blockbuster statement by Vladimir Putin that the Russian intelligence services warned Washington on several occasions that Saddam Hussein planned terror strikes within the US has prompted predictably divergent responses from the American media. Yesterday, even after several hours, major news organizations kept all mention of the warnings from their viewers. This morning it appears that all major media outlets have at least covered the statements in detail, although some outlets insist on treating the statement with a skepticism that one expects from the editorial pages.

For instance, the New York Times puts its skepticism right into the second paragraph, reporting that Putin's allegation surprised the State Department:

President Vladimir V. Putin said Friday that Russia gave intelligence reports to the Bush administration suggesting that Saddam Hussein's government was preparing terrorist attacks in the United States or against American targets overseas.

But officials at the State Department expressed surprise, saying they knew of no such information from Russia, Reuters reported. ...

A State Department spokesman, Adam Ereli, told reporters he did not know anything about the information that Mr. Putin said Russia had passed on. No such information was communicated from Russia through the State Department, he said.

"Everybody's scratching their heads," one State Department official told Reuters.

Somehow the State Department seemed a lot less surprised to the Los Angeles Times, which covers the story in a much more straightforward fashion. Kim Murphy notes that the same State Department spokesman seemed much more in command of the subject matter:

Traveling with Bush aboard Air Force One on Friday, a White House spokeswoman said the U.S. had "ongoing cooperation with the Russians on a variety of matters, including intelligence matters," but she refused to discuss specifics.

"We've declassified as much information as we can to talk about the threat that Saddam Hussein posed," the spokeswoman said, adding that Hussein was "a threat to America, to the world."

State Department officials said they could not specify what the Russian intelligence indicated, but Adam Ereli, a deputy department spokesman, said the two countries "have a very good and close record of cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism."

The LA Times, unlike its New York namesake, also quotes more of Putin's statement before inserting the now-boilerplate recitation that Russia did not consider its warning sufficient to justify military action. In fact, the LA Times notes that Putin's statement followed an anonymous source's identical claim given to Interfax, a fact that escaped the NY Times' Steven Lee Myers. The LA Times also spent some time researching the effectiveness of Russian intelligence in Iraq:

Putin's statement came a day after an unnamed Russian intelligence officer made a similar revelation to the Interfax news agency. The officer said his nation's intelligence services had received a report in early 2002 that Iraqi secret services were organizing attacks against the U.S.

"This information was more than once passed on to our American partners in oral and written form in the fall of 2002," the officer said. He said there existed a "direct threat to the U.S. from the Saddam Hussein regime." ...

"One thing is quite clear: Russian special services had significantly more freedom to collect information in Iraq than their American counterparts, because they were always perceived as a friendly force by the Iraqis," said Stanislav Belkovsky, director of the National Strategy Council think tank in Moscow.

On the other hand, the Washington Post's Walter Pincus unsurprisingly offers almost no reporting whatsoever, even less than the NY Times. Pincus merely notes Putin's statement and then in the second paragraph does the same thing as Myers, emphasizing that Russia had no evidence that Hussein actually assisted in any attack:

Putin, who opposed Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, did not go into detail about the information that was forwarded, and said Russia had no evidence that Hussein was involved in any attacks.

Of course, this is the article the Star Tribune chose to reprint. At least the Strib covered the story, though; the Boston Globe, the hometown newspaper of the Democratic nominee for President, doesn't even provide a link to the story on the main page of its website, nor does it provide even a mention anywhere in its World or Nation sections. No wonder Kerry has won re-election in Beantown and Massachussetts so often.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 19, 2004 9:13 AM

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» Putin Scoop from Demosophia
Earlier today Russian President Vladimir Putin made a statement that seemed a godsend to the Whitehouse: "After Sept. 11, 2001, and before the start of the military operation in Iraq, the Russian special services, the intelligence service, received inf... [Read More]

Tracked on June 19, 2004 3:20 PM

» From the "Credit Where Credit Is Due" Department -- Sort Of from Patterico's Pontifications
Captain Ed says the L.A. Times has done a better job than the NYT or WaPo in covering Putin's statement that Russia warned the U.S. of terrorist attacks by Saddam. However, the paper continues to insist that there is a... [Read More]

Tracked on June 19, 2004 4:07 PM

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