Friday, November 03, 2006

Egg On Their Faces?

As Atrios pointed out, this would be funny if it wasn't so horrible. The New York Times reports about a U.S. government website which seems to have contained instructions (in Arabic) on how to make a nuclear bomb:

Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who had said they hoped to "leverage the Internet" to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.

Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended "pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing."


The government had received earlier warnings about the contents of the Web site. Last spring, after the site began posting old Iraqi documents about chemical weapons, United Nations arms-control officials in New York won the withdrawal of a report that gave information on how to make tabun and sarin, nerve agents that kill by causing respiratory failure.

The campaign for the online archive was mounted by conservative publications and politicians, who said that the nation's spy agencies had failed adequately to analyze the 48,000 boxes of documents seized since the March 2003 invasion. With the public increasingly skeptical about the rationale and conduct of the war, the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees argued that wide analysis and translation of the documents — most of them in Arabic — would reinvigorate the search for clues that Mr. Hussein had resumed his unconventional arms programs in the years before the invasion. American search teams never found such evidence.

So let me see if I got it: It was the wingnuts who wanted this information to be out there? To make us all feel safer?

But the conservatives don't see the Times article in this light. Jim Geraghty:

I'm sorry, did the New York Times just put on the front page that IRAQ HAD A NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM AND WAS PLOTTING TO BUILD AN ATOMIC BOMB?

What? Wait a minute. The entire mantra of the war critics has been "no WMDs, no WMDs, no threat, no threat", for the past three years solid. Now we're being told that the Bush administration erred by making public information that could help any nation build an atomic bomb.


And Red State chimes in, too:

The web site with these has been taken down since the NY Slimes story ran to make sure the documents on it are safe to release, but the ENTIRE NY Slimes articles has the unintended purpose of PROVING that Saddam was trying to build a Nuclear Bomb!

Indeed. But this was before the first Iraq war, the one that Papa Bush ran:

In recent weeks, the paper reported, the site posted documents that weapons experts said contained detailed accounts of Iraq's secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf War — what one diplomat called "a cookbook" for building a bomb.

And Geraghty seems to have noticed it, too, because he adds:

I'm still kinda blown away by this paragraph:

Among the dozens of documents in English were Iraqi reports written in the 1990's and in 2002 for United Nations inspectors in charge of making sure Iraq abandoned its unconventional arms programs after the Persian Gulf war. Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein's scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.

Is this sentence referring to 1990, before the Persian Gulf War? Or 2002, months before the invasion of Iraq? Because "Iraq is a year away from building a nuclear bomb" was supposed to be a myth, a lie that Bush used to trick us into war.

And yet here is the New York Times, saying that Iraq had a "how to manual" on how to build a nuclear bomb, and could have had a nuke in a year.

I repeat, the information still applies to the pre-1991 period:

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said yesterday that it shut down a public Web site after complaints from U.N. weapons inspectors that the site included sensitive details about constructing nuclear and chemical weapons. The documents were collected in Iraq after the March 2003 invasion but predate the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Intelligence officials said the documents do not indicate that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when President Bush ordered U.S. troops to take over the country and depose Saddam Hussein.

Well, it isn't really funny and my title is in poor taste. It's scary, really.