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'USA Today' Defends Lack of Coverage for Downing Street Memo

'USA Today' Defends Lack of Coverage for Downing Street Memo
Edior and Publisher
By E&P Staff
Published: June 08, 2005 1:05 PM ET

NEW YORK In a report on President Bush's joint press conference late yesterday afternoon with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, USA Today for the first time mentioned the so-called Downing Street Memo, first reported in London's Sunday Times on May 1, and explained why the Gannett flagship had not previously covered the memo story.

The Downing Street Memo is reported to be minutes of a July 2002 meeting among Blair and some of his top intelligence and national-security aides. One of the aides reportedly told Blair at the meeting that the Bush administration has already decided to go to war with Iraq and was looking for justification. "Intelligence and facts were being fixed" to make war appear inevitable, the memo reportedly stated. Its veracity has not been contested by No. 10 Downing Street.

Wrote reporter Mark Memmott in the USA Today article's final paragraph: "USA Today chose not to publish anything about the memo before today for several reasons, says Jim Cox, the newspaper's senior assignment editor for foreign news. 'We could not obtain the memo or a copy of it from a reliable source,' Cox says. 'There was no explicit confirmation of its authenticity from (Blair's office). And it was disclosed four days before the British elections, raising concerns about the timing.'"

The memo has attracted a great deal of media attention in Britain, but it has gotten much less play in the United States.

Wrote Memmott: "The Sunday Times' May 1 memo story, which broke just four days before Britain's national elections, caused a sensation in Europe. American media reacted more cautiously. The New York Times wrote about the memo May 2, but didn't mention until its 15th paragraph that the memo stated U.S. officials had 'fixed' intelligence and facts.

"Knight Ridder Newspapers distributed a story May 6 that said the memo 'claims President Bush � was determined to ensure that U.S. intelligence data supported his policy.� The Los Angeles Times wrote about the memo May 12, The Washington Post followed on May 15 and The New York Times revisited the news on May 20.

"None of the stories appeared on the newspapers' front pages. Several other major media outlets, including the evening news programs on ABC, CBS and NBC, had not said a word about the document before Tuesday."

Ombudsmen at both The New York Times and The Washington Post have criticized their papers for not covering the story more aggressively, Memmott's story noted.

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I note that the USA Today Article also says "Robin Niblett of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, says it would be easy for Americans to misunderstand the reference to intelligence being 'fixed around' Iraq policy. ' "Fixed around" in British English means 'bolted on' rather than altered to fit the policy,' he says."

Does this explanation make any sense?

Eric- Interesting exchange to say the least!

I find it odd, too, that no one on the other side of the pond has offered Niblett's version of the "British English" usage of "fixed the intelligence around the policy" ...



Niblitt is full of it. The use of the word "but" in the sentence contains no ambiguity.
I actually emailed this guy (his email is Here's how it went, blow by blow:


(1st volley, from me):
From: Eric W. Saeger
Sent: Wednesday, June 08, 2005 4:39 PM
Subject: Nice USA Today Quote!

You are utterly godless. Do you often sell out your own children this

Enjoy the money, you disgusting little lying twerp.

To which he replied:

From: Robin Niblett
To: "Eric W. Saeger"
Subject: RE: Nice USA Today Quote!
Date: Jun 8, 2005 5:03 PM

Read the Downing Street memo. You can find it at,,2087-1593607,00.html

I don't get paid to give my opinion.

Still waiting for a reply after I sent him this:

From: "Eric W. Saeger"
To: Robin Niblett
Subject: RE: Nice USA Today Quote!
Date: Jun 8, 2005 5:19 PM

Mr Niblett,
Read the memo, you say? Why on earth would I email such vitriol if I hadn't read it and knew that somewhere in the USA Today piece a handpuppet like you would pop up, bang on cue, to attempt to discredit it? You effectively tut-tutted the memo by inferring that they were saying they were actually "fixing" existing, genuine intelligence "around" the decision. Exactly what intelligence was it they were "fixing" around it?

Do you actually believe this BS? A simple no or no will do.

How very scuzzy of you. You should be ashamed.



This is unbelievable. Yet very believable. Sigh.

No, it doesn't make sense, but it was a nice try at obfication.


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