Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fearing the truth will out

Reuters correspondents have a long history of censoring, obfuscating, or simply lying in their reporting so as to advance their personal advocacy agendas, or those of their employer.  Denying, downplaying, distorting, or omitting factual content in their stories is de rigueur.

This can be seen clearly in the agency's coverage of the Iranian nuclear program.

In a Reuters story published yesterday, following US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's dire warning in an interview with CBS that Iran can likely produce a nuclear weapon in about a year, perhaps much less if the country has a hidden facility enriching nuclear fuel, Reuters correspondent Phil Stewart does his level best to undermine Panetta's informed advice:
(Reuters) - How long would Iran need to develop a nuclear weapon if its leaders decided to build one?
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta thinks it could take just under a year, an ever so slightly more narrow timeline than the one-year minimum his predecessor, Robert Gates, put forward.
But nuclear experts are skeptical Tehran could move that quickly and a Pentagon spokesman acknowledged on Tuesday he was not aware of any new intelligence driving Panetta's latest remarks, which aired on U.S. television on Monday evening.
Note how, following a cursory reporting of Panetta's statement, Stewart seeks to immediately discredit it.  "Nuclear experts are skeptical", the agency reporter trumpets as he proceeds to cherry-pick an opinion from the director of a single NGO who characterizes Panetta's forecast as "unlikely".  In a subsequent paragraph, Stewart acknowledges that, unlike the Secretary of Defense, this director has no access to any classified intelligence; yet his uninformed opinion is offered as countervailing evidence that Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon within a year.

Stewart not only fails to come up with a second "nuclear expert" taking the same line, he neglects to cite the views of many other scientists and military analysts who have corroborated the Defense Secretary's position.  Nor does Stewart mention the recent findings of scientists at the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, concluding that Iran has:
... carried out the following activities that are relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device:
• Efforts, some successful, to procure nuclear related and dual use equipment and materials by military related individuals and entities (Annex, Sections C.1 and C.2);
Efforts to develop undeclared pathways for the production of nuclear material (Annex, Section C.3);
• The acquisition of nuclear weapons development information and documentation from a clandestine nuclear supply network (Annex, Section C.4); and
• Work on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components (Annex, Sections C.5–C.12).
(Note particularly, the finding that Iran has engaged in clandestine efforts to produce nuclear fuel, precisely the caveat issued by Panetta in his explanation of why Iran may be even less than a year away from producing nuclear weapons).

Rather, Stewart seeks to incriminate another party for all the fuss:
Panetta's remarks come at a moment of intense speculation about whether Israel, which sees a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat, may be moving closer to military action to halt a program it says is aimed at building an atomic bomb.
Because according to Reuters, there is no independent evidence that Iran is on the cusp of producing the bomb; this is merely a he said/she said "dispute" between equally credible parties.

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