'NYT' Finally Corrects Botched Front-Pager on Gitmo Prisoners 'Returning to Jihad'

It was all-too-familiar for those who recall the
run-up to the Iraq war when scary front-page New York Times stories
would be cited by Dick Cheney as proof that we needed to oust Saddam
Hussein ASAP. The reminder: A May 21 piece by Elisabeth Bumiller
revealing that a not-yet-released Pentagon report declared that 1 in 7
prisoners released from Gitmo had returned to waging "jihad."

Today, the Times, finally issued a weighty Editors'
Note correcting the article's two main assertions, long after bloggers
and others (myself included) had attacked it.

First, the Times correction:

"A front-page article and headline on May 21 reported
findings from an unreleased Pentagon report about prisoners who have
been transferred abroad from the American detention center in
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The article said that the Pentagon had found
about one in seven of former Guantanamo prisoners had "returned to
terrorism or other militant activity," or as the headline put it, had
"rejoined jihad."

"Those phrases accepted a premise of the report that
all the former prisoners had been engaged in terrorism before their
detention. Because that premise remains unproved, the day the article
appeared in the newspaper, editors changed the headline and the first
paragraph on the Times Web site to refer to prisoners the report said
had engaged in terrorism or militant activity since their release.

"The article and headline also conflated two
categories of former prisoners. In the Pentagon report, 27 former
Guantanamo prisoners were described as having been confirmed as
engaging in terrorism, with another 47 suspected of doing so without
substantiation. The article should have distinguished between the two
categories, to say that about one in 20 of former Guantanamo prisoners
described in the Pentagon report were now said to be engaging in
terrorism. (The larger share - about one in seven -applies to the total
number described in the report as confirmed or suspected of engaging in

Now here's what Cheney said the day after the story
was published at the American Enterprise Institute. As with the Iraq
runup stories, he took the Times' non-facts and exaggerated them:

"Keep in mind that these are hardened terrorists
picked up overseas since 9/11. The ones that were considered low-risk
were released a long time ago. And among these, we learned yesterday,
many were treated too leniently, because 1 in 7 cut a straight path
back to their prior line of work and have conducted murderous attacks
in the Middle East. I think the President will find, upon reflection,
that to bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United
States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come.
. . ."

As often the case, it was McClatchy's Washington
bureau, which four days later (after bloggers and others on the Web
spoke) started to lead the mainstream truth-squading. But again, the
original article, as the Times admitted today, was botched from the
start. And it was no small matter. Right in its second paragraph it had
declared: "The conclusion could strengthen the arguments of critics who
have warned against the transfer or release of any more detainees as
part of President Obama's plan to shut down the prison by January."

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