WHAT DID TENET SAY?….This is a little inside-baseballish, but yesterday’s coverage of CIA Director George Tenet’s congressional testimony struck me as an unusually interesting example of editorial judgment. Tenet’s testimony was pretty varied, which meant that reporters had a lot of different options for their leads. And it turns out they all picked different things:

  • New York Times: Tenet has intervened several times to correct public misstatements by Dick Cheney.

  • Washington Post: Tenet does not think the administration misrepresented intelligence before going to war.

  • Los Angeles Times: A special Pentagon intelligence unit briefed the White House directly without the knowledge of the CIA.

  • Knight-Ridder: Dick Cheney was wrong to say that Iraq had ties with al-Qaeda and that Iraq had a bioweapons program.

  • USA Today: The CIA was “wildly inconsistent” about vetting White House statements last year, and this allowed exaggerations about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction to go unchallenged.

  • Washington Times: The threat of al-Qaeda acquiring weapons of mass destruction is growing.

OK, that last one was just for giggles. But it’s pretty remarkable that the news judgment of the five national dailies about which part of Tenet’s testimony was most important was almost completely different. At least we didn’t get any pack journalism on this story.

(I’d include the Wall Street Journal in this too, but I don’t subscribe so I don’t know how they played it.)

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