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Paging Dr. Okrent, paging Dr. Okrent …

We noted last night the odd and (I think now) clearly regrettable decision to have Judith Miller write the Times piece on Richard Clarke. (For general background on her inappropriateness to report this piece see this piece by Jack Shafer.)

The first point to notice is that in an article purportedly about Clarke’s accusations, she provides one sentence describing his claims, with no direct quotes, before moving onto two paragraphs with direct quotes from White House Communications Director attacking Clarke.

Also note that she describes Clarke’s claims thusly, that he “asserts that while neither president did enough to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration has undermined American national security by using the 9/11 attacks for political advantage and ignoring the threat of Al Qaeda in order to invade Iraq.”

With all respect, that’s simply not what he says. He does criticize Clinton and Bush. But his statements last night did not come close to putting the two presidents on a par when it came to the lead-up to 9/11.

Maybe he’s wrong. Maybe he’s giving Clinton a free-ride. But Miller shouldn’t change what he said.

Another point.

In the version of Miller’s article that ran last night there was this passage …

Clarke also said that Tom Ridge, the president’s first domestic security adviser and head of the Department of Homeland Security, opposed the creation of his own department on the grounds — accurate ones in Clarke’s view — that it would be too costly and difficult to integrate with other agencies. Clarke said Ridge had to clear major statements and actions with Andrew H. Card Jr., the president’s chief of staff.

In an interview Sunday night, Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the department, denied that Ridge was against the creation of the department and said the department did not have to go through any more clearance with the White House than other Cabinet departments.

Miller hasn’t been publishing as much of late. And someone needs to clue her into the revised rules. It’s been at least a few months since reporters have willingly published demonstrably false statements from administration officials and spokespersons.

As we noted early this month Ridge went on record in May 2002 saying he was recommending that the president veto legislation that would have created his department.

(As we later learned, behind the scenes the White House was already planning to introduce the same legislation themselves. But this opposition had been the White House’s public position for months, and one Ridge publicly supported.)

Apparently, the Times already realized it had a problem because the passage has now been revised to …

Mr. Clarke also said that Tom Ridge, the president’s first domestic security adviser and head of the Department of Homeland Security, opposed the creation of his own department on grounds, accurate ones in Mr. Clarke’s view, that it would be too costly and difficult to integrate with other agencies. Mr. Clarke said that Mr. Ridge had to clear major statements and actions with Andrew H. Card Jr., the president’s chief of staff.

In an interview Sunday night, Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the department, denied that.

So now Roehrkasse’s denial stands but it’s no longer clear what he’s denying. You might say Miller has given him deniability about his denial.

The Times current article is here; but you can see the earlier version, preserved in amber shall we say, over here at the website of the Indianapolis Star.

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