NYT’s October Surprise Collapses

Yesterday, the New York Times did a fine service for the Kerry campaign by publishing a carefully timed hit piece describing how tons of explosives have gone missing from a site in Iraq.
This morning, the story is imploding, with NBC News leading the charge to point out that the explosives were already gone when U.S. troops arrived just a day after the fall of Baghdad. (Bizarrely, CNN has this as their lead story online, and it is nowhere to be found on MSNBC’s front page. Update: Here’s the MSNBC story.).
But the Times didn’t just do a shoddy job of reporting and failed to identify the possibility that the explosives were gone before our troops arrived. It’s worse than that: they did find that out, they just buried it deep in the story and, apparently, never bothered to follow up on it.
Here’s Page 1 of the online version of the NYT story yesterday, where they wonder why nothing was done by U.S. forces to protect the site:
The International Atomic Energy Agency publicly warned about the danger of these explosives before the war, and after the invasion it specifically told United States officials about the need to keep the explosives secured, European diplomats said in interviews last week. Administration officials say they cannot explain why the explosives were not safeguarded, beyond the fact that the occupation force was overwhelmed by the amount of munitions they found throughout the country.
And then, buried on Page 3 of the story, we find the answer:
A senior Bush administration official said that during the initial race to Baghdad, American forces “went through the bunkers, but saw no materials bearing the I.A.E.A. seal.”
This matches perfectly with the NBC story:
NBC News reported that on April 10, 2003, its crew was embedded with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division when troops arrived at the Al Qaqaa storage facility south of Baghdad.
While the troops found large stockpiles of conventional explosives, they did not find HMX or RDX, the types of powerful explosives that reportedly went missing, according to NBC.

This morning, the NYT appears bent on continuing the error, running a story titled Iraq Explosives Become Issue in Campaign (gee, wonder how that happened). In that story, the Times is forced to acknowledge that they did, in fact, know about their error in advance:
On Monday evening, Nicolle Devenish, the spokeswoman for the Bush campaign, noted a section of the Times report indicating that American troops, on the way to Baghdad in April 2003, stopped at the Al Qaqaa complex and saw no evidence of high explosives. Noting that the cache may have been looted before the American invasion, she said Mr. Kerry had exaggerated the administration’s responsibility.
“John Kerry presumes to know something that he could not know: when the material disappeared,” Ms. Devenish said. “Since he does not know whether it was gone before the war began, he can’t prove it was there to be secured.”

But still they won’t give up, and run with the bogus story in this morning’s editorial, which sniffs:
James Glanz, William J. Broad and David E. Sanger reported in The Times yesterday that some 380 tons of the kinds of powerful explosives used to destroy airplanes, demolish buildings, make missile warheads and trigger nuclear weapons have disappeared from one of the many places in Iraq that the United States failed to secure. The United Nations inspectors disdained by the Bush administration had managed to monitor the explosives for years. But they vanished soon after the United States took over the job. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was so bent on proving his theory of lightning warfare that he ignored the generals who said an understaffed and underarmed invasion force could rush to Baghdad, but couldn’t hold the rest of the country, much less guard things like the ammunition dump. (Emphasis mine)
The reporters’ names who worked the original story are right there, but the other name that bears mentioning is Jill Abramson, the Times’ Managing Editor. Ensuring that a story like this is properly vetted falls squarely in the ME’s realm of responsibility, so I think it’s fair to ask Ms. Abramson what happened here, and why she’s allowing her news pages to become an adjunct to the Kerry camapaign’s attempts to smear Bush’s record on Iraq.
More from:
Jim Geraghty at Kerryspot
Captain Ed
Hugh Hewitt
Roger Simon
Belmont Club
PowerLine
JustOneMinute
Michelle Malkin
Proving that the media cycle has become compressed beyond all recognition, Polipundit has already run a poll to name this new media scandal
Latest Update: Cliff May at The Corner drops a true bombshell which, if true, could escalate this story to utterly catastrophic proportions for the U.N.-loving left in general, and the Kerry campaign in particular:
BOMB-GATE [Cliff May]
Sent to me by a source in the government: