Today, the Pentagon held a press conference on Al Qa Qaa that featured testimony from Maj. Austin Pearson. Pearson admitted that the US Military removed about 250 tons of explosives and other munitions from the Al Qa Qaa facility after it was occupied by American troops.
Based on a report by the UN's IAEA weapons monitoring team, the New York Times claimed on Monday that Al Qa Qaa held approximately 377 tons of RDX, HDX, and MPEX high explosives at the time of the US invasion. The Times also reported that, according to the IAEA report, the explosives disappeared after the occupation of Al Qa Qaa by US military forces. They also claimed that both the White House and the Pentagon verified the IAEA report.
The UN's own documents indicate that an IAEA inspection of the facility in January 2003 only turned up 3 tons of RDX, far short of the 141 tons originally claimed by the UN, based on a 2002 declaration by the Hussein regime. What happened to the other 138 tons?
377 - 138 = 239
The Pentagon released satellite recon photos of Al Qa Qaa taken in the weeks before the US invasion that clearly show trucks and heavy transport equipment, probably of Russian origin, at the Al Qa Qaa explosives bunkers. We don't know what these transports removed, or how much.
Today, the Pentagon announced that the US removed somewhere between 200 and 250 tons of explosives and other munitions from Al Qa Qaa after the facility was occupied by the US.
239 - 250 = bad news for the New York Times
All of which leaves little doubt that, except for the dubious IAEA report, the New York Times had no evidence on which to base their claims that nearly 380 tons of explosives had been "looted" from Al Qa Qaa after the US military occupied the facility.
A respectable news organization would have thoroughly vetted the IAEA report with the Pentagon before basing a news story around it.
Despite the NYT having claimed to do this, the evidence brought forth by the Pentagon this week would seem to indicate that no such verification of the IAEA report by the Pentagon ever took place before Monday's NYT story was published.
Aiding the NYT in the preparation of this story was CBS News. Had the NYT not ran the story first, CBS News was planning a true "October Surprise" with the airing of this story on "60 Minutes" Sunday night, only 2 days before the coming presidential election.
So now CBS News has shot themselves in the foot twice, first with the forged Killian memos, and now with this thoroughly discredited attempt at charging the Bush administration with incompetence in Iraq.
Note to CBS News - a smoking gun is no good if you shot yourself with it.