Monday, August 31, 2015

"This is not rocket science, at the front end"

As the Maine goes... No, wait.

Correction, in its entirety (August 28 2015) on the story about Parchin:
VIENNA (AP) — In a story Aug. 19 about an arrangement over alleged past nuclear weapons work between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, The Associated Press erroneously referred to Parchin as a "nuclear site. In fact, it's a military site where some believe nuclear work occurred.

A corrected version of the story is below:

An unusual secret agreement with a U.N. agency will allow Iran to use its own experts to inspect a site allegedly used to develop nuclear arms, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.

The revelation is sure to roil critics who argue the deal is built on trust of the Iranians.

The investigation of the Parchin military site by the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency is linked to a broader probe of nuclear weapons allegations.
Interesting that they—or author George Jahn—evidently didn't allow a copy editor to look at the text long enough to close the quotation marks in the first paragraph, or uncontract the "it's", which I don't think is AP style (though their style guide seems not to be too specific on that score). You suppose it's (I use contractions freely, as you know) because inside every copy editor is a fact checker screaming to be let out?

It is a somewhat unsatisfactory correction for a couple of reasons:

1. It's nice that they acknowledge that the Parchin site is not, or is not known to be, a nuclear site, but they should have added that if it was ever used as a nuclear site (which is by no means clear) it was over 13 years ago, because they stopped doing whatever research they were doing there in 2002; this is part of the IAEA's historical study of what Iran may have been up to then, not what they are up to now. Also and by the same token, you shouldn't get too hysterical over whether the Iranians are getting a chance to clean up the Parchin site because that's how much time they've already had to do it since the agency made its two visits to the site in 2005. Indeed somebody has reported (I'm guessing the terrorist or ex-terrorist Mujahedin-e-Khalq?) that they cleaned up the site two years ago, and when you read some headline suggesting that

Iran Already Sanitizing Nuclear Site, Intel Warns

you need to keep in mind that that "already" is referring to May 2013, so there's really no need to panic. For a program that, once again, if it ever existed, had been abandoned ten years previously.

2. We know you've seen "a document" but we don't know what document it is, and in the week-and-a-half since you published it, that has become increasingly problematic. It's clearly not an official document of the IAEA or the Islamic Republican of Iran, as we see in the way it calls the latter by the wrong name (and not just any wrong name, but a wrong name copyrighted to the Da'esh, "Islamic State of Iran"), bears the signature of Ali Hoseini Tash, Deputy Secretary of Supreme National Security Council for Strategic Affairs, although Ali Hoseini Tash doesn't belong to the Supreme National Security Council, which doesn't have a deputy secretary and isn't authorized to sign such a document, but to the Ministry of Defence, while such things are always signed by the President or Vice President of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In addition to some other more technical details that don't make sense to people familiar with the issues. And since AP originally published it it has been suggested that it could be a forgery, so you really have to let us know why you think it's not.

3. You might also have noted, because it's standard journalistic procedure, that the IAEA immediately denied the report as "misrepresentation":
"I am disturbed by statements suggesting that the IAEA has given responsibility for nuclear inspections to Iran. Such statements misrepresent the way in which we will undertake this important verification work," IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said in an unusually strongly worded statement on Thursday.
—though they obviously cannot offer a precise layout of what their procedure is; but see Tariq Rauf's thorough account which makes clear that the swipes are done in the presence of IAEA inspectors: "This is not rocket science, at the front end." Or the commentary at the Annenberg Center's, which explains the same thing, or the similar objections of the Iranian government, or the elegant explanation of warontherocks. which makes it clear that Jahn and the AP had no idea what kind of documentation they were looking at, I mean zero. To say there are some issues with the reporting is like saying there are some issues with the early reporting on the 1898 explosion of the Maine.

And AP has done some really stupid stuff with some clearly disreputable sources from "a country critical of Iran's nuclear program" in this neighborhood before (Whaddaya know, that story was by George Jahn too). Wonder what that country could be? No I don't.

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