The Associated Press ran a skeptical piece Sunday about the Obama administration's public case for military intervention in Syria in response to a reported Aug. 21 chemical attack.
The AP's Zeina Karam and Kimberly Dozier wrote that "the U.S. government insists it has the intelligence to prove it, but the public has yet to see a single piece of concrete evidence produced by U.S. intelligence -- no satellite imagery, no transcripts of Syrian military communications -- connecting the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people."
The Obama administration has released videos to make its case, but the AP noted that its requests for additional evidence the government claims to possess have been denied:
The Obama administration, searching for support from a divided Congress and skeptical world leaders, says its own assessment is based mainly on satellite and signals intelligence, including intercepted communications and satellite images indicating that in the three days prior to the attack that the regime was preparing to use poisonous gas.
But multiple requests to view that satellite imagery have been denied, though the administration produced copious amounts of satellite imagery earlier in the war to show the results of the Syrian regime's military onslaught. When asked Friday whether such imagery would be made available showing the Aug. 21 incident, a spokesman referred The Associated Press to a map produced by the White House last week that shows what officials say are the unconfirmed areas that were attacked.
The Obama administration maintains it intercepted communications from a senior Syrian official on the use of chemical weapons, but requests to see that transcript have been denied. So has a request by the AP to see a transcript of communications allegedly ordering Syrian military personnel to prepare for a chemical weapons attack by readying gas masks.
The AP has been especially skeptical of the Obama administration's claims, a reflection of how the media's failure in the run-up to the Iraq War still lingers.
Last week, AP investigative editor Ted Bridis urged reporters and editors to "dive deep into questions about quantifying and understanding the U.S. government's justification for military intervention in Syria, which increasingly seems inevitable," according to a memo obtained by The Huffington Post.
"If sources are telling us, as a senior administration official did during the weekend, that the U.S. has 'very little doubt' that chemical weapons were used, we should press sources to explain with specificity how or why an intelligence assessment leads them to believe this," Bridis wrote in a staff memo. "When they don't or can't (eg, 'sources and methods') AP should note this."
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