[Ed Note: Be sure to see the second of two UPDATES added to the bottom of the story below for Prof. Scott Althaus email sent in to note that his University of Illinois report does indeed cite The BRAD BLOG, several times, for our original contribution to their findings.]
Today's "news" that the White House altered Iraq War documents on its website regarding "the coalition of the willing" is not actually news at all.
The BRAD BLOG broke that story --- the first such scoop of ours to be noticed and picked up by the national media --- back in 2004, prior to the Presidential Election. At the time, the noise we helped cause with the revelations led to the WH being forced to restore terrabytes of documents, audio and video to their website in the week prior to the election. You're welcome.
We initially made the discovery of the missing WH website documents on the night of the Vice-Presidential Debate, after Dick Cheney claimed to be offended by John Edwards' assertion that the U.S. had "taken 90 percent of coalition casualties" in Iraq.
Cheney faked indignation in response, arguing that it was "beyond the pale" that Edwards was ignoring the sacrifices of Iraqis. Not recalling that Iraq was ever named as part of the "Coalition of the Willing," we checked the WH website, only to find the link to the list still there, but the page itself missing. Afterwards, we found many other pages, as well as audio and video, had been illegally removed from the website.
Here's our Special Coverage page, indexing our series of reports on the "White House Website Scrubbing" scandal, beginning in October of 2004.
We're very happy, in any case, that it's now "officially" news, and that the violation of the federal Presidential Records Act that we noted at the time is also confirmed, now that a professor at a university has found the same, and written about it. Guess we'll have to find a professorship somewhere. Haven't gotten to read his original report yet, but I'll assume he offered us the hat-tip we're due.
UPDATE: The above benefit-of-the-doubt, concerning credit where its due, may not be a safe assumption. The rather irony-laden coverage of professor of political science and communication Scott Althaus' findings, as reported by the Daily Illini today, follows. Get a load of this...
On Nov. 24, Thom Shanker wrote an article in the New York Times, outlining these findings. Keith Olbermann of MSNBC has also recently mentioned the findings on his show.
The feelings students have about the publicity and the findings include mixed reactions.
"I think that it's cool to see your professor make a finding like this," said Eric Lavine, senior in LAS [University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts and Sciences]. "However, I am not surprised the Bush Administration was involved in this activity."
Other students were surprised with the revelation, hoping that mainstream news media would pay closer attention to the findings.
"I was surprised by Professor Althaus's findings," said Jenn Rice, senior in LAS. "I was also surprised the story was not made into a bigger deal in other news sources."
Sigh...The BRAD BLOG...always the bridesmaid...
UPDATE 12/6/08: We dropped Prof. Althaus an email this morning to see if he'd cited our reporting in his findings, and to ask for a copy of the report (since the student-written Daily Illini article hadn't offered an URL for it). He quickly replied back with the following note, mentioning that, indeed, he does cite The BRAD BLOG, as we'd originally hoped and suspected, in his complete report. Much appreciated. His full report, which looks very good, though we've not yet gotten to read it in full, is posted here.
I was just in the process of emailing you. As you know, student reporters are in school to learn and the stories they write can sometimes have unfortunate framing. The study we conducted focused not on the removal of a single version of the coalition list, but on chronicling the entire revisionary history of the list across all its primary incarnations we could locate on the White House website. We are certainly aware that others have discovered deletions or isolated edits to the list in the past, and we actually cite your 2004 blog posting in our report.
One argument made in the past has been that these deletions and edits were isolated events. Our study, therefore, focused on showing the extent of the revisionary history of the list, showing how the list has undergone 7 major changes over time, starting within weeks of the ground invasion, and continuing to 2005-2006. In particular, we show that not only were the two oldest versions of the list removed from the White House site, but, more troubling, countries were added and removed from the list over time without updating the date on the press releases, making it seem that those countries were always (or never) part of the original coalition list.
I would like to invite you to read our complete report (the Daily Illini article unfortunately did not include the URL) at http://www.clinecenter.u...edu/airbrushing_history/. I think you will be very interested in the extent of the revisionary history to the coalition list.
In a followup email, Althaus also noted that while the Daily Illini coverage focused on him as the author of the report, in fact, it was co-authored along with with Kalev Leetaru, the Coordinator of Information Technology and Research at the University of Illinois' Cline Center for Democracy.