Saturday, December 04, 2004

The TIMES PROCLAIMED: "Documents Show That CIA Knew of a Coup Plot in Venezuela" but a few things got left out in the reporting

These three documents are being used for this story:
1) which is Juan Forero's "Documents Show That CIA Knew of a Coup Plot in Venezuela" article from the New York Times.

2) which is a link to the video and audio interviews (as well as rush transcript) of Amy Goodman's interview with Eva Golinger and Peter Kornbluh on Democracy Now!

3) which is where Golinger has posted the seven documents referred to in the two items above.

In the New York Times, Juan Forero informs us (on December 3, 2004) that the CIA:

was aware that dissident military officers and opposition figures in Venezuela were planning a coup against President Hugo Chávez in 2002. But immediately after the overthrow, the Bush administration blamed Mr. Chávez, a left-leaning populist, for his own downfall and denied knowing about the threats.

Specifics were kept from the Venezuelan government, Forero states, but they were warned in "broad" terms.

The documents do not show that the United States backed the coup, as Mr. Chávez has charged. Instead, the documents show that American officials issued "repeated warnings that the United States will not support any extraconstitutional moves to oust Chávez."

No, the documents DON'T show that. One document has the quote Forero refers to (April 6, 2002, SEIB). There is no mention of US warnings in the March 5th SEIB of any warnings given by the U.S. Nor in the March 11th SEIB is there a mention. What about the April 1st or 8th SEIBs? Nada. Zilch. What about post-coup in the CIA's Spot Commentary, April 14th? Nothing about U.S. warnings. The seventh document, the April 17th SEIB, also mentions nothing on any warnings. One out of seven documents does not equal "documents."

Is this a comprehension error as someone rushes to meet a deadline? Ben e-mailed Friday (when this article ran) suggesting that Forero had "damaging documents, doesn't want to examine [them], just wants to grab the happy-face stamp, [and] use it." Is that true? I don't know. But these are serious documents and Forero comes off strongest in areas that could lead Ben and others to suspect that he has a need to stamp a happy-face on the story.

More mistakes occur when Forero then contrasts the view of "a senior American diplomat" with the view of "Venezuelan ambassador to Washington, Bernardo Alvarez." "SAD" says that the administration's blaming of Chavez for the violence was a logical conclusion from the apparently limited information the administration had access to. Alvarez maintains that the documents show that the administration "was not operating in an information vacuum."

Which is it? The documents indicate Alvarez is correct. Read through them yourself. What's the point of access to the documents if you're still going to play he-said/she-said?

Forero can inflate a document to "documents" and quote the only sentence to back up a claim that the U.S. gave "repeated warnings;" yet he's unable to determine from the documents whether or not the U.S. was "operating in an information vacuum?" (Hint, no, the administration was not "operating in a vacuum.")

From the same documents, Peter Kornbluh ("analyst at the National Security Archive") was able to report on Democracy Now! that:

They tell us more or less exactly what Eva has just stated, that the U.S. Intelligence community, it's not actually clear whether it was the CIA or the Defense Intelligence Agency or other members of the Pentagon, had contacts with civilian and military sectors in Caracas and were getting a steady stream of reports on planning for this coup. We know that from the documents. We also know from the documents as Eva pointed out, that this information was, you know, not stopped at some low-level, mid-level desk in the state department or in the CIA, but actually distributed through a very interesting committee called the strategic warning committee headed by the CIA to almost, to the very highest levels of the U.S. government.

Forero agrees that the SEIBs were widely distributed (both NY Times and Democracy Now! note that the SEIB would be distributed to 200 people in the Bush administration). The documents demonstrate that there was plenty of specific information, the SEIBs (which account for six of the seven documents) were widely distributed within the administration and Forero can't make a call on whether or not the admistration was "operating in a vacuum?"

This is an issue because of statements made by the administration after the coup when they expressed surprise, denied advance knowledge and quickly moved to align themselves with the Carmona regime. Here's a report from April 21, 2002:

The Bush administration has tried to distance itself from the coup. It immediately endorsed the new government under businessman Pedro Carmona. But the coup was sent dramatically into reverse after 48 hours.
Now officials at the Organisation of American States and other diplomatic sources, talking to The Observer, assert that the US administration was not only aware the coup was about to take place, but had sanctioned it, presuming it to be destined for success.
The visits by Venezuelans plotting a coup, including Carmona himself, began, say sources, 'several months ago', and continued until weeks before the putsch last weekend. The visitors were received at the White House by the man President George Bush tasked to be his key policy-maker for Latin America, Otto Reich.
("Venezuela coup linked to Bush team" by Ed Vulliamy,6903,688071,00.html)

That's why this story is an issue.

Forero informs Times readers that:

With Brazil, Argentina and much of Latin America condemning the coup, and angry Chavez supporters streaming into the streets of Caracas, the Carmona government collapsed.

That's a superficial summary of the April 17th SEIB.

That SEIB states that Brazil is against a "U.S.-backed initiative to send an OAS democracy mission to Venezuela;" and that Brazil's been wary of U.S. involvement in the region for some time ("long has been suspicious"); and that Brazil opposes "outside interference in internal political affairs." The April 17th SEIB goes on to state that Argentina and Guatemala also oppose an OAS mission. (There are potential unnamed supporters. Read the document yourself to see if any of the countries that come after that statement should be read as examples of unnamed supporters or whether the writer of the document is just moving on to another topic.)

Summarizing that document, Forero isn't just glossing over Brazil being "suspicious" or leaving out the objections to an OAS mission, he's also not informing the reader that (we're still on the April 17th SEIB) "Latin governments voted overwhelmingly to invoke the OAS Democratic charter and levy economic sanctions against the Carmona government." Could that be part of the reason that, as Forero writes, "the Carmona government collapsed?" Possibly. Latin neighbors were more than just on the record as being against the coup.

The CIA Spot Commentary on April 14th, states that within Venezuela, it wasn't just Chavez supporters that were against the Carmona government: support for Carmona "unraveled quickly yesterday as political parites, labor unions, and the military sensed he was moving too quickly and without their consultation." Little things like "[d]isbanding Congress and scrapping the constitution" apparently caused doubt even among Carmona supporters.

Times readers aren't informed of that.

By the Friday this made the Times, the paper was four days behind Democracy Now! and yet the reporting printed is superficial.

Readers haven't even been informed that after being under house arrest, after moving on to Columbia, Pedro Carmona "now resides in Miami"
(; scroll down to "Sunday Afternoon from El Universal -- Mexico City") . That would be Miami, Florida.

With journalists being denied entry to the United States, were no flags raised over the arrival of Pedro Carmona? For journalists, entering the country to interview Olivia Newton-John is apparently now a suspect activity (perhaps John Ashcroft's never been mellow?). But someone known to have participated in an attempted coup, one we maintain we didn't support, is allowed to enter and reside in this country? What might the Times be able to tell readers about that interesting turn of events?

The Times loves local angles as an entry into a story. How did they miss that local angle?

To many e-mailers, the whole thing reminds them of how the Times ignored the documents Naomi Klein unearthed on the Iraqi debt forgiveness story and the conflict of appearence issue for James Baker III. The paper never referred to them -- even though both The Guardian & The Nation posted the documents online. But still silence from the Times?

Naomi Klein writing in The Guardian:

The New York Times has not printed a word about Baker's conflict, despite the fact that when Baker was first appointed envoy, it called on him to resign from Carlyle in order to "perform honourably in his new public job". The Kerry campaign has been equally silent, apparently for fear that any criticism would boomerang onto the Democrats because of [Madeline] Albright. This was Carlyle's stroke of genius: when Baker was appointed, the consortium recruited Albright to front the deal; when they got caught, Carlyle denied all involvement and left a prominent Democrat holding the bag. As the story disappeared under Carlyle's spell, it was as if the entire US media had been implanted with Manchurian memory chips. Here was hard evidence that the Carlyle Group - the "ex-presidents' club", run like a secret society - had participated in a scheme to use Baker to undermine US policy, possibly in violation of conflict-of-interest regulations, including criminal statutes. Yet Carlyle was slipping out of reach once again.
(,,1341239,00.html, "The Manchurian Cover-Up.")

[Naomi Klein's story in The Nation -- as well as links to the posted memos -- can be found at; Amy Goodman interviewed Klein for Democracy Now! on this topic, October 13th -- video, audio and rush transcript can be found at .]

Why the silence on James Baker from the Times? As Marci notes, the paper must find him newsworthy -- they just ran a guest op-ed by him Thursday. ("Talking Our Way to Peace"