The NYT reports:
The United States has received “credible information” that Syrian operatives in Lebanon plan to try to assassinate senior Lebanese political leaders and that Syrian military intelligence forces are returning to Lebanon to create “an environment of intimidation,” a senior administration official said Thursday.
The obvious questions: Is this the Bush Administration building a case for invaded Syria? Does anyone believe or trust “credible information” from the U.S.? Why are anonymous sources OK for the White House to use, but not for Newsweek?
The Washington Post also covers this:
“These are threats against some of the most prominent Lebanese political leaders. The purpose would be to create instability and to create internal strife,” a senior administration official said. After a brief lull in Syrian interference in Lebanon, senior Syrian intelligence personnel have been seen back in Lebanon, particularly over the past week, the official added.
The senior administration official said that a “variety of credible Lebanese sources” had said Damascus has developed a “hit list” of senior Lebanese political leaders, and that the sources had reported seeing “familiar figures” from Syrian intelligence back in Lebanon. “There are efforts by Syrians to put back in place the system of intimidation,” he added.”
But what WaPo does not mention, and the Times does, is that this “credible” evidence is in dispute:
But intelligence officials said they could not immediately substantiate the reliability of the information cited by the administration official. A State Department official said that word of a “hit list” had been “circulating among the Lebanese” but that no one in the administration had actually seen such a list and that its existence could not be independently verified.
Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt.
The hallmarks of the Bush Administration’s case for war.
But after Iraq, why would anyone believe us ever again? We have no credibility left in the world. Bush is barely hanging on to his credibility in his own country.
That’s what happens when you lie.
And, of course, there’s the anonymous source:
The administration official volunteered the information about what he said was a “Syrian hit list” on the condition that he not be identified by name or agency. A spokesman for the official, asked why the official would not make the assertions more openly, said it was because of the diplomatic sensitivities involved as well as the usual reluctance to discuss intelligence matters openly.
Again, it’s OK for the White House, but Newsweek does it, and it’s their fault that people are dead.
So, the question remains: what is the purpose of this leak, and where is it heading?