Jill Abramson on Times W.M.D. Reporting: ‘I Failed’

abramson092908 Jill Abramson on Times W.M.D. Reporting: I FailedIn Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, Jill Abramson, the paper’s managing editor for news, wrote about Bob Woodward’s latest Bush administration book, The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008.

Ms. Abramson starts the review explaining the now-typical release process of Mr. Woodward’s books:

The Bob Woodward rollout is always strictly scripted. His books are ‘held back,’ meaning that no advance ­copies are available for reviewers and that pain-of-death secrecy vows are extracted from book review editors. His ‘bombshells,’ those fly-on-the-wall details from inside the power dome and classified memos impossible to obtain (for all except Woodward), are disclosed in multipart, front-page articles in The Washington Post, where for decades the author was an assistant managing editor. (He is now an associate editor.) Then there is the bump from exclusive interviews on ’60 Minutes’ followed by more televised amplification, an éclat that almost always results in a No. 1 best seller.

Well, almost. The War Within is number 2 on the list after Tom Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded.

Also in the frontpage review, Ms. Abramson, who was The Times‘ Washington Bureau Chief in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq offers this mea culpa for her paper’s coverage:

In [his previous book] ‘Plan of Attack’ Woodward acknowledges an error of his own: he admits he should have pushed The Washington Post to publish a front-page article about the flimsiness of the intelligence on W.M.D. I was Washington bureau chief for The Times while this was happening, and I failed to push hard enough for an almost identical, skeptical article, written by James Risen. This was a period when there were too many credulous accounts of the administration’s claims about Iraq’s W.M.D. (including some published in The Times and The Post).