"President George W. Bush and seven of his administration's top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq," according to a statement coauthored by Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit research organization in Washington, and his colleague Mark Reading-Smith.
That's 935 -- not "over 900" or "about 950" -- false statements. How did the Center for Public Integrity arrive at such a precise figure? Thanks to the False Statements Database, a 380,000-plus-word database -- of transcripts, newspaper articles, books, and government reports -- launched today by the Center. The point of the project, according to Lewis and Reading-Smith, is to allow "the Iraq-related public pronouncements of top Bush administration officials to be tracked on a day-by-day basis against their private assessments and the actual 'ground truth' as it is now known."
Crowdsourcing aficionados, here's your chance to make a difference. Lewis told the New York Times blog The Lede that "social bookmarking tools included in the site, like Diggit and del.icio.us, will enable users to combine their efforts and share their results." Go ahead, search the database.
Mind you, this is a database of "false statements," not "lies." In an email to The Lede, Lewis said: "No one knows what these officials actually believed. And as someone not involved in 'access journalism'here in Washington -- quite the contrary -- I sure as hell don't know what these or any administration's folks actually believe or want to believe."
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Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.