Hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a PowerPoint presentation in which he claimed he had proof secret Iranian nuclear program, the White House released a statement regarding the findings. And what was initially sent was a bombshell as it contradicted what the American intelligence community had been claiming for a while now.
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) May 1, 2018
As you can see in the initial statement emailed to the press, the administration said they were examining the information Israel released and that it “provides new and compelling details about Iran’s efforts to develop missile-deliverable nuclear weapons.” We then got this eye-popping sentence:
“These facts are consistent with what the United States has long known: Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people.”
Immediately after it was released, reporters began to rightfully freak out as the White House claiming it’s known for a long time that “Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program.” Just take a look at how NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell reacted to the statement:
— Hardball (@hardball) April 30, 2018
A short while later, the White House quietly made a one-word change — but a change that completely transformed the meaning of the statement (emphasis mine).
“These facts are consistent with what the United States has long known: Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people.”
Without releasing a new statement to the press, the White House merely switched out “has” to “had” in the online version of the statement. That is what we in the industry call a stealth edit.
Eventually, a White House official told members of the press that it was the result of a “clerical error.”
NEW: White House official blames a “clerical error” for wrong tense — a “mistake” that significantly changed the meaning, especially since the Trump administration, as recently as this month, acknowledged Iran was complying with terms of the nuclear deal.
— Peter Alexander (@PeterAlexander) May 1, 2018
As former CIA official and Obama assistant Ned Price noted, the previous administration had a rule that corrections could just be made online. In situations like this, especially when the meaning of the statement was being changed entirely, a new statement would need to be sent out.
The Obama WH had a rule that any substantive revisions to statements couldn't merely be adjusted online, as this was. The corrected version had to be formally re-issued. I doubt we'll be seeing that from this WH even though this is a correction of huge consequence. https://t.co/KAKcXDgJVM
— Ned Price (@nedprice) May 1, 2018