Or this, from point twenty-nine, also our emphasis:

In the media, and more importantly in the MTCR Information Exchange, countries have offered direct evidence of the transfer of the BM-25 from North Korea to Iran. Russia asked if the U.S. had pictures of the missile in Iran. The U.S. did not, but noted that North Korea had paraded the missile through the streets of Pyongyang. Russia disagreed. Russia said it had reviewed the video of the North Korean military parade and concluded that North Korea had shown a different missile. Russia does not think the BM-25 exists. The missile appears to be a myth, and some say that it is based on a Russian missile. However, no one has seen it, and Russia cannot find traces of it. The U.S. said it would endeavor to provide further information on the existence of the BM-25 at the next round of talks, noting that reaching agreement on this point will affect the joint assessment of Iranian and North Korean missile capabilities.

As FAIR has written in an “Action
compelling readers to question Times public editor Arthur Brisbane on the matter, “the full contents of the cable give a much different picture than the Times gives its readers.”

It is important to note, as John Pomfret and Walter Pincus do in an article questioning the “North Korea-Iran missile link” now online at The Washington Post, that “the Americans and the Russians came to the meeting with competing agendas.”

The Americans were intent on emphasizing the Iranian threat because of their fears about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons programs and their support for a multibillion-dollar missile defense shield that is a priority of the Obama administration. The Russians focused on playing down the threat because they opposed the missile shield and because of their embarrassment that Russian technology was showing up in North Korean and Iranian missile systems.

However, it does seem as if the Times has adopted the same emphasis as the Americans in its reading of the cables. And the evidence, as the Post story points out, does not stack up.

At one point, the U.S. side said it believed the BM-25 “was sold to Iran by North Korea.” The American team cited news reports as proof. But the main news source on the issue, a story by the German newspaper Bild Zeitung in 2005, quoted German intelligence sources as saying only that Iran had purchased 18 kits made up of missile components for the BM-25 from North Korea - not 19 of the missiles themselves.

Going outside of the cable, the duo report:

A senior U.S. intelligence official said Tuesday that he was unaware of any sale of a complete BM-25, although there was probably a transfer of kits.

“There has been a flow of knowledge and missile parts” from North Korea to Iran, he said, “but sale of such an actual missile does not fully check out.”

The worry here is not necessarily that the Times report is incorrect—it might well be that nineteen BM-25 missiles were shipped to Tehran and used, somehow, in Iran’s launch of its Safir satellite in early 2009. The cable is a bit of a he said-she said situation, with his and hers takes on the murky evidence there to sort through.

The worry is that the Times chose, for whatever reason, to emphasize what one side said and not the other by virtually ignoring notes in the cable on Russia’s skepticism about the movement of the missiles and the transmission of missile technology. The reader of the Times article is not privy to the disagreement, the debate, or any of the gray stuff that might bring some of the more frightening assertions that open the report into perspective. And if WikiLeaks had not published the cable itself, readers would have no idea that the matter is an open question, and not an open-and-shut case.

The report and its critics raise some interesting questions about how outlets treat the WikiLeaks cables. The most interesting might be this: if you are going to report on a cable, should you always make
the source able available to your readers in raw form?

Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.