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CNN's Story on al-Qaeda in Iraq Falls Flat

Yesterday, we told you about how the Anbar leaders of the Iraq Awakening shared al-Qaeda intelligence with Michael Ware and CNN. As well, we urged readers to tune in last night and watch the full report. Knowing what Ware had stumbled onto,it is needless to say that we expected something wholly more substantial in his report than that which it actually included. The analysis was flat and at some points even self-contradictory.

Readers can make their own judgment after viewing the segment in its entirety below.

After sitting through 40 minutes of a CNN broadcast with much anticipation, the above was more than a minor disappointment. I rarely watch television news, cable or broadcast, because it is entirely too frustrating. Last night, for reasons beyond Ware's disappointingly shallow analysis of al-Qaeda in Iraq, I was reminded again why I stopped.

More analysis to come, but for now consider a few points.

• The brief report stresses the conclusion that al-Qaeda in Iraq is and was an Iraqi-led and manned organization, yet makes no mention of al-Masri (Egyptian), Zarqawi (Jordanian) or other imported AQ leadership. Only of foreign suicide bomber cannon fodder.

• What of Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, who brought with him to al-Qaeda many officers in Saddam Hussein's army and intelligence services. Many of them were brought to al-Qaeda training camps in Pakistan and elsewhere, where their roles surely were split between pupil and student in an exchange of skill sets. Certainly many of them returned to Iraq for mid-level leadership roles.

• The report stresses the structured and very detailed bureaucracy - including membership application forms, expense reports, and the like - without once drawing a systematic parallel to AQI's equally bureaucratic parent organization, with al-Qaeda's parallel examples of the same in Afghanistan and Pakistan exposed by West Point's Harmony database.

• Ware contradicts his own analysis by telling viewers that al-Qaeda in Iraq is just a tiny portion of the insurgency, yet minutes later describes how this brutal and deadly group controlled entire swaths of Iraq. How is he measuring the 'insurgency,' by numbers or effectiveness? And at what point is he drawing from the data for the ratio, 2004, 2005, 2008? He explains neither to the national CNN viewing audience.

To be fair to Michael Ware, there is only so much that can be discussed in a 6-minute segment. And perhaps the segment was shortened due to breaking news coverage. The subject and the material deserve at least a one-hour investigative look in the mold of "CNN Presents."

But, at any rate, considering the amount and nature of the data provided to him by the Iraq Awakening in Anbar province, the report was a huge disappointment, not only in length and depth, but also in the overall tone and conclusions. Most viewers to whom such information is new probably walked away not so much with the impression that al-Qaeda in Iraq is a murderous and bloodthirsty group of terrorists who made sport of killing Iraqi civilians. Rather, the overriding sense left with the viewer is probably that Washington and the Bush Administration have still got it wrong.

Being left with merely six minutes is not on Michael Ware's shoulders. His weak analysis, however, most certainly is. (Sorry, but it's weak.)

Two weeks of poring over the "mother lode of information" with his Baghdad bureau colleagues and this is all you've got?