SRSLY

The best reporting you probably missed

David Epstein

Welcome to SRSLY, an (experimental) newsletter highlighting under-exposed accountability journalism. We'll distill the important information from investigative reporting you probably missed, and deliver it to you in three-minutes-or-less worth of reading. Sign up to have it delivered to your inbox. (You can, of course, unsubscribe at the first whiff of a bad joke.)

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We at SRSLY want to highlight underexposed reporting. Occasionally, however, a very prominent news event is so sprawling that we think it’s worth a distillation. Also, with Brexit now two weeks old, you may be at risk of the syndrome known as “momentous UK news withdrawal” (clammy skin, irritability, insatiable cravings for Marmite Crisps). To ease the symptoms, we give you 300 words on the ultimate tl;dr: the 2.6 million-word, seven-years-in-the-making “Chilcot report,” an inquiry into the UK’s decision to join the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Your [record] seven Ws:

What?

In 2009, Sir John Chilcot was tasked with leading an inquiry into every UK governmental decision related to invading and occupying Iraq dating back to 2001. The report was supposed to emerge in 2011, but fighting over the release of documents caused an itsy bitsy completion delay of five years. It’s out now, and it’s a doorstopper. Even if the door belongs to the Jolly Green Giant. The executive summary alone is 150 pages.

What does it say in 2.6 million words?

How can we put this … hmmm: Iffy judgments about the threat posed by WMDs in Iraq were presented with false certainty, which led to premature military action in 2003. Some intel decisions were simply cloaked with semantics: Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee said Iraq was capable of delivering chemical weapons, but they didn’t say it was actually making those weapons. It’s kind of like Shaquille O’Neal and free throws; he was capable of making them, he just didn’t. See the difference? If only the Joint Intelligence Committee had used sports analogies, this would’ve been so much more clear.

What else?

It appears no one felt it necessary to make a formal record of how the invasion was legally justified. Totally understandable. I mean, paperwork, so annoying … amirite??

What about the actual invasion?

The report found that the UK military was woefully underprepared, lacking equipment for proper patrols on the ground, intel gathering, and reconnaissance. To the sports analogy: You trained hard for this year’s Springfield Turkey Trot, but U.S.A. Track and Field has decided to send you to the Olympics. G’luck out there!

What about the aftermath?

“Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated. The planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate.” – the report

What’s the response?

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed with parts of the report. “The coalition planned for one set of ground facts,” he said, “but found another.” Ok, fair. And Blair acknowledged that “intelligence statements made at the time of going to war turned out to be wrong.” Right, right. But … oh … he was adamant that, given the same (apparently wrong) information he would’ve made the exact same (admittedly poor) choice. “That’s the decision I believe was right,” Blair said. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What else?

Want to see your name in SRSLY lights?? Find a golden nugget in the searchable Chilcot report, and we may include it next week.


SRSLY Shortstack

Ashley Madison, the affair-facilitating site (“Life is short. Have an affair.”), is facing a Federal Trade Commission investigation for a data breach last year that ended with the personal info of millions of customers splashed online. The site’s parent company also confirmed that Ashley Madison was teeming with automated women, or “fembots,” to lure male customers. But never mind all that, the hilarious part of this Reuters report is the lead, in which company executives are seeking to “revive [Ashley Madison’s] credibility.” ProPublica contacted the Red Priestess from Game of Thrones, and she confirmed that stuff that didn’t first exist can’t be revived.


Tweet of The Week

Additional research by Kate Brown.

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ProPublica does not vouch for the accuracy of stories appearing on SRSLY. We select, review and summarize key points from accountability stories that may not have gotten wide exposure. But we are not able to independently vet or vouch for the accuracy of stories produced by others. We will inform readers if we learn that stories have been challenged publicly or corrected.