In September 2013, when the U.N. released the report from its investigation into the August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria, the New York Times, along with Human Rights Watch, claimed that it showed that Syrian forces under President Bashar al-Assad were responsible. The evidence, both sources claimed, was that the trajectory of the rockets used to launch the CW attack in Damascus could be traced more than nine miles back to a Syrian military base on Qasioun Mountain. “Forensic Details in U.N. Report Point to Assad’s Use of Gas” read the Times headline. HRW said this evidence “strongly suggests that Syrian government forces were responsible”.
U.S. government officials also blamed Assad for the CW attack, of course, despite skepticism within the intelligence community and even though the Obama administration was aware that the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front had the capability to produce sarin gas.
But at the end of last month, the Times reported that a new study of the rockets used in the attacks concluded that they had a range of no more than three kilometers — at least seven miles short of the distance required for them to have been fired from Mt. Qasioun, as the Times and HRW had earlier claimed.
The new report, the Times commented, “raised questions about the American government’s claims about the locations of launching points” (emphasis added) and that it could be “used by defenders of the Syrian government and those suspicious of the United States’ claims to try to shift blame toward rebels.”
That was the Times‘ way of saying that its own earlier claim that that the Assad regime was responsible was completely baseless.