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Report: White House Deleted 'Coalition of the Willing' Lists

POSTED: 02:00 PM ET, 12/ 8/2008 by Derek Kravitz

Updated 4:19 p.m. Dec. 11

In what critics are calling a blatant attempt to rewrite history, the White House has pulled two lists of countries included in the Bush administration's "coalition of the willing" from its Web site and altered others.

Scott Althaus, an associate political science professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Kalev Leetaru, coordinator of Information Technology and Research at the Cline Center for Democracy, called the changes to the lists, which were used in press releases prior to the United States' invasion of Iraq in 2003, part of Bush's "legacy at risk of being forgotten."

"Updating lists to keep up with the times is one thing," says the report titled "Airbrushing History, American Style." "Deleting original documents from the White House archives is another. Back-dating later documents and using them to replace the originals goes beyond irresponsible stewardship of the public record. It is rewriting history."

Althaus and Leetaru discovered the missing pages during academic research, and used archived web pages to plot what happened.

[Clarification: In an e-mail to The Post, Althaus said that while he initially found one of the web pages, his colleague, Leetaru, "took the lead in using archived web pages to identify revisions to the other documents" and the pair worked together on the final report.]

"I think that it raises the question of whether or not we can trust the government to maintain public records of things that were said or done that later prove embarrassing," Althaus told the Daily Illini.

The Illinois researchers found that a March 2003 press release naming 49 countries in the coalition on the eve of the invasion had been altered to include contries that join the coalition much later.

At the time of the invasion there were only 45 members of the coalition. (Angola, Tonga, Panama and Ukraine were added later)

By Derek Kravitz |  December 8, 2008; 2:00 PM ET In the News
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