Congressional Sources Kerry's 1,429 Syrian Death Toll is Inflated

When Assad said that the accusations are based “on arbitrary videos posted on the Internet,” he kind of had a point.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during news conference in Amman

You don't say. The contradictions are obvious. The UK and France have death tolls of around 300-400. Even the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights keeps it in the 500 range.

But Kerry keeps brandishing that 1,429 number around.

The United States first cited the 1,429 death toll in a four-page document released by the White House, calling it a "preliminary assessment." Administration officials said that estimate was based on intelligence analysis and never meant to be fixed in stone

How is a number this exact supposed to be a preliminary analysis?

In his speech to the nation on Tuesday night, Obama said that Assad's forces had "gassed to death over 1,000 people, including hundreds of children."

A White House official called it a "stylistic thing". "It's accurate and not meant to signal any walking away from the assessment's figure," the person said.

Ah style.

One of the congressional sources said that administration officials in closed door briefings said they could not rule out that some victims included in the U.S. death toll were killed either by conventional explosive parts of rockets which carried poison gas or in the artillery barrage the United States says followed the gas attack.

A second source, who is sympathetic to White House policy, said caveats administration officials attached to the 1,429 death total were of sufficient magnitude to cause the source to avoid citing the figure.

So we've got a grossly inflated figure that the administration emphasizes in public, but backs away from in private.

Administration sources told Reuters that they relied on a valid intelligence methodology to make the death estimate. An official said that it involved analyzing video pictures of victims, then eliminating from the fatality total any live person, any dead body with visible injuries and shrouded bodies showing blood spots.

Classified intelligence tools then were used to confirm the provenance of the videos and to ensure that bodies were not counted twice, the official said.

As I wrote, we're looking at YouTube intelligence here.

It’s easy to blame Obama for being too lazy to send someone out to Syria to actually check the toe tags instead of clicking through a few videos, marking the WMD box checked and then checking out the trailer for the remake of Robocop.

But it’s not like anyone else has been doing a much better job.

French intelligence released a report confirming a chemical weapons attack by Assad that killed 281 people based in part “on dozens of videos culled by French intelligence services.”

Forget James Bond. Jacques Bond dispenses with the tuxedo, martinis and the Walther PPK and equipped with a Snuggie, a swivel chair and some Hot Pockets assembles a case for war based on his unique skill of video cullings.

When Assad said that the accusations are based “on arbitrary videos posted on the Internet,” he kind of had a point.