Online efforts drive Downing Street memo scrutiny

WASHINGTON - Washington media may have been slow to pick up on the Downing Street Memo, but it is gaining traction among the public, due in large part to the efforts of one website.

DowningStreetMemo.com has had 700,000 visitors since going live on May 13 and helped to pique interest by getting 500,000 of them to sign a letter, drafted by Rep. John Conyers, asking President Bush to answer questions raised by the memo.

"I think we've certainly made a contribution to the discussion," said Bob Fesmire, spokesman for the team behind the website. "One of the things we tried to do with the site is avoid any flagrantly partisan language or inflammatory statements."

The memo, first reported by the Times of London on May 1, contained minutes of a July 23, 2002 meeting in which British officials told Prime Minister Tony Blair they believed the Bush administration had already decided on military action against Iraq and "fixed" intelligence to fit the policy.

Only days after the website had launched, Fesmire received interview requests from several news outlets that had discovered the site was registered to a local San Francisco Bay Area address.

During a June 16 unofficial Capitol Hill hearing on the memo, local NBC and CBS affiliates set up shop at Fesmire's house. He said reporters asked for his reaction on the site's role in making the hearing a reality.

Fesmire played down the site's influence on the hearing, but said it definitely has contributed to the debate.

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