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Context of 'April 18, 2006: News Organizations File Quash Motions'

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Robert Novak.Robert Novak. [Source: MediaBistro (.com)]Conservative columnist Robert Novak, after being told by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and White House political guru Karl Rove that Valerie Plame Wilson is a CIA officer (see July 8, 2003), writes a syndicated op-ed column that publicly names her as a CIA officer. The column is an attempt to defend the administration from charges that it deliberately cited forged documents as “evidence” that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger (see July 6, 2003). It is also an attempt to discredit Joseph Wilson, Plame Wilson’s husband, who had gone to Niger at the behest of the CIA to find out whether the Iraq-Niger story was true (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). Novak characterizes Wilson’s findings—that an Iraqi deal for Nigerien uranium was highly unlikely—as “less than definitive,” and writes that neither CIA Director George Tenet nor President Bush were aware of Wilson’s report before the president’s 2003 State of the Union address where he stated that Iraq had indeed tried to purchase uranium from Niger (see 9:01 pm January 28, 2003). Novak writes: “Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials [Armitage and Rove, though Novak does not name them] told me that Wilson’s wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counterproliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him. ‘I will not answer any question about my wife,’ Wilson told me.” Wilson’s July 6 op-ed challenging the administration’s claims (see July 6, 2003) “ignite[d] the firestorm,” Novak writes. [Town Hall (.com), 7/14/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 312-313] Novak also uses the intelligence term “agency operative,” identifying her as a covert agent and indicating that he is aware of her covert status. Later, though, Novak will claim that he came up with the identifying phrase independently, and did not know of her covert status. [American Prospect, 7/19/2005]
Asked Not to Print Plame Wilson's Name - Novak will later acknowledge being asked by a CIA official not to print Plame Wilson’s name “for security reasons.” Intelligence officials will say they thought Novak understood there were larger reasons than Plame Wilson’s personal security not to publish her name. Novak will say that he did not consider the request strong enough to follow (see September 27, 2003 and October 1, 2003). [Washington Post, 9/28/2003] He will later reveal the CIA official as being agency spokesman Bill Harlow, who asked him not to reveal Plame’s identity because while “she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment… exposure of her agency identity might cause ‘difficulties’ if she travels abroad.” In 2008, current White House press secretary Scott McClellan will write: “This struck Novak as an inadequate reason to withhold relevant information from the public. Novak defended his actions by asserting that Harlow had not suggested that Plame or anybody else would be endangered, and that he learned Plame’s name (though not her undercover identity) from her husband’s entry in the well-known reference book Who’s Who in America.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 173-174] McClellan will note, “Whether war, smear job, or PR offensive gone haywire, the CIA took the leak of Plame’s name very seriously.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 174]
Plame Wilson Stricken - According to Wilson’s book The Politics of Truth, his wife’s first reaction is disbelief at Novak’s casual destruction of her CIA career. “Twenty years of loyal service down the drain, and for what?” she asks. She then makes a checklist to begin assessing and controlling the damage done to her work. She is even more appalled after totalling up the damage. Not only are the lives of herself and her family now endangered, but so are those of the people with whom she has worked for 20 years (see July 14, 2003). [New York Times, 5/12/2004] In 2005, Joseph Wilson will tell a reporter: “[Y]ou can assume that even if 150 people read the Novak article when it appeared, 148 of them would have been the heads of intelligence sections at embassies here in Washington and by noon that day they would have faxing her name or telexing her name back to their home offices and running checks on her: whether she had ever been in the country, who she may have been in contact with, etc.” [Raw Story, 7/13/2005]
Intimidation of Other Whistle-Blowers? - In 2007, author Craig Unger will write: “The implication from the administration was that the CIA’s selection of Wilson was somehow twisted because his wife was at the CIA. But, more importantly, the administration had put out a message to any and all potential whistle-blowers: if you dare speak out, we will strike back. To that end, the cover of Valerie Plame Wilson, a CIA operative specializing in WMD, had been blown by a White House that was supposedly orchestrating a worldwide war against terror.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 312-313]
Outing about Iraq, Not Niger, Author Says - In 2006, author and media critic Frank Rich will write: “The leak case was about Iraq, not Niger. The political stakes were high only because the scandal was about the unmasking of an ill-conceived war, not the unmasking of a CIA operative who posed for Vanity Fair. The real victims were the American people, not the Wilsons. The real culprits—the big enchilada, in John Ehrlichman’s Nixon White House lingo—were not the leakers but those who provoked a war in Iraq for their own motives and in so doing diverted finite resources, human and otherwise, from the fight against those who did attack America on 9/11, and had since regrouped to deadly effect.… Without Iraq, there never would have been a smear campaign against an obscure diplomat or the bungled cover-up [that followed]. While the Bush White House’s dirty tricks, like [former President] Nixon’s, were prompted in part by a ruthless desire to crush the political competition at any cost, this administration had upped the ante by playing dirty tricks with war.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 184]
Elevating Profile of Controversy - In 2008, McClellan will write, “By revealing Plame’s status, Novak inadvertently elevated the Niger controversy into a full-blown scandal.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 173]

Entity Tags: Scott McClellan, Robert Novak, Valerie Plame Wilson, Richard Armitage, George J. Tenet, Joseph C. Wilson, Bill Harlow, Bush administration (43), Karl C. Rove, Central Intelligence Agency, Frank Rich, George W. Bush, Craig Unger

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Several news organizations are subpoenaed by the Lewis Libby defense team (see February 27, 2006). The New York Times, NBC News, and Time magazine all say they have been subpoenaed for documents and records pertaining to Libby’s involvement in the Plame Wilson CIA identity leak. The Washington Post says it expects a subpoena as well. Libby’s lawyers want to use reporters to prove that Libby did not intentionally lie to the FBI (see October 14, 2003 and November 26, 2003) and to a grand jury (see March 5, 2004 and March 24, 2004) about disclosing Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity to the press. Instead, they intend to argue that Libby failed to remember important details about his conversations with reporters regarding Plame Wilson’s identity. The New York Times acknowledges that it has been asked to provide notes, e-mail messages, draft news articles, and all other documents that refer to Plame Wilson before July 14, 2003, when her identity was made public (see July 14, 2003), and information regarding its columnist Nicholas Kristof, who wrote an article featuring Plame Wilson’s husband, Joseph Wilson (see May 6, 2003). Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis says the newspaper has not yet decided whether to comply with the subpoena. She says former Times reporter Judith Miller has received a separate subpoena (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003). NBC’s Tim Russert (see July 10 or 11, 2003) and Time’s Matt Cooper (see 2:24 p.m. July 12, 2003) have also been subpoenaed. The Post anticipates receiving a subpoena for its managing editor Bob Woodward (see November 14, 2005 and November 16-17, 2005). [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 3/14/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 3/14/2006 pdf file; Reuters, 3/16/2006; New York Times, 3/16/2006] Robert Bennett, a lawyer for Miller, says she will most likely fight the subpoena. “It’s entirely too broad,” he says. “It’s highly likely we’ll be filing something with the court.” [New York Times, 3/16/2006]

Entity Tags: Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Judith Miller, Catherine Mathis, Bob Woodward, Washington Post, Valerie Plame Wilson, Tim Russert, Joseph C. Wilson, New York Times, NBC News, Matthew Cooper, Nicholas Kristof, Robert T. Bennett, Time magazine

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Lawyers for NBC News, the New York Times, Time magazine, and Time reporter Matt Cooper file motions to quash the Lewis Libby defense team’s subpoenas (see March 14, 2006). Lawyers for the Times argue that the newspaper “has a substantial First Amendment interest, and common law qualified privilege against compelled production of unpublished information of the kind sought by Libby.” Time magazine notes Libby’s argument that since he believed Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity was well known within the Washington press corps, he needs to show that her employment was discussed by reporters in June and July 2003, when he was meeting with reporters. Time says that the Libby argument should not allow his lawyers to conduct a broad search for potentially helpful evidence. “Although Mr. Libby has claimed a right to know what information the press corps in general possessed concerning Mrs. Wilson’s affiliation with the CIA, under that theory he would be entitled to subpoena all reporters in Washington to learn what they knew, and when they knew it,” Time argues in its motion. “There is no stopping point to this approach.” Other lawyers for the news organizations call the Libby subpoenas “fishing expeditions.” NBC News argues that it has no documents that show that any network employee, including reporters Andrea Mitchell and Tim Russert, knew that Plame Wilson was employed by the CIA before her public exposure (see July 14, 2003). Through his lawyers, Cooper argues that the subpoena from Libby is “materially the same as the subpoena issued to Time Inc.” by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, and is “overbroad, unreasonable, and burdensome… and seeks information protected by the reporter’s privilege that exists under the First Amendment.” [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 4/18/2006 pdf file; New York Times, 4/19/2006; Washington Post, 4/19/2006]

Entity Tags: New York Times, Andrea Mitchell, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, NBC News, Tim Russert, Valerie Plame Wilson, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Matthew Cooper, Time magazine

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Progressive columnist, author, and blogger Arianna Huffington writes that the recent motions by the New York Times, Time magazine, and other news organizations to quash subpoenas issued by the Lewis Libby defense team (see April 18, 2006) raise more questions than the organizations may be willing to answer. Huffington says that lawyers for the New York Times and its reporter Judith Miller are correct in calling Libby’s subpoenas a “fishing expedition” and accusing the lawyers of casting an overly “wide net.” However, the Times motion, in conjunction with the original Libby subpoena (see March 14, 2006), reveals that Libby’s lawyers want to know more about the situation surrounding Miller’s July 2003 conversation with Libby, in which he divulged classified information to her in order to influence her reporting on Iraq (see 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003). Specifically, Libby’s lawyers, as well as Huffington and others, want to know if Miller proposed writing a story based on Libby’s disclosures. As Huffington writes: “If she did pitch the story, which Times editor did she pitch it to? What was their reaction? Why did no story result? Had the editors become so suspect of Miller’s sources and reporting that they refused to sign off on the story? Was she officially barred from writing about Iraq/WMD?” Huffington observes that it is obvious the Libby team intends to impugn Miller’s integrity as a journalist, and writes that such a defense tactic “mak[es] it all the more important for the paper to stop operating behind a veil of secrecy when it comes to Miller.” Huffington also notes that Miller has spoken to Times in-house lawyer George Freeman and to Vanity Fair reporter Marie Brenner about Valerie Plame Wilson; Brenner wrote an article saying that Miller had talked to numerous government officials about Plame Wilson’s identity both before and after her outing by columnist Robert Novak (see July 14, 2003). [Huffington Post, 4/20/2006] Lawyer Jeralyn Merritt, writing for the progressive legal blog TalkLeft, notes that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is likely very interested in determining which government officials Miller may have spoken to about Plame Wilson, but goes on to write that Miller may have already disclosed that information to Fitzgerald. [Jeralyn Merritt, 4/20/2006]

Entity Tags: New York Times, Jeralyn Merritt, George Freeman, Arianna Huffington, Judith Miller, Marie Brenner, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Time magazine, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Valerie Plame Wilson, Robert Novak

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

Lewis Libby’s defense team files a motion to compel the testimonies of several reporters and news organizations whom it has already subpoenaed (see March 14, 2006). The New York Times, NBC News, Time magazine, and reporters Judith Miller, Matthew Cooper, and Andrea Mitchell have already filed motions to quash the Libby subpoenas (see April 18, 2006). Libby’s lawyers argue that the subpoenas are legal and just, and Libby has a right to compel the subpoenaed testimonies. According to the lawyers’ brief, reporters have “no right—under the Constitution or the common law—to deprive Mr. Libby of evidence that will help establish his innocence at trial.” In return, lawyers for the various press outlets say that Libby’s subpoenas are so broad that they threaten the integrity of their news gathering operations by targeting all of their employees, not just the three reporters involved in the case. [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 5/1/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 5/1/2006 pdf file; Associated Press, 5/2/2006] Author and blogger Marcy Wheeler writes that while the Libby team’s arguments about Cooper and Mitchell are strong, the arguments in regards to Miller are something else entirely. Wheeler accuses Libby, through his lawyers, of “totally mischaracterizing the nature of the lie he is accused of telling to” Miller during their meetings (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003). She says that in her view, Miller repeatedly hedged her grand jury testimony (see September 30, 2005 and October 12, 2005) to “protect Libby,” but now Libby is using those hedges “to impugn Judy as a witness.” [Marcy Wheeler, 5/2/2006] Author Jane Hamsher and former prosecutor Christy Hardin Smith, writing for the progressive blog FireDogLake, note with some amusement that the Libby lawyers are relying on a new word: “misrecollected,” as in “whether it is Mr. Libby or the reporters who have misstated or misrecollected the facts,” or “it is Mr. Russert who has misrecollected or misstated the facts.” Hamsher and Smith write: “It’s being employed here for the purpose of avoiding an explicit discussion of what they’re really talking about, commingling under its broad tent two distinct activities: the act of remembering an event but failing to recall certain details, which would also be known as ‘forgetting,’ and the act of remembering things that never actually happened, which would be in effect ‘fabricating.’ They seem to be describing the latter while hoping for the more innocent overtones of the former.” [FireDogLake, 5/2/2006]

Entity Tags: Marcy Wheeler, Christy Hardin Smith, Andrea Mitchell, Jane Hamsher, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Time magazine, Judith Miller, NBC News, Matthew Cooper, New York Times

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

News organizations and reporters file a variety of motions to quash the Libby defense team’s subpoenas for their notes and testimonies for the upcoming trial (see March 14, 2006, April 18, 2006, and May 1, 2006). The arguments are similar: Lewis Libby’s subpoenas violate the journalists’ and news organizations’ First Amendment rights to privacy in their reporting, the subpoenas are overly broad and lack relevance—a “fishing expedition,” as Time’s lawyers phrase it—and Libby’s lawyers cannot expect to be granted such “unchecked leeway” in subpoenaing reporters without far more specific goals and objectives than the defense team has previously stated. The lawyers for NBC reporters Andrea Mitchell and Tim Russert write, “Defendant’s case rests entirely on serial speculation—i.e., if Ms. Mitchell knew about Ms. Wilson and her employment prior to July 11, and if Ms. Mitchell shared that information with Mr. Russert before he talked with Defendant, and if Mr. Russert then shared the same information with Defendant, then her testimony would ‘be important to the defense.’” [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 5/8/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 5/8/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 5/8/2006 pdf file; THE NEW YORK TIMES' REPLY TO DEFENDANT I. LEWIS LIBBY'S RESPONSE TO MOTION OF THE NEW YORK TIMES TO QUASH LIBBY'S RULE 17(c) SUBPOENA, 5/8/2006 pdf file; US District Court for the District of Columbia, 5/8/2006 pdf file] Former prosecutor and FireDogLake blogger Christy Hardin Smith writes: “Here’s a rule of thumb—you can’t call a witness that you know is not going to be favorable to your case solely to raise questions about that witness to confuse the jury. It’s called bootstrapping, and judges do not like it. Let alone the fact that it is not allowed under the rules.” [Christy Hardin Smith, 5/12/2006] In her response, Judith Miller’s lawyer Joseph Tate objects to Libby’s speculation that he may have learned of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA status from Miller, and his request for Miller’s notes to prove or disprove his speculation. In the brief, Tate writes: “Mr. Libby asserts that he ‘has established a ‘sufficient likelihood’ that the documents he seeks are relevant to his defense.‘… In support, he maintains that ‘the documents sought are likely to contain evidence that some, if not all, of his testimony about… conversations [with reporters] was correct and that it is the reporters who have an unreliable recollection or have misstated the facts.‘… He also makes the startlingly baseless claim that it may have been Ms. Miller who mentioned Ms. Plame to him.… These contentions are unavailing. How can it possibly be maintained that Ms. Miller’s notes of discussions with persons other than Mr. Libby, regarding topics unrelated to the instant case, have any bearing on his, hers, or anyone’s recollection of the salient facts regarding her conversations with him?” Author and FireDogLake blogger Jane Hamsher writes that if Miller expected a response such as “‘If Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Judith Miller can’t remember, how can Mr. Libby be expected to remember?’ [w]hat she got instead was an invitation to play scapegoat.” [US District Court for the District of Columbia, 5/8/2006 pdf file; Jane Hamsher, 5/9/2006]

Entity Tags: Andrea Mitchell, Christy Hardin Smith, Jane Hamsher, Joseph Tate, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Valerie Plame Wilson, NBC News, Tim Russert, Time magazine, Judith Miller

Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing

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