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“For more than a half-century, American foreign policy involving oil has been cloaked in intrigue and deception, from the overthrow of the Premier of Iran in 1953 to the arming of Afghan rebels through the 1980s, from the permanent establishment of a military presence in the Persian Gulf to the early support of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. If Iraq is now handled openly—meaning the war really was about liberating Iraq from a dictator and the rest of the world from a security threat, as the Bush Administration asserts, and not about gaining control of oil reserves, as much of the rest of the world believes—it will be a historic first. The yardstick to measure US intentions will be 1950s Iran…. Before the US-inspired overthrow of the Iranian government, American oil companies had no presence in that country. After the coup, five US oil companies moved in and produced oil for the next 25 years. More dependent on imports than ever before, the US today is seeking to diversify its sources. Iraq is the only country capable of flooding the world with cheap oil on the scale of Saudi Arabia.… the fact is that oil—who has it, who produces it, who fixes its price—governs everything of significance in the Persian Gulf and affects economies everywhere. While the Bush Administration has repeatedly asserted that Iraq’s oil belongs to its citizens— ‘We’ll make sure that Iraq’s natural resources are used for the benefit of their owners, the Iraqi people,’ the president said—the stakes go far beyond Iraq. The amount of oil that Iraq brings to market will not just determine the living standards of Iraqis but affect everything from the Russian economy to the price Americans pay for gasoline, from the stability of Saudi Arabia to Iran’s future.” [Time, 5/10/2003]
A Time magazine profile lambasts the racist, anti-Communist John Birch Society (JBS—see December 2011), in what is many Americans’ first exposure to the group. It delineates the organization’s penchant for secrecy, its domination by its “dictatorial” leader, Robert Welch, and its hardline battle against almost every element of the federal government as “agents of Communism.” Forty to 60 percent of the federal government is controlled by Communism, the JBS believes. Time calls the organization “a tiresome, comic-opera joke” that nonetheless has cells in 35 states and an ever-widening influence. In Wichita, Kansas, JBS student members are trained to inform their cell leaders of “Communist” influences they may detect in their classroom lectures, and the offending teacher is berated by parents. A Wichita businessman who wanted to give a donation to the University of Wichita decided not to donate after being hounded by local JBS members, who wanted the university to fire professors and remove selected books from its library. “My business would be wrecked,” the businessman explains, “if those people got on the phone and kept on yelling that I am a Communist because I give money to the school.” Nashville, Tennessee, JBS members organize community members to verbally attack neighbors whom they suspect of Communist affiliations. JBS’s current priority, Time writes, is to bring about the impeachment of Chief Justice Earl Warren. Welch, who obtained his wealth from his brother’s candymaking business, believes that Social Security and the federal income tax are all part of the “creeping socialism” that is taking over the federal government. He retired from the business in 1957 and founded the JBS shortly thereafter, naming it for a US Navy captain killed by Chinese Communist guerrillas after the end of World War II. Welch’s seminal tract, “The Politician,” accuses President Eisenhower and his brother Milton Eisenhower of being Communist plants, and accuses both men of treason against the nation. (Time 3/10/1961)
Author W. Cleon Skousen, a supporter of the John Birch Society (JBS—see December 2011), writes an article attacking the Time profile of the JBS (see March 10, 1961) as being part of an orchestrated Communist attack on the organization. The article came about after the international Communist Party “ordered” the “annihilation” of the JBS, Skousen says. Skousen denies the group’s penchant for secrecy, saying that it was openly set up in 1958 as a network of “study groups” examining the threat of Communism to American society. The organization, he writes, is nothing more than “a study group program with a strong bias in favor of traditional American constitutionalism.” By 1960, the JBS earned the enmity of competing conservative groups, Skousen says, because the organization “had rallied together most of the best informed and hardest working patriots in many cities.” However, he writes, JBS members tend to be part of other conservative movements as well. The JBS worked to defeat a bill, slated to be introduced in January 1961, that would largely defund the House Committee on Un-American Activities “so it could not investigate the Communist Party.” Skousen says that JBS efforts derailed the bill, handing the American Communist Party “an overwhelming defeat.” After the bill was defeated, Skousen says, “a manifesto… from Moscow” ordered the destruction of the JBS, as it posed the primary danger to “Communist progress” in the US. The Time magazine profile of the JBS was part of that effort, Skousen says, after the organization was attacked in the pages of the Daily People’s World, a West Coast publication that Skousen says was “the official Communist newspaper” of that area. Within days, the information in the article was reprinted in Time’s own article, which reached far more people than the People’s World. “[T]he thing which astonished me,” Skousen writes, “was the rapidity with which the transmission belt began to function so that this story was planted in one major news medium after another until finally even some of the more conservative papers had taken up the hue and cry.” Skousen calls the article a Communist plant filled with fabrications and lies. He says that JBS leader Robert Welch’s accusations that President Eisenhower and other pro-American world leaders are Communists were made in “private communication[s] to his friends” and were never part of official JBS principles, and took place well before Welch founded the JBS in 1957; therefore, Skousen writes, to report Welch’s characterizations is to smear the JBS. Skousen also denies any racism or anti-Semitism on the JBS’s part, and uses a sympathetic 1963 report by the California Senate Factfinding Committee to “prove” his claims. The report concluded that Welch and the JBS have “stirred the slumbering spirit of patriotism in thousands of Americans, roused them from lethargy, and changed their apathy into a deep desire to first learn the facts about communism and then implement that knowledge with effective and responsible action.” Skousen concludes that while Americans are free to disagree with JBS principles and actions, any criticism of the organization should be considered potential Communist propaganda designed to smear the organization and reduce its effectiveness. If the criticism does not come from Communists themselves, it plays into Communist hands. As he claims to have been told by “[a] former member of the Communist Party National Committee,” “The Communist leaders look upon the stamping out of the John Birch Society as a matter of life and death for the Party.” (Skousen 1963)
The US media initially pays little attention to the Watergate burglary (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972). Most political reporting is focused on ridiculing Democrat George McGovern’s chances of becoming president. Time prints a five-page report on McGovern’s campaign proposals, and offers its sardonic vision of America under McGovern: “The neighborhood draft dodger has triumphantly returned home to take one of the new jobs at Freedom Fleet, a bus company shuttling ghetto children to racially balanced schools in the suburbs. After work, the ex-expatriate picks up his date at the corner abortion parlor, stops next door at Pot City for some Acapulco Gold, and then trips off to Timothy Leary’s Dizzyland, a new chain of rock-‘n’-roll-your-own nightclubs springing up in abandoned American Legion halls.” (Reeves 2001, pp. 502-503)
The Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) files a lawsuit against the Washington Post, the Washington Star-News, the New York Times, and Time magazine, demanding that the various news outlets be forced to reveal their notes and sources regarding the Watergate investigation. Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, and Jim Mann are subpoenaed, as are editor Howard Simons and publisher Katherine Graham. The young law student who delivers the subpoena to Bernstein, a part-time employee in CREEP lawyer Kenneth Parkinson’s firm, is not happy with the proceedings, and promises to give Bernstein any information he might develop. (Bernstein and Woodward 1974, pp. 260-261)
Former White House counsel John Dean, shocked by allegations that he was behind the Watergate burglary in an attempt to prove that Democrats were involved in a prostitution ring (see May 6, 1991), calls Hays Gorey, a reporter with Time magazine who co-authored a book with Dean’s wife Maureen about her experiences during Watergate. Gorey is shocked that Time is considering running an article on the allegations without conferring with him, as Gorey had anchored much of Time’s Watergate coverage at the time. Both he and Dean are stunned to see that Maureen Dean is accused of being connected to the so-called prostitution ring; Gorey calls the allegations complete fantasy. Gorey learns that Time has secured the rights to print portions of the not-yet-published book making the allegations, Silent Coup. Dean later writes that his wife finds the allegations “laughable,” and is completely certain that her former roommate, Heidi Rikan, never ran any prostitution ring, as the book alleges. She has no knowledge of an attorney named Philip Macklin Bailey, whom, the book’s authors claim, was connected to the supposed prostitution ring, and had her name as well as Dean’s in his address book. By the end of the day, the producers of CBS’s 60 Minutes have decided not to air a segment on the book, as neither the authors nor the book’s publisher can provide any proof of their allegations. Bailey is “unavailable” and the authors either cannot or will not provide any documentation to back up their claims. Time, however, still intends to publish an excerpt from the book and a review. Time’s editors ask Gorey to interview Dean for a sidebar article; by this point, Gorey has talked to numerous members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from 1972, and they all say that the allegation of the DNC either operating or patronizing a prostitution ring is absolute fiction. (One former DNC official tells Gorey that had the committee patronized such a ring, he would have been a regular customer.) Gorey loans Dean his advance copy of the book, and after skimming over it, Dean, writing in 2006, concludes that the book is “filled with false or misleading information. All the hard evidence (the information developed by government investigators and prosecutors) that conflicted with this invented story was simply omitted.” Dean and Gorey both wonder why St. Martin’s Press and Time believe they can publish such outlandish accusations without facing lawsuits. (Dean 2006, pp. xvii-xviii)
Former White House counsel John Dean tells Time reporter Hays Gorey that he plans on suing the authors and the publishers of the book Silent Coup, which alleges that Dean planned the Watergate burglary (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972) to prove that Democrats were operating a prostitution ring, and that Dean’s wife Maureen had inside knowledge of the prostitution ring (see May 6, 1991). Dean’s position is simple: the book is a farrago of lies and misinformation, and the accusations are libelous (see May 6, 1991). Dean also speaks with Time publisher Henry Muller, and Muller agrees to halt his magazine’s planned publication of an excerpt from the book. Gorey is amazed: Time has already paid $50,000 for the rights to publish portions of the book. “You did it,” Gorey tells Dean. “Muller pulled the story. The whole thing. We’re not going to even mention Silent Coup. I have only seen that happen once before in my thirty years with Time.” Dean later writes, “[Gorey] was ebullient, clearly proud that Time had done the right thing.” The book’s publisher, St. Martin’s Press, refuses to suspend publication. (Dean 2006, pp. xviii-xix)
Silent Coup, an alternate theory of the Watergate conspiracy by Leonard Colodny and Robert Gettlin (see May 6, 1991), is published. It quickly makes the New York Times bestseller list. (Dean 2006, pp. xxiv) The same day it is published, the Washington Post runs an article by media reporter Howard Kurtz that thoroughly discredits the book. Kurtz notes that both CBS and Time magazine chose not to feature the book because the authors refused to provide any proof of their allegations (see May 7, 1991); two of the authors’ primary sources of information, former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Thomas Moorer and former Pentagon spokesman Jerry Friedheim, both disavow statements they are said to have made; and the primary Watergate figures, Post reporter Bob Woodward, former White House aide Alexander Haig, and former White House counsel John Dean, harshly repudiate the book’s contentions. (Weinberg 11/1991)
Time magazine publishes a lengthy series of articles on David Koresh (see November 3, 1987 and After) and the Waco, Texas, Branch Davidians (see March 1, 1993 and April 19, 1993) titled “Tragedy in Waco.” Among its articles is a profile of Koresh that characterizes him as a cult leader and a psychopath. Of his near-total control over his followers, Time writes: “In the manner of cult leaders before him, Koresh held sway largely through means that were both more subtle and more degrading. Food was rationed in unpredictable ways. Newcomers were gradually relieved of their bank accounts and personal possessions. And while the men were subjected to an uneasy celibacy, Koresh took their wives and daughters as his concubines” (see February 27 - March 3, 1993). The profile notes Koresh’s “mangled theological rationale” as the “Second Coming” of Jesus Christ in a sinful, mortal form. It discusses what it calls his “creamy charm and a cold-blooded willingness to manipulate those drawn to him,” and says “students of cult practices” readily recognize his type: “He was the most spectacular example since Jim Jones, who committed suicide in 1978 with more than 900 of his followers at the People’s Temple in Guyana. Like Jones, Koresh fashioned a tight-knit community that saw itself at desperate odds with the world outside. He plucked sexual partners as he pleased from among his followers and formed an elite guard of lieutenants to enforce his will. And like Jones, he led his followers to their doom.” UCLA psychology professor Louis West calls Koresh a psychopath, and explains: “The psychopath is often charming, bright, very persuasive. He quickly wins people’s trust and is uncannily adept at manipulating and conning people.” Former Davidian David Bunds, who left the Waco compound in 1989, says Koresh was preparing his followers for the Apocalypse and mortal death for years. “Koresh would say we would have to suffer, that we were going to be persecuted, and some of us would be killed and tortured,” Bunds recalls. Psychologist Murray Miron, who advised the FBI during the standoff, says: “The adulation of this confined group work on this charismatic leader so that he in turn spirals into greater and greater paranoia. He’s playing a role that his followers have cast him in.” In a sense, the article concludes, both Koresh and the Davidians gave one another what they needed. The Davidians confirmed Koresh’s belief that he was the son of God and destined for a martyr’s death. He helped them bring their spiritual wanderings to a close. The article concludes with the following: “In the flames of last week, they all may have found what they were searching for.” (Lacayo, Cole, and Woodbury 5/3/1993)
Time magazine’s cover story reports on the potential for anti-American militants to kill thousands in highly destructive acts. It mentions that, three weeks earlier, Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) had outlined a scenario in which terrorists attack the US Capitol building on the night of a State of the Union address, by crashing a radio-controlled airplane into it, “engulfing it with chemical weapons and causing tremendous death and destruction.” The scenario is “not far-fetched,” and the required technology is readily available, Nunn said. (Nelan 4/3/1995) An almost identical scenario was included in the storyline of the Tom Clancy bestseller Debt of Honor, released the previous year, but this involved a plane guided by a suicide pilot, rather than radio control (see August 17, 1994). High-ranking al-Qaeda leaders will claim later that Flight 93’s target was the Capitol Building. (Tremlett 9/9/2002)
Time magazine publishes an article calling Secretary of State Colin Powell the “odd man out” in the administration, adding that his centrist politics make him “chum in the water for the sharks in Dubya’s sea,” particularly Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. One top diplomat, asked to provide an adjective for the phrase, “Colin Powell is a ‘blank’ secretary of state,” replies, “Yes, he is.” A senior administration official says, “I’ve been struck by how not struck I am by him.” Time states, “Powell’s megastar wattage looks curiously dimmed, as if someone has turned his light way down.” When Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is asked why he took the number two spot in the Pentagon, he replies with one word, “Powell” (see January 11, 2001). (Wolfowitz will later deny making the remark.) Author Craig Unger will write that Wolfowitz’s terse reply “gave the game away. He was there to neutralize Powell, to implement the hard-line neocon[servative] vision.” Time concludes, “Enthusiasm is building inside the administration to take down [Iraq’s] Saddam [Hussein] once and for all,” a policy to which Powell is opposed. (McGeary 9/10/2001; McGeary 9/10/2001; Unger 2007, pp. 213)
President Bush holds a press conference—only his eighth since taking office—in which he conflates Iraq and Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 attacks and the global war on terror at least 12 times. For instance, he says: “Iraq is a part of the war on terror. It’s a country that trains terrorists; it’s a country that could arm terrorists. Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country.” Perhaps his most alarming statement is, “September the 11th should say to the American people that we’re now a battlefield.” (White House 3/6/2003; Boehlert 5/4/2006; Moyers 4/25/2007) Bush insists that he has not yet decided to take military action against Iraq (see March 6, 2003). (Boehlert 5/4/2006)
Scripted and Orchestrated - Oddly, none of the 94 assembled journalists challenge Bush’s conflations, no one asks about Osama bin Laden, and no one asks follow-up questions to elicit information past the sound bites Bush delivers. There is a reason for that. In 2007, PBS’s Bill Moyers will report that “the White House press corps will ask no hard questions… about those claims,” because the entire press conference is scripted. “Sure enough, the president’s staff has given him a list of reporters to call on,” Moyers will report. Press Secretary Ari Fleischer later admits to giving Bush the list, which omits reporters from such media outlets as Time, Newsweek, USA Today, and the Washington Post. After calling on CNN reporter John King, Bush says, “This is a scripted—” and then breaks into laughter. King, like his colleagues, continues as if nothing untoward is happening. Author and media commentator Eric Boehlert will later say: “[Bush] sort of giggled and laughed. And, the reporters sort of laughed. And, I don’t know if it was out of embarrassment for him or embarrassment for them because they still continued to play along after his question was done. They all shot up their hands and pretended they had a chance of being called on.” Several questions later, Bush pretends to choose from the available reporters, saying: “Let’s see here… Elizabeth… Gregory… April.… Did you have a question or did I call upon you cold?” The reporter asks, “How is your faith guiding you?” Bush responds: “My faith sustains me because I pray daily. I pray for guidance.” Boehlert will later say: “I think it just crystallized what was wrong with the press coverage during the run up to the war. I think they felt like the war was gonna happen and the best thing for them to do was to get out of the way.” (White House 3/6/2003; Boehlert 5/4/2006; Moyers 4/25/2007)
Defending the Press's Complicity - New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller, a participant in the conference, will later defends the press corps’ “timid behavior,” in Boehlert’s characterization, by saying: “I think we were very deferential because… it’s live, it’s very intense, it’s frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you’re standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country’s about to go to war. There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.” (Boehlert 5/4/2006)
Compliant Media Coverage - The broadcast news media, transmitting the live feed of the conference, could not have been more accommodating, author and media critic Frank Rich will later note. “CNN flashed the White House’s chosen messages in repetitive rotation on the bottom of the screen while the event was still going on—‘People of good will are hoping for peace’ and ‘My job is to protect America.’” After the conference, Fox News commentator Greta van Susteren tells her audience, “What I liked tonight was that in prime time [Bush] said to the American people, my job is to protect the American people.” (Rich 2006, pp. 70)
Follow-Up Coverage Equally Stage-Managed - Boehlert notes that the post-conference coverage is equally one-sided. On MSNBC’s flagship news commentary show, Hardball, host Chris Matthews spends an hour discussing the conference and the upcoming invasion. Matthews invites six guests on. Five are advocates of the war, and one, given a few moments for “balance,” questions some of the assumptions behind the rationale for war. The five pro-war guests include an “independent military analyst,” retired General Montgomery Meigs, who is one of around 75 retired military officers later exposed as participants in a Pentagon propaganda operation designed to promote the war (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond). (Boehlert 5/4/2006)
Some Criticism Leveled - Several journalists later write harsh critiques of the conference and the media’s complicity (see March-April 2003).
Time magazine, in an article by Matthew Cooper and two other reporters, asks the question, “Has the Bush administration declared war on a former ambassador who conducted a fact-finding mission to probe possible Iraqi interest in African uranium?” Its answer: “Perhaps.” The ambassador is Joseph Wilson, who flew to Africa in February 2002 to find the truth behind the charges that Iraq had secretly attempted to purchase uranium from Niger (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). Wilson found no evidence to back up those claims (see March 4-5, 2002), and recently wrote a New York Times op-ed blasting the administration’s use of those claims to justify invading Iraq (see July 6, 2003).
White House Says Wilson's Report Bolstered Claims - Cooper reports that since Wilson’s op-ed was published, “administration officials have taken public and private whacks at Wilson, charging that his 2002 report, made at the behest of US intelligence, was faulty and that his mission was a scheme cooked up by mid-level operatives.” CIA Director George Tenet and White House press secretary Ari Fleischer have both criticized Wilson and disputed his conclusion, even stating that his findings in Niger actually strengthened the administration’s claims of an Iraq-Niger connection, saying that he reported a meeting with a former Nigerien government official who discussed being approached by an Iraqi official in June 1999 who wanted to expand commercial relations between the two countries. According to government officials, Wilson interpreted that overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales. Fleischer said: “This is in Wilson’s report back to the CIA. Wilson’s own report, the very man who was on television saying Niger denies it… reports himself that officials in Niger said that Iraq was seeking to contact officials in Niger about sales” (see February 1999). Wilson disputes the characterization, saying that he never interpreted the discussion in the way the White House claims he did: “That then translates into an Iraqi effort to import a significant quantity of uranium as the president alleged? These guys really need to get serious.”
Wilson and the Forged Documents - Tenet has blasted Wilson for never discussing the forged Iraq-Niger documents (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001); for his part, Wilson said that he did not discuss the documents because he never saw them. And Fleischer says that Wilson erred in taking Nigerien officials at their word: “He spent eight days in Niger and he concluded that Niger denied the allegation. Well, typically nations don’t admit to going around nuclear nonproliferation.”
Claims that Wilson Sent at Behest of Wife - Other unnamed White House officials have insinuated that Wilson was sent to Niger at the behest of his wife, Valerie Plame Wilson (see February 13, 2002, February 13, 2002, Shortly after February 13, 2002, February 20, 2002, and February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002), whom Cooper identifies as “a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” (see (June 12, 2003)). Cooper learned of Plame Wilson’s CIA status from White House political adviser Karl Rove (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), though he does not cite Rove as his source in his article. Cooper writes, “These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband’s being dispatched [to] Niger” (see February 19, 2002). Wilson, according to Cooper, angrily disputes the contention that his wife sent him to Niger, saying: “That is bullsh_t. That is absolutely not the case. I met with between six and eight analysts and operators from CIA and elsewhere [before the February 2002 trip]. None of the people in that meeting did I know, and they took the decision to send me. This is a smear job.”
Wilson Sent Due to Cheney's Pressure? - A source whom Cooper identifies as “close to the matter” confirms that Wilson was sent to Niger after Vice President Dick Cheney pressured the CIA to find out about the Iraq-Niger allegations (see Shortly after February 12, 2002), though both Tenet and Cheney’s office deny doing so (see (February 13, 2002)). Cooper quotes Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis Libby, as saying: “The vice president heard about the possibility of Iraq trying to acquire uranium from Niger in February 2002. As part of his regular intelligence briefing, the vice president asked a question about the implication of the report. During the course of a year, the vice president asked many such questions and the agency responded within a day or two saying that they had reporting suggesting the possibility of such a transaction. But the agency noted that the reporting lacked detail. The agency pointed out that Iraq already had 500 tons of uranium, portions of which came from Niger, according to the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA—see 1979-1982). The vice president was unaware of the trip by Ambassador Wilson and didn’t know about it until this year when it became public in the last month or so.” Other administration officials, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, claim they, too, heard nothing of Wilson’s report until recently. (Cooper, Calabresi, and Dickerson 7/17/2003)
Cooper to Testify about Sources - Cooper will eventually testify about his contacts with Rove and Libby during the investigation of the Plame Wilson identity leak (see May 21, 2004, August 24, 2004, July 6, 2005, and July 13, 2005).
The federal grand jury investigating the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert CIA identity subpoenas a large amount of White House records, including Air Force One telephone logs from the week before Plame Wilson’s public outing (see July 14, 2003); records created in July 2003 by the White House Iraq Group (WHIG—see August 2002), a White House public relations group tasked with crafting a public relations strategy to market the Iraq war to the public; a transcript of press secretary Ari Fleischer’s press briefing in Nigeria currently missing from the White House’s Web site (see 3:20 a.m. July 12, 2003); a list of guests at former President Gerald Ford’s July 16, 2003 birthday reception; and records of Bush administration officials’ contacts with approximately 25 journalists and news media outlets. The journalists include Robert Novak, the columnist who outed Plame Wilson, Newsday reporters Knut Royce and Timothy Phelps (see July 21, 2003), five Washington Post reporters including Mike Allen and Dana Priest (see September 28, 2003 and October 12, 2003), Time magazine’s Michael Duffy (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), NBC’s Andrea Mitchell (see July 8, 2003 and October 3, 2003), MSNBC’s Chris Matthews (see July 21, 2003), and reporters from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Associated Press. The subpoenas will be accompanied by a January 26 memo from White House counsel Alberto Gonzales that will set a January 29 deadline for production of the subpoenaed documents and records. Gonzales will write that White House staffers will turn over records of any “contacts, attempted contacts, or discussion of contacts, with any members of the media concerning [former ambassador Joseph] Wilson, his trip, or his wife, including but not limited to the following media and media personnel.” White House spokeswoman Erin Healy later says, “The president has always said we would fully comply with the investigation, and the White House counsel’s office has directed the staff to fully comply.” White House press secretary Scott McClellan will say: “It’s just a matter of getting it all together.… At this point, we’re still in the process of complying fully with those requests. We have provided the Department of Justice investigators with much of the information and we’re continuing to provide them with additional information and comply fully with the request for information.” (US District Court for the District of Columbia 1/22/2004; US District Court for the District of Columbia 1/22/2004; Brune 3/5/2004; Allen 3/6/2004)
The lawyer for White House official Karl Rove, Robert Luskin, speaks with Time magazine reporter Viveca Novak, about the Plame Wilson leak investigation. Novak informs Luskin that a colleague of hers at Time, Matthew Cooper, may have learned Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity from Rove (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). (Stevenson and Jehl 12/2/2005) According to Novak’s later recollection, Luskin says something along the lines of: “Karl doesn’t have a Cooper problem. He was not a source for Matt.” Novak isn’t convinced by Luskin’s words, and asks: “Are you sure about that? That’s not what I hear around Time.” Luskin, she will recall, “looked surprised and very serious,” and says, “There’s nothing in the phone logs,” referring to the White House telephone logs from July 2003, when Rove discussed Plame Wilson’s identity with Cooper, and when Cooper and other Time reporters published stories regarding the White House’s attempts to damage the credibility of Plame Wilson’s husband, Joseph Wilson (see July 17, 2003). Novak later notes that Cooper called Rove through the White House switchboard, which may explain the lack of phone logs. Novak is surprised at Luskin’s response. “I had been pushing back against what I thought was his attempt to lead me astray,” she will later write. “I hadn’t believed that I was disclosing anything he didn’t already know. Maybe this was a feint. Maybe his client was lying to him.” Novak immediately begins wishing she had not said anything to Luskin. Reporters don’t, as a rule, tip off people involved in investigations. “Thank you,” Luskin says as he walks her to her car. “This is important.” (Novak 12/11/2005) In 2005, investigative reporter Jason Leopold will posit that Novak may have been trying to convince Luskin that she knew more about Cooper’s source than she did. According to Leopold, Novak is repeating a months-old rumor that Rove leaked Plame Wilson’s identity to Cooper, a rumor that has swirled throughout the Washington journalistic community. Leopold’s sources will bolster Novak’s claim that she had no intention of “tipping off” Luskin to anything. (Leopold 12/9/2005) The press will later report Novak’s meeting with Luskin as taking place in the late summer or fall of 2004, and Novak will initially tell special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that it took place in May 2004, but according to her final testimony, the meeting occurs on March 1 (see December 8, 2005). (Stevenson and Jehl 12/2/2005; Novak 12/11/2005) Leopold will date the Novak-Luskin conversation to “the summer of 2004.” (Leopold 12/9/2005) Upon the conclusion of his conversation with Novak, Luskin will immediately prompt Rove to begin searching for documentation of his conversation with Cooper (see March 1, 2004).
The grand jury investigating the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson’s covert identity (see December 30, 2003) subpoenas Time reporter Matthew Cooper and NBC’s Tim Russert, host of “Meet the Press.” Time and NBC both say they will fight the subpoenas (see May 13-20, 2004, June 2004 and August 9, 2004). NBC says the subpoenas could have a “chilling effect” on its ability to report the news. NBC president Neal Shapiro says, “Sources will simply stop speaking with the press if they fear those conversations will become public.” Cooper’s lawyer, Floyd Abrams, says, “Rounding up the Washington press corps doesn’t seem the most likely way to find out about sources.” Time vice president Robin Bierstedt says that the magazine has a strict policy of protecting “its confidential sources.” First Amendment lawyer Devereux Chatillon comments, “Subpoenas to the press at all, much less for confidential sources, are extremely unusual, certainly from the federal government. Without protection for confidential sources, the press cannot report effectively on things like the Abu Ghraib scandal.” (Liptak and Kilborn 5/23/2003; Schmidt 5/22/2004; United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit 12/8/2004 ; Supreme Court of the United States 5/2005; Washington Post 7/3/2007)
US District Court Judge Thomas Hogan, presiding over the grand jury investigation of the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak (see December 30, 2003), rejects arguments that the First Amendment protects reporters from either Time or NBC News from testifying in the investigation. Hogan cites the 1972 Supreme Court case, Branzberg v. Hayes, in his ruling. In Branzberg, the Court ruled that “we cannot accept the argument that the public interest in possible future news about crime… must take precedence over the public interest in pursuing and prosecuting those crimes.” Hogan finds Time reporter Matthew Cooper (see May 21, 2004) in contempt of court. He also finds Time itself in contempt, and fines the magazine $1,000 a day until Cooper complies with a subpoena for his testimony. The ruling was written on July 20, but only issued today. “The information requested,” Hogan explains in his decision, “is very limited, all available means of obtaining the information have been exhausted, the testimony sought is necessary for completion of the investigation, and the testimony sought is expected to constitute direct evidence of innocence or guilt.” Cooper’s employer, Time magazine, will appeal Hogan’s ruling, but many believe the appeals court will not overturn it. “I think we’re going to have a head-on confrontation here,” says Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “I think Matt Cooper is going to jail.” Cooper’s lawyer Floyd Abrams says: “[Cooper’s] story was essentially critical of the administration for leaking information designed to focus the public away from what Ambassador [Joseph] Wilson [Plame Wilson’s husband] was saying was true and toward personal things. That sort of story, about potential government misuse of power, is precisely the sort of thing that is impossible to do without the benefit of confidential sources.” (Liptak 8/10/2004; Schmidt and Leonnig 8/10/2004; Washington Post 7/3/2007) NBC reporter Tim Russert, also subpoenaed, did not contest the subpoena; the press learns today that he has already testified before the grand jury (see August 7, 2004 and August 9, 2004). Observers believe that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is preparing to use Hogan’s ruling to compel the testimony of two other reporters, Robert Novak (see July 14, 2003) and Walter Pincus (see August 9, 2004). One defense lawyer involved in the case says Hogan’s ruling gives Fitzgerald significant leverage to compel testimony from Novak and Pincus. “This is now open season on these reporters,” he says. The court’s ruling establishes unequivocally that “in a grand jury context, reporters don’t have a privilege.” NBC News president Neal Shapiro says, “Compelling reporters to reveal their newsgathering to government investigators is, in our view, contrary to the First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press.” Dalglish says Fitzgerald should be focusing on prying information from Bush administration officials rather than reporters. Referring to administration officials, Dalglish says, “You just can’t tell me none of the people appearing before the grand jury knows who the leaker was.” (Schmidt and Leonnig 8/10/2004)
Time reporter Matthew Cooper, facing jail time for refusing to honor a subpoena issued by the grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame Wilson CIA identity leak (see August 9, 2004), agrees to make a deposition after his source, vice-presidential chief of staff Lewis Libby, releases him from a confidentiality pledge (see August 5, 2004). (Washington Post 7/3/2007; Washington Post 7/3/2007) Following Cooper’s agreement to testify, contempt charges against him are dismissed. (PBS 8/24/2004; Leonnig 8/25/2004) Time managing editor Jim Kelly will later say: “Matt would have gone to jail if Libby didn’t waive his right to confidentiality… and we would have fought all the way to the Supreme Court. Matt has been absolutely steadfast in his desire to protect anonymous sources.” (Leonnig 8/25/2004) In the deposition, Cooper describes a conversation he had with Libby concerning Plame Wilson’s identity. Cooper will later describe his conversation in an article for Time that will recount his deposition as well as his July 2005 grand jury testimony (see July 13, 2005). According to Cooper, the conversation with Libby was originally on the record, but “moved to background.” On the record, Libby denied that Vice President Cheney knew about, or played any role in, sending Joseph Wilson to Niger (see (February 13, 2002)). On background, Cooper asked Libby if he had heard anything about Wilson’s wife sending her husband to Niger. Libby replied, “Yeah, I’ve heard that too,” or something similar. Cooper says that Libby did not use Plame Wilson’s name. Nor did he indicate that he had learned her name from other reporters, as Libby has claimed (see March 5, 2004, March 24, 2004, and July 10 or 11, 2003). (US District Court for the District of Columbia 9/27/2004 ; Liptak 7/10/2005; Cooper 7/17/2005) Under an agreement with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, Cooper is not asked about any other source besides Libby. (US District Court for the District of Columbia 9/27/2004 )
Time reporter Matthew Cooper, already having submitted a deposition in the Valerie Plame Wilson CIA identity leak investigation (see August 9, 2004 and August 24, 2004), is subpoenaed again to provide further information. Time and Cooper will appeal the subpoena. (United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit 12/8/2004 ; Washington Post 7/3/2007)
Political scientist Timothy Groseclose of UCLA and economist Jeffrey Milyo of the University of Missouri-Columbia release a study entitled “A Measure of Media Bias” that purports to document the “liberal bias” of the mainstream media. Unfortunately for Groseclose and Milyo’s conclusions, their measure of “bias” is found severely wanting, and they fail to mention the substantial body of scholarly work that challenges their theories. The study contains observations of 20 mainstream news outlets, including national newspapers, news magazines, and network and cable television news channels. (Groseclose and Milyo 12/2004; MSNBC 12/19/2005; Media Matters 12/21/2005)
Previous Positions at Conservative Institutions - Groseclose and Milyo have previously received significant funding for their research from three prominent conservative think tanks: the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI), the Heritage Foundation, and the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace. Groseclose has served as a fellow of the Hoover Institution, while Milyo received a $40,500 grant from AEI. Both were named as fellows by the Heritage Foundation. The two authored an article for the conservative American Spectator in 1996.
Flawed Study - Groseclose and Milyo, according to their study, “measure media bias by estimating ideological scores for several major media outlets” based on the frequency with which various think tanks and advocacy organizations were cited approvingly by the media and by members of Congress over a 10-year period. In order to assess media “bias,” the authors assembled the ideological scores given to members of Congress by the liberal group Americans for Democratic Action; examined the floor speeches of selected members to catalog which think tanks and policy organizations were cited by those members; used those citations as the basis for an ideological score assigned to each think tank (organizations cited by liberal members were scored as more liberal, whereas organizations cited by conservative members were scored as more conservative); then performed a content analysis of newspapers and TV programs to catalog which think tanks and policy organizations were quoted. If a news organization quoted a think tank mentioned by conservative members of Congress, then it was said to have a conservative “bias.” The authors write: “As a simplified example, imagine that there were only two think tanks, and suppose that the New York Times cited the first think tank twice as often as the second. Our method asks: What is the estimated ADA score of a member of Congress who exhibits the same frequency (2:1) in his or her speeches? This is the score that our method would assign the New York Times.” The progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters will call the methodology “bizarre,” and will write: “If a member of Congress cites a think tank approvingly, and if that think tank is also cited by a news organization, then the news organization has a ‘bias’ making it an ideological mirror of the member of Congress who cited the think tank. This, as Groseclose and Milyo define it, is what constitutes ‘media bias.’” (Groseclose and Milyo 12/2004; Media Matters 12/21/2005) In December 2005, the parent company of the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones and Co., will question the study’s validity, noting: “[I]ts measure of media bias consists entirely of counting the number of mentions of, or quotes from, various think tanks that the researchers determine to be ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative.‘… And if a think tank is explicitly labeled ‘liberal” or “conservative’ within a story to provide context to readers, that example doesn’t count at all. The researchers simply threw out such mentions.” (Poynter Online 12/21/2005)
Classifying Organizations - Groseclose and Milyo assign “scores” to a variety of partisan and nonpartisan advocacy groups and think tanks. Some of these scores are problematic:
The National Rifle Association (NRA), widely characterized as a strongly conservative organization, scores a 49.5 on a 100-point scale, classifying it as barely conservative;
The RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization closely affiliated with the Defense Department, scores a 60.4, classifying it as strongly liberal;
The Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan political organization featuring both Republicans and Democrats on its board and headed by a former Bush administration official, scores a 60.2, classifying it as solidly liberal;
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organization consistently reviled by conservative pundits, scores a 49.8, classifying it as slightly conservative;
The Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks political contributions, scores a 66.9, classifying it as highly liberal;
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a defense policy think tank chaired by former Democratic House member Dave McCurdy, scores a 33.9, classifying it as more conservative than AEI and the hard-right National Taxpayers Union.
Lack of 'Balance' Indicates Bias in Study - According to Media Matters, Groseclose and Milyo classify news stories as exhibiting a partisan bias if they fail to balance a “liberal” group’s quote with a “conservative” group’s quote, regardless of the nature of the reporting. For example, the authors cite the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which they classify as staunchly liberal, as one of the organizations most often quoted without “balancing” quotes from conservative groups. Media Matters will write, “[B]ecause there are no pro-racism groups of any legitimacy (or on Groseclose and Milyo’s list), such stories will be coded as having a ‘liberal bias.’” In contrast, stories featured in the study that quote a spokesperson from the NRA are often “balanced” by quotes from a “liberal” organization, Handgun Control, Inc., though, as Media Matters will note, that organization renamed itself the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in 2001, and Groseclose and Milyo do not include that name in their statistics, “therefore, it is impossible to determine from reading the study if Groseclose and Milyo’s score reflects post-2001 citations by legislators and the media of the group under its new name.” Moreover, because the study only assigns partisan weight to quotes from advocacy groups or think tanks, if a story cites a member of Congress as taking a position and contrasts that position with a quote from a think tank, that story, according to the authors, is “biased” in favor of the think tank’s position. Media Matters calls this practice “miscategorization.”
Assuming Reporter, News Outlet Bias - One of the most questionable practices in the study is the assumption that if a reporter quotes a source, that reporter—or his or her news outlet—must believe the opinions expressed by that source. Media Matters will write that “most, if not all, reporters across the ideological spectrum would find [that assumption] utterly ridiculous.” (Groseclose and Milyo 12/2004; Media Matters 12/21/2005) The Dow Jones statement will find, “By this logic, a mention of al-Qaeda in a story suggests the newspaper endorses its views, which is obviously not the case.” (Poynter Online 12/21/2005) The authors say that only two mainstream news outlets, Fox News and the Washington Times, slant rightward. The study finds that Fox News’s coverage is quite moderate; in a 2005 interview on MSNBC, Milyo will say that Fox’s news coverage can be equated with the moderate Republicanism of Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), considered the most “liberal”-leaning Republican in Congress. (MSNBC 12/19/2005)
Bias Findings at Odds with History - The study makes some odd conclusions about liberal bias: for example, the Wall Street Journal, whose op-ed page has long avowed itself as a champion of conservative thought, is characterized by the study as having more “liberal bias” than any news outlet surveyed. The authors claim that they studied only news reporting and not editorial writings, but as Media Matters will note, “the Journal is respected on both the right and the left, and it would be shocking to hear even the most rabid right-winger assert that the Journal is America’s most liberal news outlet.” (Groseclose and Milyo 12/2004; Media Matters 12/21/2005)
Methodology Flawed - In December 2005, a spokesman for Dow Jones will call the study “logically suspect and simply baffling.” The statement will note that Groseclose and Milyo only studied four months of Journal reporting, from 2002, while they studied 12 years of CBS News reporting, 11 years of National Public Radio reporting, eight years of reporting from US News and World Report, and two years of reporting from Time Magazine. The Washington Post and Washington Times were also only studied for brief periods. “Yet the researchers provide those findings the same weight as all the others, without bothering to explain that in any meaningful way to the study’s readers,” the statement will note. It will conclude, “Suffice it to say that ‘research’ of this variety would be unlikely to warrant a mention at all in any Wall Street Journal story” (see December 21, 2005).
Failure to Mention Other Studies - The authors fail to mention a large number of previous studies of “media bias.” They do, however, cite three studies that, according to Media Matters, are as “questionable” as this particular study. One assumed that since conservatives say in surveys that the media is biased, then that bias unquestionably exists. The second assumed that news magazines that sold more subscriptions in geographic areas weighted towards Democratic voters were biased in favor of Democrats. The third is an AEI study whose statistics and methodologies were found to be deeply flawed. Groseclose and Milyo ignore one of the most rigorous and exhaustive studies in recent years, a 2000 analysis by the International Communication Association, which found that newspapers and news magazines exhibited little measurable bias, and television network news broadcasts exhibited measurable but relatively insubstantial bias. That study included 59 other studies, all of which go unmentioned in the Groseclose-Milyo study.
Conservative Bibliography - Media Matters will write that the authors seem almost unaware that other studies of media bias exist. The study’s bibliography is heavily freighted with citations from conservative media critics such as Brent Bozell (founder of the Media Research Center) and Reed Irvine (the late founder of Accuracy in Media). The bibliography also cites an article from the hard-right Internet publication WorldNetDaily. It does not cite any entries from dozens of well-known scholarly journals of communication and media studies, most of which have examined the topic of media bias in their pages. (Groseclose and Milyo 12/2004; Media Matters 12/21/2005)
An appeals court rules 3-0 that reporters Judith Miller (see August 12, 2004 and After) and Matthew Cooper (see October 13, 2004) must testify in the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak investigation (see December 30, 2003). Both the New York Times and Time magazine will appeal the ruling to a full appeals court and eventually to the Supreme Court (see June 27, 2005). The appeals court rules that because Miller and Cooper may have witnessed a federal crime—the disclosure of Plame Wilson’s covert CIA identity by government officials (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003, 2:24 p.m. July 12, 2003, and 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003)—the First Amendment does not protect them from testifying to the possible crime. The court finds that a 1972 Supreme Court ruling, Branzburg v. Hayes, applies: in that case, a reporter was ordered to testify about witnessing the production of illegal drugs. Writing for the appeals court, Judge David Sentelle notes that the Supreme Court “stated that it could not ‘seriously entertain the notion that the First Amendment protects the newsman’s agreement to conceal the criminal conduct of his source, or evidence thereof, on the theory that it is better to write about a crime than to do something about it.’” (United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit 12/8/2004 ; Washington Post 7/3/2007) Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger says of the ruling: “The Times will continue to fight for the ability of journalists to provide the people of this nation with the essential information they need to evaluate issues affecting our country and the world. And we will challenge today’s decision and advocate for a federal shield law that will enable the public to continue to learn about matters that directly affect their lives.” Miller says, “I risk going to jail for a story I didn’t write, for reasons a court won’t explain.” (Liptak 2/16/2005)
After the Supreme Court fails to intervene and grant reporters Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller immunity from testifying in the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak investigation (see December 30, 2003 and June 27, 2005), Cooper’s publisher, Time magazine, agrees to turn over Cooper’s notes and e-mails regarding his knowlege of Plame Wilson, and his sources. Cooper opposes the decision. Norman Pearlstine, Time’s editor in chief, says: “I believe that there’s no argument for saying ‘no’ once the Supreme Court has ruled on a decision. I think we are a country of laws and not of individuals and that as journalists who regularly point a finger at people who think they’re above the law, I’m not comfortable being one of them myself.… I think it’s a terrible case. I wish the court had taken our appeal, but given that they did not, we’re not above the law and the law was clear that I think we had no choice but to turn over the information.” Miller and the New York Times continue to refuse to comply (see July 6, 2005). (CNN 6/30/2005; Washington Post 7/3/2007)
Time reporter Matthew Cooper agrees to testify before the grand jury in the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak investigation (see December 30, 2003 and July 13, 2005) after the source he has been protecting, White House political adviser Karl Rove, gives him a waiver dissolving their confidentiality agreement. Sources say that Cooper will identify Rove as a person who revealed Plame Wilson’s CIA identity to him. Cooper says he is prepared to remain “in civil contempt,” and ready to go to jail for defying the grand jury subpoenas, “because even though Time magazine had, over my objections, turned over my notes and e-mails to the special counsel under a court order, and even though the prosecutor has all that information now, I wanted—I was prepared to go and remain in civil contempt because I had given a word to my source for two years, which I have kept my word to that source today, for two years. This morning, in what can only be described as a stunning set of developments, that source agreed to give me a specific personal and unambiguous waiver to speak before the grand jury.” (Keller 7/7/2005) Cooper has not asked Rove for a waiver before, in part because his lawyer advised against it. Additionally, Time editors were worried about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year. And Rove’s attorney, Robert Luskin, believed that contacting Cooper would have amounted to interfering with the ongoing court battle between reporter and prosecutor. (Hamburger and Efron 8/25/2005) Cooper adds, “It’s with a bit of surprise and no small amount of relief that I will comply with this subpoena.” Cooper refuses to publicly divulge the source he has been protecting, but a person briefed on the case confirms Cooper’s source as being Rove. (Liptak 7/7/2005) Cooper did not speak to Rove directly on the issue. The waiver of confidentiality is the product of what the New York Times describes as “a frenzied series of phone calls” between Cooper’s lawyer Richard Sauber, Rove’s lawyer Luskin, and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Cooper views his case as substantially different from that of his New York Times colleague, Judith Miller (see July 6, 2005). Miller has consistently refused to testify, but Cooper has already testified once, describing conversations he had with White House aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby (see August 24, 2004). And while the New York Times has consistently supported Miller, Time magazine has been more equivocal, turning over documents to Fitzgerald that identified Rove as Cooper’s source. Cooper’s friend Steven Waldman, a former US News and World Report editor who has talked with Cooper in recent days, says, “The question that was on his mind, and this is my words, is: do you go to jail to protect the confidentiality of a source whose name has been revealed, and not by you but by someone else?” Still, Cooper resisted until he saw an article in the Wall Street Journal that quoted Luskin as saying, “If Matt Cooper is going to jail to protect a source, it’s not Karl he’s protecting.” That statement prompted a round of telephone discussions between Luskin, Sauber, and Fitzgerald, culminating in Cooper’s decision to testify. “A short time ago,” Cooper tells the court, “in somewhat dramatic fashion, I received an express personal release from my source.” (Liptak 7/10/2005)
A federal judge orders New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who continues to refuse to comply with a subpoena in the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak case (see December 30, 2003), to go to jail until she or the Times complies. Time magazine and its reporter Matthew Cooper have already agreed to comply with the subpoena, thereby sparing Cooper jail time (see July 1, 2005 and July 6, 2005). (Washington Post 7/3/2007)
Refusal to Reveal Sources - Miller tells Judge Thomas Hogan: “Your Honor, in this case I cannot break my word just to stay out of jail. The right of civil disobedience based on personal conscience is fundamental to our system and honored throughout our history.… The freest and fairest societies are not only those with independent judiciaries, but those with an independent press that works every day to keep government accountable by publishing what the government might not want the public to know.… If journalists cannot be trusted to guarantee confidentiality, then journalists cannot function and there cannot be a free press.” Her attorney says, “Judy’s view is that any purported waiver she got from anyone (see January 2-5, 2004) was not on the face of it sufficiently broad, clear, and uncoerced.” Hogan, in sharp disagreement, calls Miller’s decision not to testify a possible “obstruction of justice.” (Miller 7/6/2005; Liptak 7/7/2005; Wilson 2007, pp. 222-223) He seems moved by Miller’s impassioned speech until she invokes her time in Iraq. At that point, according to reporter Marie Brenner, his face darkens. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will later say, “Ms. Miller has great respect for the military who served in Iraq, as we should all do, but if one of those officers’ [lives] was compromised by the leak of classified information, we would want to see that justice was done.” (Brenner 4/2006) Hogan says Miller can leave the jail any time she likes. “She has the keys to release herself,” he says. “She has a waiver [from her source] she chooses not to recognize” (see January 2-5, 2004 and August 12, 2004 and After). She can “avoid even a minute of separation from her husband if she would do no more than just follow the law like every other citizen in America is required to do.” When Miller’s lawyers ask for home detention and denial of e-mail and cell phone access instead of incarceration, Hogan dryly retorts, referring to Miller’s extensive time spent in Iraq: “Certainly one who can handle the desert in wartime is far better equipped than the average person jailed in a federal facility.… Forced vacation at a comfortable home is not a compelling form of coercion.” (van Natta, Liptak, and Levy 10/16/2005; Wilson 2007, pp. 222-223) Miller will later tell a colleague: “I was told to put my medications in a Baggie, to understand that I would have no makeup, no personal items except for my pills.” Her lawyers tell her, “You are going in one door of the courthouse and out another.” (Brenner 4/2006)
'Draconian Act' - Times editor Bill Keller calls Miller’s incarceration “a chilling conclusion to an utterly confounding case,” and Fitzgerald’s decision to jail the reporter a “draconian act” that punishes “an honorable journalist” and will “serve future cover-ups of information that happens in the recesses of government and other powerful institutions.” Keller praises Miller’s “determination to honor her professional commitment,” noting that her defiance of the subpoenas “is not an attempt to put herself above the law. The law presented Judy with the choice between betraying a trust to a confidential source or going to jail. The choice she made is a brave and principled choice, and it reflects a valuing of individual conscience that has been part of this country’s tradition since its founding.” (Keller 7/7/2005)
Time reporter Matthew Cooper testifies before the grand jury investigating the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak (see December 30, 2003 and July 1, 2005). (Washington Post 7/3/2007) “I testified openly and honestly,” Cooper says after the session. “I have no idea whether a crime was committed or not. That is something the special counsel is going to have to determine.” (Stevenson 7/14/2005) Four days later, Cooper will write of his testimony for Time, though special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald told him he would rather Cooper remained silent. Cooper is under no legal obligation not to divulge his grand jury testimony. He will say that while grand juries are famously passive, ready to “indict a ham sandwich if a prosecutor asks it of them,” this one is unusually active. About a third of the questions he answers are from jurors, not prosecutors. Cooper testifies that in the week after Joseph Wilson’s now-famous op-ed disclosing the fraudulence of the Iraq-Niger uranium claims (see July 6, 2003), the administration had done something it rarely does: admit a mistake. It was admitting that it had erred in using that claim to advance its arguments for war with Iraq (see July 8, 2003). That was big news, and Cooper, having been at Time less than a month, was aggressively covering it. He was curious about the White House’s apparent efforts to smear Wilson, and called White House political adviser Karl Rove on July 11 to discuss the apparent smear campaign (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). The jury is interested, and apparently amused, at Cooper’s choice of words regarding the status of his conversation with Rove: “double super secret background.” Cooper concludes, “So did Rove leak Plame’s name to me, or tell me she was covert? No. Was it through my conversation with Rove that I learned for the first time that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA and may have been responsible for sending him? Yes. Did Rove say that she worked at the ‘agency’ on ‘WMD’? Yes. When he said things would be declassified soon, was that itself impermissible? I don’t know. Is any of this a crime? Beats me. At this point, I’m as curious as anyone else to see what Patrick Fitzgerald has.” (Cooper 7/17/2005)
Time magazine reporter Viveca Novak writes an article discussing her recent testimony to the grand jury investigating the Plame Wilson identity leak. Novak was asked to testify (see December 2, 2005) after special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald learned of her conversation with Robert Luskin, the lawyer for White House official Karl Rove. Rove is a primary focus of the leak investigation. In 2004, Novak alerted Luskin that her colleague, Matthew Cooper, had learned of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity from Rove (see March 1, 2004). That information prompted Luskin to have Rove “alter” his testimony before Fitzgerald’s grand jury, and admit that he had leaked Plame Wilson’s identity to Cooper (see October 14, 2005). Novak defends her conversation with Luskin, admitting that she and Luskin had been casual friends since 1996, and she had used him as a source for several years. Luskin, Novak recalls, informed her in late October 2005 that he had told Fitzgerald of their 2004 conversation, and that Fitzgerald might want to subpoena her to testify. Novak writes that she never considered refusing to testify, since there was no need to try to protect Luskin as a source, and Luskin wanted her to testify anyway. Novak hired a lawyer but did not inform her editors at Time of the upcoming testimony. She spoke with Fitzgerald on November 10 (see November 10, 2005) and testified a month later (see December 8, 2005). Novak notes that Luskin is displeased about her decision to write about their conversation, but, she writes, “I feel that he violated any understanding to keep our talk confidential by unilaterally going to Fitzgerald and telling him what was said. And, of course, anyone who testifies under oath for a grand jury (my sworn statement will be presented to the grand jury by Fitzgerald) is free to discuss that testimony afterward.” After this article is published in Time, the magazine announces, “By mutual agreement, Viveca Novak is currently on a leave of absence.” (Novak 12/11/2005)
Slate reporter John Dickerson, who formerly worked for Time magazine during the initial Plame Wilson identity leak investigation coverage, writes of his knowledge of, and participation in, the investigation, including his knowledge that White House official Karl Rove leaked Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA identity to Dickerson’s colleague, Matthew Cooper (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003). Dickerson co-wrote a July 2003 Time article with Cooper (see July 17, 2003) that led to Cooper’s subpoena from the Patrick Fitzgerald investigation (see August 9, 2004 and September 13, 2004), his being held in contempt of court (see October 13, 2004), and his eventual testimony (see July 13, 2005). However, Dickerson was never subpoenaed to testify before the Fitzgerald grand jury. He writes that he accompanied the gaggle of reporters with President Bush on his trip to Africa in July 2003, and of the extensive time spent by two “senior administration official[s]” telling him how partisan and unreliable Plame Wilson’s husband Joseph Wilson is, and how he should investigate what “low-level” CIA official sent Wilson to Niger (see July 11, 2003). “I thought I got the point,” Dickerson writes. “He’d been sent by someone around the rank of deputy assistant undersecretary or janitor.” Dickerson goes on to observe, “What struck me was how hard both officials were working to knock down Wilson” (see October 1, 2003). After returning from the trip, Cooper told Dickerson that Rove had informed him of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity. “So, that explained the wink-wink nudge-nudge I was getting about who sent Wilson,” Dickerson writes. Cooper and Dickerson were careful, Dickerson writes, to ensure that other reporters would not learn of Plame Wilson’s CIA identity from either of them. And Dickerson did not want to encroach on Cooper’s arrangement with Rove. Dickerson writes: “At this point the information about Valerie Plame was not the radioactive material it is today. No one knew she might have been a protected agent—and for whatever reason, the possibility didn’t occur to us or anyone else at the time. But it was still newsworthy that the White House was using her to make its case. That Scooter Libby and Karl Rove mentioned Plame to Matt was an example of how they were attempting to undermine Wilson. They were trying to make his trip look like a special family side deal not officially sanctioned by the agency.” (Dickerson 2/7/2006; Dickerson 2/7/2006) In 2007, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer will testify that he informed Dickerson of Plame Wilson’s identity (see 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), a statement that Dickerson will dispute. (Dickerson 1/29/2007)
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 ; US District Court for the District of Columbia 3/14/2006 ; Sullivan 3/16/2006; Liptak 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.” (Liptak 3/16/2006)
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 ; Johnston 4/19/2006; Washington Post 4/19/2006)
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 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)
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 ; US District Court for the District of Columbia 5/1/2006 ; Locy 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.” (Hamsher 5/2/2006)
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 ; US District Court for the District of Columbia 5/8/2006 ; US District Court for the District of Columbia 5/8/2006 ; 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 ; US District Court for the District of Columbia 5/8/2006 ) 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 ; Jane Hamsher 5/9/2006)
At a pretrial hearing on a motion to quash the Libby defense team’s subpoenas of journalists and media organizations (see May 8, 2006), lawyers for the New York Times, Time magazine, and NBC News agree to turn over notes, memos, and documents pertaining to their journalists’ involvement in the Valerie Plame Wilson identity leak. The Washington Post and CNN have already turned over materials requested by the defense. During the hearing, Lewis Libby’s lawyers indicate that their trial strategy will be to attack the credibility of those journalists, and claim that it was the journalists, not Libby, who lied to special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigators and the FBI. “I do respect the important role that the press plays in our society but want to give Mr. Libby the information he needs for a fair trial,” Judge Reggie Walton says during the hearing. Robert Bennett, the lawyer representing former Times reporter Judith Miller, says during the hearing that the defense’s efforts amount to nothing more than “a massive fishing expedition.” He adds, “They just want to romp through her records,” and argues that Libby’s lawyers already have all the relevant information, since Miller has already provided some information from her notebooks. “The only thing that has not been produced are things that they are not entitled to” under federal rules of evidence, such as “records of people unrelated to the case and other sources about other subjects. They have everything relevant to this case,” Bennett says. For their side, Libby’s lawyers argue that Libby’s right to a fair trial outweighs any considerations that might be given to journalists’ right to protect their sources. One of Libby’s lawyers, William Jeffress, says his job isn’t to prove anything from either the reporters’ statements or his client’s, but merely to raise “reasonable doubt” in the minds of jurors. In the days after the hearing, Walton looks over notes, drafts, and records from those journalists turned over to him by the Times, Time magazine, and NBC News, in order to find any information related to Libby’s perjury and obstruction case. Walton orders Time to turn over drafts of reporter Matthew Cooper’s first-person account of his grand jury testimony (see May 26, 2006). (Locy 5/13/2006; Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press 5/17/2006; Smith 5/17/2006; Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press 11/19/2009)
Judge Reggie Walton orders the Lewis Libby defense team’s subpoena for former New York Times reporter Judith Miller’s notes and documents to be quashed (see May 16, 2006 and After), a ruling that the Washington Post terms “the latest in a string of court defeats for media efforts to shield news-gathering activities from the legal process.” “The First Amendment does not protect news reporters or news organizations from producing documents when the news reporters are themselves critical to both the indictment and prosecution of criminal activity,” Walton writes. But, he continues, “all other motions [referring to other journalists’ and news organizations’ attempts to quash similar subpoenas] are granted in part and denied in part.” Miller’s notes and records not already in evidence “are simply not relevant” to the case at hand, Walton rules, and chides the Libby defense lawyers for trying to seek unspecified evidence—in essence, demanding materials be turned over in the hopes of finding something useful. “This is not the proper role [such] subpoenas are intended to play in the criminal arena,” Walton writes. “Rather they may be used solely to secure specifically identified evidence for trial that is relevant and admissible.” He agrees with the quash motions that many of the defense’s subpoenas are “fishing expeditions.” Walton withholds final judgment on the relevance of some of the New York Times’s records, though he writes that he doubts the materials will ever prove relevant. He does not approve the subpoenas for records from NBC News and its reporter Andrea Mitchell. Walton does, however, order Time magazine to turn over some documents pertaining to an article written by its reporter Matthew Cooper (see July 13, 2005), saying that “a slight alteration” between information in the drafts could be relevant in Libby’s stated intention to paint Cooper as dishonest. (O'Reilly 5/26/2006; Lane 5/26/2006; US District Court for the District of Columbia 5/26/2009 ; US District Court for the District of Columbia 5/26/2009 )
Author and media observer Eric Boehlert, writing for the progressive media watchdog organization Media Matters, criticizes the majority of mainstream news reporters and publications for failing to report aggressively and even accurately on the Plame Wilson leak investigation. Boehlert writes that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald “has consistently shown more interest—and determination—in uncovering the facts of the Plame scandal than most Beltway journalists, including the often somnambulant DC newsroom of the New York Times. Indeed, for long stretches, the special counsel easily supplanted the timid DC press corps and become the fact-finder of record for the Plame story. It was Fitzgerald and his team of G-men—not journalists—who were running down leads, asking tough questions, and, in the end, helping inform the American people about possible criminal activity inside the White House.” While Fitzgerald had subpoena power, Boehlert admits, reporters often had inside information that they consistently failed to reveal, instead “dutifully keeping their heads down and doing their best to make sure the details never got out about the White House’s obsession with discrediting former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV by outing his undercover CIA wife, Valerie Plame” Wilson. Boehlert writes that if not for Fitzgerald’s dogged investigation, the entire leak story would have “simply faded into oblivion like so many other disturbing suggestions of Bush administration misdeeds. And it would have faded away because lots of high-profile journalists at the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, and NBC wanted it to.”
'Watergate in Reverse' - “In a sense, it was Watergate in reverse,” Boehlert writes. “Instead of digging for the truth, lots of journalists tried to bury it. The sad fact remains the press was deeply involved in the cover-up, as journalists reported White House denials regarding the Plame leak despite the fact scores of them received the leak and knew the White House was spreading rampant misinformation about an unfolding criminal case.”
Going Along to Avoid Angering White House - Boehlert believes that in the early days of the investigation, most Washington reporters agreed with President Bush, who said that it was unlikely the leaker’s identity would ever be unearthed (see October 7, 2003). Historically, leak investigations rarely produced the leaker. “So if the leakers weren’t going to be found out, what was the point of reporters going public with their information and angering a then-popular White House that had already established a habit for making life professionally unpleasant for reporters who pressed too hard?” Boehlert asks. Now, of course, the press is pursuing the Libby trial for all it’s worth.
Early Instances of Misleading - Boehlert notes a number of instances where media figures either deliberately concealed information they had about who leaked Plame Wilson’s name, or were transparently disingenuous about speculating on the leaker’s identity. ABC reported in July 2005 that “it’s been unknown who told reporters the identity of Valerie Plame” for two years, an assertion Boehlert calls “silly” (see October 3, 2003). The following Washington journalists all had inside information to one extent or another about the case long before the summer of 2005: Robert Novak (see July 8, 2003), Tim Russert (see August 7, 2004), Andrea Mitchell (see July 20, 2003 and July 21, 2003), David Gregory (see 8:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), Chris Matthews (see July 21, 2003), Matthew Cooper (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), Michael Duffy (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003), John Dickerson (see February 7, 2006), Viveca Novak (see March 1, 2004), Judith Miller (see June 23, 2003, 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003, and Late Afternoon, July 12, 2003), and Bob Woodward (see June 13, 2003). Had they come forward with the information they had, the identity of the various White House leakers would have been revealed much sooner. “[B]ut none of them did,” Boehlert writes. “Instead, at times there was an unspoken race away from the Bush scandal, a collective retreat that’s likely unprecedented in modern-day Beltway journalism.”
Cheerleading for Bush - Many journalists without inside information were openly cheering for the Bush administration and against the investigation, Boehlert contends. They included the New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof (see October 1, 2003 and October 25, 2005), Newsweek’s Evan Thomas (see October 1, 2003 and November 7, 2005), Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen (see October 13, 2005 and January 30, 2007), fellow Post columnist Michael Kinsley (see October 28, 2005 and January 31, 2007), Slate editor Jacob Weisberg (see October 18, 2005), and Post columnist David Broder (see July 10, 2005 and September 7, 2006). Author and liberal blogger Marcy Wheeler, in her book on the Plame affair entitled Anatomy of Deceit, wrote that in her view, the media was attempting to “mak[e] the case that the press should retain exclusive judgment on the behavior of politicians, with no role for the courts.”
Fighting to Stay Quiet during the Election Campaign - Many journalists tried, and succeeded, to keep the story quiet during the 2004 presidential election campaign. Matthew Cooper refused to testify before Fitzgerald’s grand jury until mid-2005, when he asked for and was granted a waiver from Karl Rove to reveal him as the source of his information that Plame Wilson was a CIA agent (see July 13, 2005). Boehlert notes that Cooper’s bosses at Time decided to fight the subpoena in part because they “were concerned about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year” (see July 6, 2005).
Russert, NBC Withheld Information from Public - Russert also withheld information from Fitzgerald, and the American public, until well after the November 2004 election. Boehlert notes that Russert “enjoyed a very close working relationship with Libby’s boss, Cheney,” and “chose to remain silent regarding central facts.” Russert could have revealed that in the summer of 2004, he had told Fitzgerald of his conversation with Libby during the summer of 2003 (see August 7, 2004). Libby had perjured himself by telling Fitzgerald that Russert had told him of Plame Wilson’s CIA status, when in reality, the reverse was true (see March 24, 2004). Instead, Russert testified that he and Libby never discussed Plame Wilson’s identity during that conversation, or at any other time. But neither Russert nor his employer, NBC News, admitted that to the public, instead merely saying that Libby did not reveal Plame Wilson’s identity to Russert (see August 7, 2004). Boehlert writes, “But why, in the name of transparency, didn’t the network issue a statement that made clear Russert and Libby never even discussed Plame?”
Woodward's Involvement - Washington Post editor Bob Woodward, an icon of investigative reporting (see June 15, 1974), told various television audiences that Fitzgerald’s investigation was “disgraceful” and called Fitzgerald a “junkyard prosecutor” (see October 27, 2005), and said the leak had not harmed the CIA (see July 14, 2003, July 21, 2003, September 27, 2003, October 3, 2003, October 22-24, 2003, and October 23-24, 2003). Woodward predicted that when “all of the facts come out in this case, it’s going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great” (see July 7, 2005). While Woodward was disparaging the investigation (see July 11, 2005, July 17, 2005, and October 28, 2005), he was failing to reveal that he himself had been the recipient of a leak about Plame Wilson’s identity years before (see June 13, 2003, June 23, 2003, and June 27, 2003), which, Boehlert notes, “meant Woodward, the former sleuth, had been sitting been sitting on a sizeable scoop for more than two years.” Boehlert continues: “If at any point prior to the Libby indictments Woodward had come forward with his information, it would have been politically devastating for the White House. Instead, Woodward remained mum about the facts while publicly mocking Fitzgerald’s investigation.”
Conclusion - Boehlert concludes: “Regardless of the outcome from the Libby perjury case, the trial itself will be remembered for pulling back the curtain on the Bush White House as it frantically tried to cover up its intentional effort to mislead the nation to war. Sadly, the trial will also serve as a touchstone for how the Beltway press corps completely lost its way during the Bush years and became afraid of the facts—and the consequences of reporting them.” (Boehlert 2/6/2007)
John Walcott, the bureau chief of Knight Ridder Newspapers (now McClatchy), recalls that he and his colleagues did not believe the Bush administration’s assertions of the connections between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks. “It was not clear to us why anyone was asking questions about Iraq in the wake of an attack that had al-Qaeda written all over it,” he recalls. He assigned his two top foreign affairs and national security reporters, Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay, veterans with more than 40 years’ experience between them, to investigate the claims. Strobel recalls, “We were basically, I think, hearing two different messages from—there’s a message, the public message the administration was giving out about Iraq—it’s WMD, the fact there was an immediate threat, grave threat, gathering threat—but that was so different from what we were hearing from people on the inside, people we had known in many cases for years and trusted.” Strobel and Landay learned from reliable sources inside the US intelligence community that few outside the White House believed the assertions of an Iraq-9/11 connection. “When you’re talking to the working grunts, you know, uniform military officers, intelligence professionals, professional diplomats, those people are more likely than not—not always, of course, but more likely than not—to tell you some version of the truth, and to be knowledgeable about what they’re talking about when it comes to terrorism or the Middle East, things like that,” says Strobel. He and Landay wrote numerous articles detailing the skepticism about the administration’s claims, but, in many cases, editors chose not to use their work. “There was a lot of skepticism among our editors because what we were writing was so at odds with what most of the rest of the Washington press corps was reporting and some of our papers frankly, just didn’t run the stories,” Strobel says. “They had access to the New York Times wire and the Washington Post wire and they chose those stories instead.” Walcott explains his own rationale: “A decision to go to war, even against an eighth-rate power such as Iraq, is the most serious decision that a government can ever make. And it deserves the most serious kind of scrutiny that we in the media can give it. Is this really necessary? Is it necessary to send our young men and women to go kill somebody else’s young men and women?”
Outside the Beltway - Knight Ridder did not have newspapers in either Washington or New York City, and therefore was viewed by many insiders as “out of the loop.” Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus says: “The administration can withstand the Knight Ridder critique because it wasn’t reverberating inside Washington. And therefore people weren’t picking it up.” Walcott describes Knight Ridder as “under the radar most of the time.… We were not a company that, I think, Karl Rove and others cared deeply about, even though in terms of readers, we’re much bigger than the New York Times and the Washington Post. We’re less influential. There’s no way around that.” Strobel half-humorously asks: “How many times did I get invited on the talk show? How many times did you [Landay] get invited on a talk show?” Landay replies: “You know what? I’ll tell you who invited me on a talk show. C-SPAN.”
Self-Doubts - Strobel says of that time period: “But there was a period when we were sittin’ out there and I had a lot of late night gut checks where I was just like, ‘Are we totally off on some loop here?‘… ‘Are we wrong? Are we gonna be embarrassed?’” Landay adds, “Everyday we would look at each other and say—literally one of us would find something out—and I’d look at him and say, ‘What’s going on here?’” Media analyst Eric Boehlert says: “But I think it’s telling that they didn’t really operate by that beltway game the way the networks, the cable channels, Newsweek, Time, New York Times, Washington Post. They seem to sort of operate outside that bubble. And look at what the benefits were when they operated outside that bubble. They actually got the story right. What’s important is it’s proof positive that that story was there. And it could have been gotten. And some people did get it. But the vast majority chose to ignore or not even try.” Former CNN news chief Walter Isaacson confirms the solid reporting of Strobel and Landay: “The people at Knight Ridder were calling the colonels and the lieutenants and the people in the CIA and finding out, ya know, that intelligence is not very good. We should’ve all been doing that.” (Moyers 4/25/2007)
Norman Pearlstine, the former editor of Time magazine and the person who made the final decision to cooperate with the prosecution in the Lewis Libby perjury trial by turning over notes from former Time reporter Matthew Cooper (see July 1, 2005), writes a column for Time outlining how he feels the trial of Libby (see January 16-23, 2007 and March 6, 2007) did serious and possibly permanent damage to the mainstream media, much of that damage self-inflicted. Pearlstine begins by echoing many conservative writers in saying that “[w]hile the administration’s behavior was tawdry, there was no proof that intelligence laws had been broken or that an investigation was necessary.” Unlike many conservative pundits and publications, Pearlstine does not lambast special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, instead observing that “once convinced that Libby (but not [White House political strategist Karl] Rove) had lied under oath, the prosecutor argued that he had no choice but to indict, charging Libby with perjury, making false statements, and obstruction of justice.” Pearlstine says that whatever Fitzgerald’s intentions, he incited a “First Amendment showdown” with the press: “By issuing subpoenas that required reporters to betray their sources, Fitzgerald created the showdown.” Pearlstine says that because Fitzgerald won the court battles to force journalists to testify about their sources, “[s]ome ugly truths emerged about one of the biggest problems with Washington journalism—a symbiosis between reporters and sources in which the reporters often think that it is their first job to protect their sources and that informing the public comes second.” Pearlstine is critical of former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who went to jail rather than reveal her sources to Fitzgerald’s grand jury (see July 6, 2005). It was clear during Miller’s testimony that her record-keeping was sloppy and disorganized (see January 31, 2007), and that she was all too willing to cooperate with Libby to the possible detriment of her reporting, as when she agreed to obfuscate his identity by identifying him as a “former Hill staffer” instead of a senior White House official (see 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003). Pearlstine writes, “It was a telling example of her willingness to breach journalistic ethics in order to coddle close sources.” Pearlstine concludes by observing that because Fitzgerald was so successful in compelling journalists to reveal their confidential sources, other lawyers will seek to do the same. “Journalism and the public interest will suffer,” he writes. Pearlstine advocates the legislative passage of a federal shield law to protect journalists and their sources. (Pearlstine 5/31/2007)
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