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July 28, 2005

Postal Over Plame

The Denver Post is at it again, assuming the worst in order to exonerate one of their own (Reporter pays an unfair price).

Three weeks ago, New York Times reporter Judith Miller went to federal prison to defend a principle: that in a free society, journalists must sometimes rely on unidentified sources. Miller, it should be noted, has never been accused of a crime and in fact did not even publish the information she was given by her anonymous source or sources.

What anonymous sources have to do with a free society is unclear at best. The First Amendment is completely silent on the issue of anonymous sources. There is no federal shield law (and in my opinion, there shouldn't be one). Certainly, journalists must be free to print what's legal, and prior restraint is very limited, but as the Post admits, that isn't what's at stake here.

The fact is that Miller, while not charged with a crime, is in violation of a court order, and is being held in contempt of court. Now the law does state that someone should only be imprisoned if there's a reasonable expectation that it will encourage them to - um, obey the law. There's every reason to believe that Miller can tough it out playing tennis and taking notes for her book on her three months of hell. But the Post doesn't make that argument, either. Instead, it argues that journalists are above the law.

Meanwhile, two other characters who will have to account for their actions remain silent - relying on lawyers' advice and unusually high connections: President Bush's deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove, and Vice President Cheney's top aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Both men have conceded that they spoke with reporters about former CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose clandestine cover was blown in an article by conservative columnist Robert Novak.

*Sigh*. Once again, we don't know if Plame was undercover at the time, covered by the IIPA or not. We do know that major media organizations, whose reporters had or would be subpeonaed, filed a brief with the court arguing that no crime had been committed.

As a side note, neither Miller nor Russert is identified as "liberal." Novak himself said that he did not know that Plame was undercover, and that he would not have published her name had he known.

Then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer's name has come up, too.

As has that of Matt Cooper, Joe Wilson, and even Valerie Plame herself. Lots of names have come up. A throw-away mention like this reminds me of the Great Mentioner.

It is illegal to knowingly unmask an undercover operative, and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been reviewing discrepancies in witness testimony in his investigation into who told reporters about Plame. Novak first published Plame's occupation in July 2003 in what looked to be an administration effort to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had questioned the reasons President Bush launched the Iraq war.

Or, an attempt to warn reporters that Wilson was in fact submarining the administration through a series of lies, dependent on his wife's position within the agency. The shredding of Wilson's credibility by the Senate Inelligence Committee wouldn't happen for another year, but when it did come, it would be virtually ignored by the Post and most other papers.

Rove's lawyer says Rove wasn't the original source of the information. (We have to wonder, how would he know?)

Rove is bound by federal laws that prohibit government officials from unveiling the name of covert U.S. operatives and by the restrictions that come with a top security clearance. Yet Miller sits in jail for doing her job.

Well, since reporters who aren't under subpeona aren't allowed into the grand jury room, the Post wouldn't know. But then a great many statements have been made by a great many people, and the Post doesn't question those quite so easily.

Moreover, the phrasing simply assumes Rove's guilt. Of course, if Karl Rove violated the IIPA, he should be charged. (Although one might well ask the what position the Post took on the Pentagon Papers.) Rove, it should be pointed out, has as yet been charged with no crime. So far, the only document connecting him with Mrs. Wilson seems to have been far too indistinctly classified, and at far too low a level, to have meant anything to anyone who didn't already know where she worked.

The Washington Post reported that Libby told a grand jury he learned of Plame's name from NBC correspondent Tim Russert. But Russert said in a statement last year that he told the federal prosecutor "he did not know Ms. Plame's name or that she was a CIA operative" and that he did not provide such information to Libby in July 2003. Libby has paid no price in the matter. Yet Miller sits in jail for doing her job.

Libby says one thing. Russert says something else. The Post simply assumes that Russert is telling the truth,and that Libby is lying. Libby hasn't been charged with a crime, either, and the probe may not even be about him, but the Post wants his job.

The Post, in its cry for justice, wants scalps before charges have even been issued. And the dichotomy is completely false. Even if Rove and Libby were to be charged tomorrow for treason, those charges would have nothing to do with Judith Miller.

Judith Miller is in violation of a court order. Journalists, even when they believe they are doing their jobs, are not above the law.

Until Fitzgerald finishes his investigation, the public will not know if he believes anyone broke the law in outing Plame.

(Scratching head.) So exactly what are we to assume that Libby and Rove are to pay a price for now? The Post is obviously throwing this in at the end to show that they defend the rule of law impartially, but it invalidates the whole editorial!

He has erred in criminalizing Miller, who has been trapped in a high-stakes investigation and paid dearly to maintain her commitments and her credibility. She should be released while Fitzgerald sorts out this dirty business that has cost Plame her career.

Wow. At least they didn't follow Jow Wilson in claiming They had endangered her life. Still, spare me all the righteous indignation about Valerie Plame. Bobby Ray Inman is quoted at National Review's Media Blog as saying the following:

[The leaking of Plame's identity] is still one I would rather not see, but she was working in an analytical organization, and thereís nothing that precludes anyone from identifying analytical officers. I watch all the hand-wringing over the ruining of careers - there are a lot of operatives whose covers are blown. It doesnít mean the end of their careers. Many move to the analytical world, which is where she already was. It meant she couldnít deploy back off to Africa, but nothing Iíve seen indicated that was possible in the first place.

Inman, by the way, ran Naval Intelligence under Ford, the NSA under Jimmy Carter, and was Deputy DCI for a year under Reagan. Clinton nominated him for Secretary of Defense, but Inman later withdrew.

The Post, in trying to hold journalists to be above the law, has systematically ignored facts, reprinted lies, drawn false dichotomies, sought to deny others due process, and misunderstood the intelligence world to a degree even they should find embarassing.

Cross-Posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.

Posted by joshuasharf at July 28, 2005 12:22 AM | TrackBack

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