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Miller got her waiver too

Don Rogers

Wrote my column Sunday instead of my normal Monday slot, as I expected when I posted for this blog July 12.

The Name de Plame scandal has only gotten weirder since then. I’ve said the only character in this farce showing any principle was Judith Miller, sitting in jail now for refusing to disclose what her sources told her for a story she never wrote.

Now I read in The Washington Post that she might be keeping their identities secret even though they have given permission for her to reveal them and what they said.



Huh?

OK. So we have an investigation into who leaked the name of a CIA official who probably does not qualify as a covert agent, who suggested that her husband, former diplomat Joe Wilson, go to Niger to check on reports that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy nuclear material for weapons of mass destruction.

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Wilson lied about his wife’s role in dispatching him to Niger, and GOPers suggest he misrepresented his report in writing an op-ed for The New York Times a couple of years ago that accused the Bush administration of twisting his report while selling the Iraqi war to the world.

George W. Bush’s campaign “Brain” lied to the president and White House spokesman Scott McClellan about not talking to any reporters about the CIA official, Valerie Plame. Or McClellan lied to reporters at the time.

Bush might have lied about whether he’d “fire” whoever leaked classified information. Although he didn’t say that, instead using the more vague terminology “taken care of.” This would be the widespread press view. But hey, they are lying about he actually said.



Meantime Wilson is having altogether a grand time playing the aggrieved one that his glee at this “misfortunate” is impossible for him to mask. Valerie was so distraught she posed for Vanity Fair with Joe.

Judith Miller is reviled by left and right. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist was somehow too gullible before the war, according to the lefties still screeching that Bush lied about WMD to send us to war. But they also are lying, since every Western intelligence agency at the time thought so too ” even France and Germany and Russia. They agreed about the existence of WMD, and more importantly, Saddam’s future intent. They just didn’t think war was the answer yet. Oh, and in the case of France and Russia, there were those certain business considerations …

The right lights into her because she works for the mean ol’ New York Times, I think. I don’t know what she’s done to make them mad otherwise. Unless they are still pissed off about Watergate.

Whatever her motives for declining to discuss her sources with prosecutors or grand juries, I applaud her. We don’t have a free press if judges can order journalists to break vows of confidentiality.

The only thing ” and I mean only thing ” that makes sense in this Beltway comedy is that it highlights the need for a federal shield law to go with laws protecting reporters from revealing confidential sources in almost every state.

However Time magazine and The New York Times parse want to parse their words in regard to the law ” above, below, on par ” there are laws that are unworthy of following. Time did precisely the wrong thing taking its legalistic route toward turning over information about the case. The Times has done the right thing.

Call it what you want. Fine them. Jail the reporter. It’s just wrong. Even in this kooky case. Our press absolutely must be free for this to be America. There’s a reason freedom of the press is in the FIRST Amendment.

And that’s a lot more important than who outed a secret agent who wasn’t secret to a reporter who didn’t write a story about it. Yes, Joe, even more than frog marching Carl Rove out of the White House in handcuffs. Enjoy your public appearances in the meantime, while your 15 minutes last. They’ll be up about as soon as the prosecutor gives up and lets Miller out.

In case you missed it, here’s the July 12 posting again:

Don Rogers

July 12, 2005

I’m planning to write my Monday column about the great farce, the Name de Plame so stirring the Beltway this week.

The one character I seriously admire in this whole Shakespearian comedy is New York Times reporter Judith Miller. As I write she sits in a jail cell for not revealing her secret source or sources for a story she never wrote about a CIA official whose name surfaced in Robert Novak’s column in The New York Post in 2003.

The rest of the players? Well, they are great characters, I’ll give them that. Not great as in admirable in any truly laudatory way. Admirable for audacity, maybe, admirable for various shades of villainy and silliness.

There’s Carl Rove, who told Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper that neither Vice President Dick Cheney nor CIA Director George Tenet dispatched retired diplomat Joe Wilson to Niger to check reports that Saddam Hussein tried to buy material for weapons of mass destruction. Nope, it was Wilson’s wife who sent him, Rove told Cooper. Without naming his wife.

So the White House flack, Scott McCellan, got caught in a lie to reporters back in 2003 that Rove was not “involved” in any conversations with any reporters about Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame.

And Wilson was exposed as a liar in his own biography asserting that his wife had nothing to do with sending him. Oops. Naturally, red-meat Republicans are also saying his account of his report on Niger was a basically a lie too. I’ll stay out of that spider hole, though.

So liar, liar. I can’t say I’m surprised there. Wilson strikes me as slimy. Rove is an obvious operator, and a clever one at that.

Novak, well, what deal did he make with the special prosecutor assigned to figure out who leaked, never mind whether there’s an actual crime involved here. The GOP folks are asserting that that Valerie Plame, whose CIA job Wilson revealed on his own Web site, did not qualify as an “undercover operative” for whom it would be a crime to reveal. Radio talksters Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were saying today on their shows that “everyone” in town knows her and what she does. And besides that, she wasn’t covert under the definition that would make using her name a crime.

Awesome. What a crazy little play. This is “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” wacky stuff.

The usual Bush haters, meantime, smell blood. Again. Oh, God, here we go again. Maybe they can run Rove, smear Bush and all that while loudly complaining that it’s Bush who will stop at nothing to smear his enemies on the left. (Of course, they do a pretty good job of that all by themselves.)

Novak’s revelation about Wilson’s wife came five days after Wilson wrote an op-ed for The Times asserting that the Bush team “twisted” intelligence to “exaggerate the Iraqi threat.”

If the leaking was to quietly set some facts straight, well, the timing was remarkable. If Rove and whoever else leaked truly intended to “get back” at Wilson, well, that would be gasoline on a fire. And of course Wilson ran with it, howling with poorly disguised delight to my mind.

Suddenly he was somebody, a player, showing the evil Bushies as lying about WMD potential and “attacking” him. Quick, get the bookout and hit the talk circuit. Jackpot! Maybe get a Dem elected president, too.

So no, this is a performer playing a role, not an actual victim. It’s Beltway play acting. So is the Democratic rage. This is all about angling for advantage, not finding truth or justice. And oh yeah, it is the American way, at least in certain Zip codes.

The politics are all gas, basically. It does look like someone who was not at all “involved” did leak the identity of a CIA official who was not really “undercover” to a few journalists, two of whom reported the name for their publications, and one ” now in jail ” who did not.

Novak’s behavior since then is frankly reprehensible. He’s not explaining to anyone how a dogged special prosecutor would threaten two other journalists with jail if they didn’t talk but is leaving him alone. It’s obvious that Novak has testified about his sources.

Cooper got his waiver to reveal Rove. His magazine followed the law and gave up their notes dealing with this case. There is no federal law shielding journalists from legally holding to their promises of confidentiality to anonymous sources. Time and Cooper ducked their higher reponsibility as members of the Fourth Estate, however, and so my esteem for them is pretty nil.

The New York Times as an organization is unworthy of its reputation.

They abandoned truth a long time ago and became just one more player, about as greasy as the rest of them. But at least they’ve held firm, so far.

The prosecutor has overreached going after reporters. Presumably, he got his information from the fellow who outed Plame. Good for him. Leave the reporter who never wrote about this alone. He has the information he needs.

I’m a newspaper guy, a journalist, an ardent believer in the notion that the First Admendment and free, unfettered press are what make America’s democracy work ” locally as well as nationally. We are called upon by tradition, precedent and the future of our democracy to hold to principle.

The only one in this whole hilarious yet tragic play who is has any worth saving is Judith Miller, paying the price for everyone else’s rank malfeasance.

Can’t wait for tomorrow’s turn …


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