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October 12, 2003

THE POST STRIKES BACK....Last week Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball suggested that perhaps the Washington Post's source misled them in a story a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps the Plame leakers didn't contact six journalists to leak Plame's name after all. Maybe they only contacted those journalists after Robert Novak's original column. In other words, they were guilty of fanning the flames, but not of jeopardizing national security.

Well, maybe, but today the Post reports that it went back to its source and gave him a chance to reconsider. No dice:

That same week, two top White House officials disclosed Plame's identity to least six Washington journalists, an administration official told The Post for an article published Sept. 28. The source elaborated on the conversations last week, saying that officials brought up Plame as part of their broader case against Wilson.

"It was unsolicited," the source said. "They were pushing back. They used everything they had."

So the Post's source might be wrong, but he's not backing down. "That same week" refers to the week prior to Novak's column.

(And yes, this is really annoying wording. The authors don't specifically say that they asked again about the leak timing and their source reconfirmed, but only strongly imply it. I have no idea why they were this sloppy in their phrasing, especially when they know perfectly well that this is a point of contention. Why did the Post's editors let this escape without being cleared up?)

There's also another new tidbit in the article: an unnamed Post reporter who claims to be one of the six leakees. He talked to an administration official on July 12, two days before Novak's column, and was given the whole story about Wilson being sent to Niger as a "boondoggle" set up by his wife, who worked at the CIA. (Some boondoggle! An unpaid trip to Niger, the vacation spot of Africa!)

Interestingly, the Post reporter said the name Valerie Plame wasn't mentioned to him. Obviously the name was mentioned to Robert Novak, since otherwise he would have naturally referred to her as Valerie Wilson or simply Mrs. Wilson. Maybe the Post reporter and Novak got spun by different sources, and they told the story a little differently. Hard to say at this point.

(By the way, I suspect this Post reporter is the same person already mentioned in this September 30 story, so we still have only one reporter besides Novak who's come forward and fessed up to being on the receiving end of this leak.)

Josh Marshall makes pretty much the same points today, and also mentions that the New York Times has been curiously AWOL on this story. In a way, that's unfair: everyone has been AWOL in actually advancing the story except for the Post. Still, it's hard not to wonder if the Times even has someone assigned to this story. It seems like Bill Keller might be well advised to kick a little investigative ass down in the newsroom sometime soon.

Posted by Kevin Drum at October 12, 2003 10:56 AM | TrackBack


Comments

This is all getting really silly and monumentally annoying.

Will the editors of the NYT and the WashPo. simply SAY WHO THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT AND GET IT OVER WITH!!!!!

The American people are tired of being treated like a pack of idiot children by a "mainstream" press that is supposed to represent their interests.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at October 12, 2003 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Our Host: "Josh Marshall makes pretty much the same points today, and also mentions that the New York Times has been curiously AWOL on this story. In a way, that's unfair: everyone has been AWOL ..."

"Everyone" else is not the _NYT_, however, so I don't think Josh's criticism is unfair. Is it naive? Perhaps. Is it unfair? I don't think so.

Posted by: Cervantes at October 12, 2003 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

David: "'mainstream' press that is supposed to represent [the] interests [of 'the American people']."

Really? These are private corporations. Why would you suppose they represent _your_ interests?

Posted by: Cervantes at October 12, 2003 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you are too nice. What in the world gives you the idea that Bill Keller is anything but a right-of-center nitwit who represents all that is most banal and soporific about our modern media? He has no interest in "advancing" a story because he has no idea what "advancing" a story is.

He knows, like sadly too many of our modern media figures, that "advancing" is for careers, not stories, and especially not stories that might require offending powerful sources.

Posted by: howard at October 12, 2003 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

So, the question is, does the Plame Affair die slowly while the White House conducts an "investigation" of itself, or do we ever find out what really happened?

For a short, happy moment, I thought the latter. Now I think that the whole thing is going to blow over. It may be that the event itself, rather than the story, convinces a handful of insider press corps to stop accepting and trumpeting everything the White House says and start applying some reasoned scrutiny. But I think that is the best that is going to come of this, if it comes at all.

Posted by: James E. Powell at October 12, 2003 11:43 AM | PERMALINK

They always talk as if they do,"Cervantes." Naturally they don't they represent only the interests of those in power. So they'll cover for Bush.

But there's more to one aspect to this stry. For while itmay "die" in the press it lives on in administration that has declared war on several branches of its own government.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at October 12, 2003 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

So, the question is, does the Plame Affair die slowly while the White House conducts an "investigation" of itself, or do we ever find out what really happened?

Yup. It is going to blow over, sadly. Not only will no one loose their freedom over this, they won't even loose their job. Further, the administration that hired criminals (and probably knows who those criminals are, and indeed may even have put the criminals up to the it), will not even loose one iota of prestige. Pretty sickening.

I hope I am proven wrong. But the WH played all the right political cards, framed the debate in terms of 'intelligence leaks' and tried to make all the criticism look like partisan mudslinging. They did enough to make the average joe say 'This was complicated. I don't understand. But the Pres. assures me he feels it was wrong, so OK. The rest is just angry liberals Bush-bashing.'

Posted by: Timothy Klein at October 12, 2003 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

I too am annoyed by the sloppy, obscure phrasing, since I too was wondering whether this anonymous Washington Post reporter who is quoted in today's (Oct 12th) article is the same anonymous reporter already mentioned in the Sept 30th Washington Post article to which Kevin links.

It seems to me, however, that the anonymous Post reporter of today's article should be different than the anonymous reporter quoted in the Sept 30th article, assuming the phrasing in the Sept 30th article wasn't similarly sloppy.

I say this because (to me, at least) the wording of the Sept 30th article implies that the anonymous reporter quoted there **was indeed told the name "Plame"** as well as the allegation that Mrs. Wilson works at the CIA and pulled strings to get her husband a weeklong vacation in Niger

The key question is: "In the following excerpt, what's the antecedent to the phrase 'the same information' that appears in the third paragraph?"

-----------------------------
Senior intelligence officials said yesterday that the CIA filed what they termed a "crime report" with the Justice Department in late July, shortly after syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, citing two unnamed administration sources, identified Wilson's wife by name. The CIA report pointed to a "possible violation of federal criminal law involving the unauthorized disclosure of classified information."

Three weeks ago, intelligence officials said, the CIA returned to the Justice Department a standard 11-question form detailing the potential damage done by the release of the information. Officials said it may have been the first such report ever filed on the unauthorized disclosure of an operative's name. Word of the Justice probe emerged over the weekend after the CIA briefed lawmakers on it last week.

Another journalist yesterday confirmed receiving a call from an administration official providing the same information about Wilson's wife before the Novak column appeared on July 14 in The Post and other newspapers.

The journalist, who asked not to be identified because of possible legal ramifications, said that the information was provided as part of an effort to discredit Wilson, but that the CIA information was not treated as especially sensitive. "The official I spoke with thought this was a part of Wilson's story that wasn't known and cast doubt on his whole mission," the person said, declining to identify the official he spoke with. "They thought Wilson was having a good ride and this was part of Wilson's story."
------------------------------
[web reference: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17129-2003Sep29.html ]

(NB: The article appeared on the web a day before it appeared in print... hence the Sept29 in the URL)

Posted by: William Kaminsky at October 12, 2003 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

The authors don't specifically say that they asked again about the leak timing and their source reconfirmed, but only strongly imply it. I have no idea why they were this sloppy in their phrasing, especially when they know perfectly well that this is a point of contention. Why did the Post's editors let this escape without being cleared up?

IMO, the Post didn't want it to appear that they were acting at Newsweek's whim.


James P. and Timothy K., you're both missing one big point. As I explain at greater length elsewhere, the Post's source appears to have the goods on the WH -- indeed, appears to have witnessed the calls being made -- and seems rather determined that the truth will come out. If he's talking to the Post, the odds are quite good that he's spilling the beans to the FBI as well.

Posted by: Swopa at October 12, 2003 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

The media have gone along with the attempt to elevate "partisan Bush-bashing" as THE significant frame for this story.

Every last talking head who has let this spin go by them while blithely smiling into the camera has proven that they have no principles, no interest in the truth, and no commitment whatsoever to our national interests. In other words, they have demonstrated they are whores.

But then, they sucked up to Arnold, too, while ignoring his ties to Enron.

Nice checkered napkin in this handbasket, huh?

Posted by: Julia Grey at October 12, 2003 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Arghh, this anonymous sourcing crap is making me nuts. And how brave of the anonymous source not to back down in the face of.... umm.... all the... umm.... retribution he.... umm... maybe she.... would be facing if.... people knew who he... or she was.

Reporters--you know who told you what. If some big-wig administration person really shopped around the name of a CIA operative and blew her cover, I want to know who it is. If some small time administration person really shopped around the name of a CIA operative and blew her cover, I want to know who it is. All this innuendo is ridiculous. You know who it is, REPORT. It is the first six letters of your title for goodness sake.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at October 12, 2003 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Biggest nothing story around.

I'm still curious how our 'left' turned anti-Semitic, AND anti-American. And, I think it's because we have no real left in this country! We have stuff bought and paid for by elite socialists; in other words dirty tricks goons.

And, here the CIA and FBI are part of the package.

The types that 'operate' with untold sums of money and no accountability have been ripping at our very belief system in government.

That's why Nixon got pulled down. That's why we see the power of destructive politics, like going after Clinton in office. Thank goodness his presidency withstood this test.

It doesn't help when the democrats can't understand what's happening out there. A man like Gray Davis was a train wreck waiting to happen. (And don't feel sorry for him folks; he retires on a $90,000 a year pension.)

We are being manipulated.

YOU are being manipulated.

And, like all social upheavals, as George Orwell made clear, only has a few winners; as the aristocracy heads get lopped off and replaced by others who intend to take power and wield it against the wills of most decent people.

To stop the nonsense? Just don't buy into the local fad from the left coming down the pike this week. It's been designed by 'insiders' to fool you.

Always. Because it takes a lot of money to spread propaganda.

Posted by: Carol in California at October 12, 2003 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Tell me about Nixon's great achievements, Carol.

Posted by: David Ehrenstein at October 12, 2003 01:27 PM | PERMALINK

The American people are tired of being treated like a pack of idiot children by a "mainstream" press that is supposed to represent their interests.

I think you're wrong. I think you (rightly) are tired of it, but I think the majority of Americans are very happy to be treated as idiot children. No words of more than one syllable to understand; no complex arguments to follow; no moral or ethical choices to ponder that can't be solved by chanting YOU-ESS-AY! for as long as it takes. ("Four legs good! Two legs bad!") Besides, their interests are being represented: JLo and Ben; Survivor; Arnie and his Hummers; Laci; Kobe!

It's hard to see any way the media is disappointing Homo Americanus.

Posted by: moominpapa at October 12, 2003 01:28 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget that the Wilsons have retained an attorney and may well sue, as John Dean has recommended. This will surely open up lots of avenues and the culprits will be exposed.

Posted by: Ev at October 12, 2003 01:30 PM | PERMALINK

It's an open secret that the whistleblower that isn't backing down is George Tenet, right? Bush never should have blamed him for NIgergate...

Posted by: sym at October 12, 2003 01:37 PM | PERMALINK

Hey "Carol" -- wonderful, blissfully content-free post you have there. It's another little-league trophy you can put on your shelf, to be admired by people just like you!

I have prepared a short summary of what you said:

blah blah blah blah blah blah my mind is closed blah blah blah blah.

That being said, we think that perhaps there is hope even for people like you!

So ask yourself:

1. If a senior administration official outed Valerie Plame, is that a criminal act? Why or why not?
2. If you consider it a criminal act, does that change your opinion of the administration?
3. Do you consider going after a critic's wife to be acceptable behavior for the White House?

Kristof's column today was good, and in my opinion, accurate...Dems have overplayed the danger to Plame, but the GOP have underplayed the danger overseas. As we learn more about Plame's career, we realize that it is definitely the sort of career that should have safely remained under wraps.

I wonder which of our covert agents this Administration will decide to "out" next, when there is a policy disagreement or criticism. And if they're willing to disrupt national security to score political points, what ELSE are they willing to do? Or have they done?

Hmm. Yeah -- the "local fad from the left" -- otherwise known as "honest government" -- is designed to "fool us".

Clue in -- many basic premises of your political belief system are false, provably so, and you hide from that.

Have fun with your new movie-star governor!

Posted by: Ross Judson at October 12, 2003 01:38 PM | PERMALINK

If he's talking to the Post, the odds are quite good that he's spilling the beans to the FBI as well.

Sort of like "Deep Throat" went to the FBI after meeting with Woodward and Bernstein? Unless this person decides that protecting national security is more important than protecting his career, he's not going to spill the beans to anybody else. Of course, if I knew I'd be crossing Rove, I'd probably think twice about outing myself, no matter how patriotic I pretended to be.

Posted by: Basharov at October 12, 2003 02:33 PM | PERMALINK

Where the hell is the NYTimes on this story? we need an investigative NYTimes!

Posted by: jd at October 12, 2003 02:43 PM | PERMALINK

ross, carol is a longstanding troll on this board. please don't feed her.

Posted by: danelectro at October 12, 2003 02:45 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I think you're right about "that same week," although it was darned annoying flipping back through calendars to see what the post meant.

Posted by: J Mann at October 12, 2003 02:48 PM | PERMALINK

Can someone explain to me the journalistic rationale invoked in the Plame affair?

Among the six journalists who refused to print the Plame story, why is their source considered worth of protection?

They committed nothing to print. They are now aware that a serious breach of national security occured.

Why do they they feel obliged to conceal the identity of the person/people whose criminal revelation they never reported?

Posted by: Sovereign Eye at October 12, 2003 04:32 PM | PERMALINK

Sovereign, maybe at this point they're all caught up within the investigation and cannot reveal anything further?

Posted by: Kat at October 12, 2003 04:44 PM | PERMALINK

Kat: Perhaps they are. But if so, why hasn't that fact been reported?

Posted by: Sovereign Eye at October 12, 2003 04:49 PM | PERMALINK

NYTimes is paper of record.It is not the same as some local newspaper going AWOL.May be kevin is too nice or naive. Either way,this shows it is no wonder why americans don't trust democrats when it comes to securing america against bad guys.

Posted by: wc at October 12, 2003 08:17 PM | PERMALINK

I've been watching the Times alot lately, wondering when they'd stick thier heads oout on this. It does seem strange that they haven't. since this speaks to the Is the long investigation good or bad" question, (IE will it die or just move further into the election cycle), then i have some really naive suggestions for the rest of us who think that Bush's presidency is dangerous to this country. they all center around one idea-don't let this die!

do what we can to convince the straight media that they could sell us some papers by pursuing this. It certainly helped keep clnton era stories with much less at stake in the news, so write 'em letters, & by all means blog away!

pester the opposition. Let they other 10 people who are trying to get into that office know that we want them to keep asking about this.

Pester our local representatives-like i said, it sounds naive, but most of these people are self interested schmucks and they want our votes, right? so convince them that we feel this is important enough that they need to be asking about it.

the worst thing we can do is just throw up our hands nad sigh and say "damn, they're going to get away with it." That's a self fulfilling prophecy.

Posted by: Urk at October 12, 2003 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

Who's the "Washington Post" reporter?

If it was Bob Woodward, as I suspect, then that brings this whole case to an unprecedented level of irony.

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