Friday, July 15, 2005

NYT: "Rove Reportedly Held Phone Talk on C.I.A. Officer" (David Johnston & Richard W. Stevenson)

On Oct. 1, 2003, Mr. Novak wrote another column in which he described calling two officials who were his sources for the earlier column. The first source, whose identity has not been revealed, provided the outlines of the story and was described by Mr. Novak as "no partisan gunslinger." Mr. Novak wrote that when he called a second official for confirmation, the source said, "Oh, you know about it."
That second source was Mr. Rove, the person briefed on the matter said. Mr. Rove's account to investigators about what he told Mr. Novak was similar in its message although the White House adviser's recollection of the exact words was slightly different. Asked by investigators how he knew enough to leave Mr. Novak with the impression that his information was accurate, Mr. Rove said he had heard parts of the story from other journalists but had not heard Ms. Wilson's name.

The above is from "Rove Reportedly Held Phone Talk on C.I.A. Officer" by David Johnston and Richard W. Stevenson.

From the article:

The disclosure of Mr. Rove's conversation with Mr. Novak raises a question the White House has never addressed: whether Mr. Rove ever discussed that conversation, or his exchange with Mr. Cooper, with the president. Mr. Bush has said several times that he wants all members of the White House staff to cooperate fully with Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation.
In June 2004, at Sea Island, Ga., soon after Mr. Cheney met with investigators in the case, Mr. Bush was asked at a news conference whether "you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found" to have leaked the agent's name.
"Yes," Mr. Bush said. "And that's up to the U.S. attorney to find the facts."

I'm tired and exhausted (and the day's just beginning) so take this that I'm in bad mood. At another time, this might look like a well reported article.

It doesn't to me right now. First of all, while they do a tiny paragraph on the law, they fail to say to readers, "Unlike what Victoria Toejam told us earlier in the week, the law says . . ." Readers who read every day are unaware that they've been misled.

They have been misled. That's why we've screamed and hollered here for people to tell us what the law says. (And we've been very fortunate here to have Attorney X to walk us through.)

Victoria Toejam, a friend of Novak's, a pundit, a Republican, is hardly the person to be conveying what the law means. Think I'm just too skeptical?

Let's go to David Corn ("De-Spinning the Save-Rove Spin"):

* Today's Washington Post reported this: "Victoria Toensing, who helped write the [Intelligence Identities Protection Act], has said that there is likely no such evidence [that could convict the leaker] in this case, because the statute was designed to have a high standard and requires proof of intent to harm national security." Well, I would respectfully suggest that Toensing--a good Republican lawyer and commentator, which is not how she is identified in the Post, who is always willing to talk to me--should go back and review the law she helped write. It reads:
Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
Where's the part that says the leaker has to leak purposefully to harm national security? There is no such standard. Perhaps the Post reporters should also read the law.

Someone else went over that yesterday as well. (Maybe Bob Somerby, maybe Jude, maybe Bill Scher. I'm not trying to avoid crediting, I'm just really, really tired.) But why is it that people outside newspapers are going over the law and reporters for newspapers (Corn writes for The Nation -- a weekly magazine, he occassionally does pieces for LA Weekly) aren't?

We said here earlier this week that people needed to be informed of the law. We stated that if it was confusing to anyone at the Times, all it would take would be one phone call to Floyd Abrams. We're still not getting the impression that the Times understands the law. Maybe they do.

If that's the case, they need to revisit what Toejam told them. Like the Washington Post, they ran with it. It's not apparently accurate. Readers need to know that. This is an ongoing story, it needs to be in the text of the next article. Which may be Saturday, in which case, it needs to be repeated on Sunday. This is nonsense. The Times didn't identify her as a friend of Novak's. They made it appear that she's just a disinterested party. It's time for them to say, "According to a legal opinion commissioned by the Times, this is what the law says . . . Earlier this week, we reported the opinion of Vicky ToeJam. Contrary to that opinion, the law in fact says . . ."

I could ridicule this article from here to tomorrow for a variety of reasons. Realizing I'm tired and in a bad mood, I'll be kind. I'll point out that it's not all Stevenson and Johnston's fault. The reporting on this has been sorry from the start. To lay the blame solely at their feet misses the point of how the paper works. When, for instance, Vicky ToeJam popped up this week, the editor should have asked, "Who's Vicky ToeJam?" The reporter should have replied, "She claims she co-wrote the act." The editor should have then asked, "Is there anything else we need to know about her?"

At that point, her close friendship to Robert Novak should have been noted. If it was, the editor should have made sure it went in the article. If it wasn't noted by the reporter, the editor now needs to figure out why it wasn't noted. It's an important detail. Media Matters pointed it out in January. (Though that didn't prevent the Washington Post from again making the same mistake. But we focus on the Times.) Someone messed up. The Times needs to figure out if it was the reporter or the editor.

And I'll even give the benefit of the doubt (I'm that tired) to the reporter if it was his error. He may have been under a tight deadline. Fine. But you correct the mistake. You do it promptly. That hasn't happened. And since it was put out in an article and the topic continues to be covered, it needs to be noted in an article.

There are other problems with the article but we'll make that the focus for now.

I'll also note that BuzzFlash has a letter by Joseph Wilson. We'll do an excerpt in another entry.

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