Monday, December 12, 2005

NYT: "Reporter Recounts C.I.A. Leak" (David Johnston)

Writing on news reported in this morning's New York Times (David Johnston's "Reporter Recounts Talk About C.I.A. Leak"), Eric wonders what the journalism standards are today?

That's a good question. It's one journalistic watchdogs should be exploring (instead of taking a pass on Bob Woodward). So yesterday Viveca Novak's version of events is published online at Time. Novak is the reporter who tiped Luskin off that it was known at the magazine Time that Karl Rove and Matt Cooper had spoken regarding the then unouted Valerie Plame.

Novak's reasons argued in her article is that she raised the issue because she thought Luskin was attempting to spin her when he stated that "Karl doesn't have a Cooper problem. He was not a source for Matt."

Novak countered that a time a grand jury investigation was going on. Novak revealed that at a time when Cooper was publicly silent.

Novak didn't report on this.

She injected herself into a grand jury investigation by revealing information (for whatever reason) to the lawyer of someone of interest in the investigation.

Since Matt Cooper would plead he couldn't reveal his sources until he was faced with an actual jail sentence, some might want to consider how Novak found out and how much truth is and isn't in her account.

They might also want to question the logic of it just slipped out since, in fact, nothing just slipped out. To look at the results of the investigation -- Judith Miller's revelations, Matt Cooper's, Bob Woodward's . . . -- nothing has just slipped out.

How did it just slip it out?

Novak maintains that she felt Luskin was trying to spin her.

How so? Matt Cooper at that point wasn't writing what happened for Time. Novak wasn't writing about Cooper's knowledge. So when some at the Washington Post, in phone calls this morning, question whether it slipped or Novak was either tipping off Luskin or attempting to offer the tidbit in exchange for something, it's a question worth asking.

Novak says she didn't tell anyone at Time about it. She says that when she first spoke to Patrick Fitzgerald, November 10th of this year, not under oath, she retained her own lawyer and still failed to alert Time of what was going on. (She also spoke only after Luskin alerted Fitzgerald that she was someone who could vouch for Karl.)

The cover up of something that Novak claims just slipped up isn't being taken at face value.

There are some who believe she intentionally tipped off Luskin. There are some who believe she did so with some sort of encouragement.

She transmitted information that a federal prosecutor was seeking to Karl Rove's attorney -- information that was damaging to Karl Rove who was maintaining he'd never spoken to Matt Cooper while Cooper was refusing to answer questions.

Especially if it was an unintentional slip, with someone fighting requests to testify, she should have immediately reported the slippage to Time.

She didn't do that. If she had, would it have forced Time or Cooper's hand? This morning's callers doubt that but agree that it's possible.

Having gone from reporting to injecting herself into a investigation, did she then go Patrick Fitzgerald? No, she didn't.

She was content to stay silent while the initial investigation went on. The matter only comes up after Scooter Libby's been indicted, when Karl Rove needs someone to vouch for the new excuse.

It's awfully strange how someone who accidentally slipped was so helpful to Karl Rove both at the time of her slippage and the days and months since.

Johnston covers this point:

In her article, Ms. Novak said she was writing about her conversation with Mr. Luskin, over his objection, because he had "unilaterally" gone to the prosecutor to disclose it.

That's the only thing the callers agreed with. Relating it to Bob Woodward's silence on his source, they state that when you testify under oath, you don't then say, if you're a reporter, "I'm not at liberty to reveal my source to the public." Once you've given up your source, with the source's permission, under oath, there is no longer confidentiality.

Sources, as understood in the past, needed protection from investigations. They didn't need protection from the public. When a source is named, under oath, a reporter also names the source to the public.

They feel Woody's reluctance to do so further undermine's his defense that he's not too close to those in power. He is too close. He has traded access. He's willing to, under oath, discuss a conversation with someone attempting to determine whether charges need to be brought. That's the one area that a source, for any report, might need protection. Another would be from their employed. Woody's source has told the employers. The only one's who don't know are the public.

The callers this morning question the accuracy of Novak's report and question how honest it is, they don't question that once your source goes to a prosecutor and reveals themselves and once you testify under oath, you still have the right to not name your source to the public. Naming the source to the public would be . . . reporting. What a reporter's supposed to do.

So to answer Eric's question, what are the standards? No one knows because people involved haven't been acting on any journalistic standards and at least one watchdog that's supposed to cover journalism (and boast of doing in so in real-time) takes a pass to avoid asking uncomfortable questions about the apparently great and powerful Woody. Apparently everyone's trading something for something and while the public comes up short.

On the issue of the press, Mia notes Alexander Cockburn's "All the News That's Fit to Buy" (CounterPunch):

The Bush era has brought a robust simplicity to the business of news management: where possible, buy journalists to turn out favorable stories and, as far as hostiles are concerned, if you think you can get away with it, shoot them or blow them up.
As with much else in the Bush era, the novelty lies in the openness with which these strategies have been conducted. Regarding the strategies themselves, there's nothing fundamentally new, both in terms of paid coverage, and murder, as the killing in 1948 of CBS reporter George Polk suggests. Polk, found floating in the Bay of Salonika after being shot in the head, had become a serious inconvenience to a prime concern of US covert operations at the time, namely the onslaught on Communists in Greece.
Today we have the comical saga of the Pentagon turning to a Washington DC-based subcontractor, the Lincoln Group, to write and translate for distribution to Iraqi news outlets booster stories about the US military's successes in Iraq. I bet the Iraqi newspaper reading public was stunned to learn the truth at last.
More or less simultaneously comes news of Bush's plan, mooted to Tony Blair in April of 2004, to bomb the hq of Al Jazeera in Qatar. Blair argued against the plan, not, it seems, on moral grounds but because the assault might prompt revenge attacks.
Earlier assaults on Al Jazeera came in the form of a 2001 strike on the channel's office in Kabul. In November, 2002 the US Air Force had another crack at the target and this time managed to blow it up. The US military claimed that they didn't know the target was an Al Jazeera office, merely "a terrorist site".

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