Coming clean on Valerie Plame

Are journalists "conspiring" in the Valerie Plame coverup? Is it time for Novak and Miller to tell all?

By T.g.
August 10, 2005 5:35PM (UTC)
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Judith Miller is finally getting some love today as a delegation from the Inter-American Press Association makes a pilgrimage to Washington -- and then to the Alexandria Detention Center -- to highlight her jailing in the Valerie Plame case. As the Associated Press reports this morning, other international rights groups are also weighing in on Miller's behalf. But a much different dynamic is playing out back home: Miller and the New York Times are coming under renewed attacks from the north and the south as Vanity Fair and Molly Ivins both suggest that journalists who protect sources at the expense of the truth do a disservice to the readers they're supposed to be serving.

In a Vanity Fair piece that's not available online but is excerpted at CJR Daily, Michael Wolff says that by failing to reveal that Karl Rove had a hand in the Plame leak, the Times and, until recently, Time were complicit in covering up for the Bush administration -- and that they did it in order to stay in Rove's good graces and thereby continue to receive information from him. "Not only did highly placed members of the media and the vaunted news organizations they worked for know it, not only did they sit on what will not improbably be among the biggest stories of the Bush years, they helped cover it up," Wolff writes. "You could even plausibly say that these organizations became part of a conspiracy -- they entered into an understanding that, as a quid pro quo for certain information, they would refuse to provide evidence about a crime possibly having been committed by the president's closest confidant." Wolff says it's time for reporters and editors to ask themselves this: "To whom do you owe your greatest allegiance: sources or readers?"


Ivins, writing in the Progressive, raises similar questions about press protection for Rove. Although she reserves most of her wrath for "Turd Blossom" himself, Ivins argues that reporters "have no more right to withhold information about a serious crime than does a lawyer, a doctor, a psychiatrist, a counselor. If someone tells us they have done or are about to do a serious crime, we are utterly obliged to report it, even in the thirty-one states where we have limited legal privileges of confidentiality."

That message is starting to resonate -- at least in Denver, and at least where Bob Novak is concerned. Novak broke his silence on the Plame case in a selective and self-serving way in a column on Aug. 1, and we said then that his colleagues and editors shouldn't let him get away with it. It's one thing to respect Novak's need to live up to promises he made to his sources, if that's what he's doing; it's another to stand by as Novak spins his story as he likes, without having to answer for it.

CNN apparently came to understand that; "Inside Politics" host Ed Henry was going to ask Novak about the Plame case when he walked off the set last week. And now it seems that the editors at the Denver Post get it, too. The Post runs Novak's column, but the editors are tired of getting played. In an editorial in today's edition, they say: "In writing his Aug. 1 column, Novak ignored his lawyers' advice to maintain his silence. It was a reasonable decision -- his end of the Plame story has been bottled up for too long and Novak has wanted to speak his piece. But it's not reasonable for the columnist to discuss the Plame matter when it suits him but continue his silence when it doesn't."


The Post has a suggestion for Novak's next column: Tell the truth. "It's time for Robert Novak to give a public accounting of what led up to his 2003 newspaper column in which he revealed the identity of a heretofore clandestine CIA operative, Valerie Plame," the Post writes. "Novak put his toe in the water Aug. 1 and should complete his public explanation now."



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