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July 17, 2005

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While he's a sniveling ass with no guts who fears the WH, Fineman the weathervane has this:

As for Rove, friends say that he was shaken by the speed with which the Wilson story moved—and in a direction he didn't expect. He's used to being in control. But now all Rove can do is mark time until someone else—Patrick Fitzgerald—says what comes next. After his re-election victory last November, Bush called Rove the "Architect." Now the hunter has to wait with everyone else to see if he has become the hunted.

It's true for us all. And I'm not paying Time to be told that Cooper has nothing to say.

from the Sun-Times (Wm O'Rourke):

Like any number of the many smear campaigns of the Bush administration -- smearing administration critics, smearing Social Security, smearing Treasury bonds -- smearing the press has paid off. Too many Washington journalists are indebted to White House sources for most of their stories to be anything but meek and thankful.

Judith Miller requires some rehabilitation in many journalistic and opinion circles for her sycophantic reporting of the Bush administration's claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Her time in jail should give her more than enough absolution for those transgressions.

Karl Rove isn't likely to be fired by the president, unless Rove himself thinks it is politically beneficial for him to leave and he instructs the president to fire him. But, all in all, it's another great day for the White House: The public disdain for, and distrust of, journalists grows larger. What could be better?

Clarence Page:

After Rove's lawyer confirmed his leak to Time magazine, McClellan clammed up, except to come up with endless variations on "no comment" as White House reporters bombarded him with questions.

Perhaps he will use President Richard Nixon's press secretary, Ron Ziegler's, memorable line from a Watergate-era briefing: "This is the operative statement. The old statements are inoperative."

That reminds us of what the real Rove scandal might be: This administration's willful pattern of shutting up any dissenting voices like Wilson's and shutting out any disagreeable facts, like the ones Wilson presented to the CIA, in the administration's headstrong run-up to war with Iraq.

That's not an indictable offense, as far as I can tell, but it's worth investigating. It's worth looking back at how our country got into Iraq, now that we're trying to find a way out.


Doyle McManus:

But Rove's reported assertion that the reporters he talked with already knew about Valerie Plame has focused attention on another question: Who was the original source of the leak?

The answer is not publicly known. Fitzgerald's investigators have questioned members of the White House press staff, including McClellan; aides to Vice President Dick Cheney, including his powerful chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby; and current and former State Department officials — but none has stepped forward publicly to acknowledge a role in the leak.

The question has some Republicans worried, though.

"There are other shoes to drop here," warned an advisor to the GOP leadership in Congress, who insisted on anonymity in order to speak freely. "There are people who haven't come out yet. There could be indictments. And that would cast an entirely different shadow on the matter."

In public, even as Bush and his aides have refused to comment on the issue, many of their allies have rallied in defense.

Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who once worked for Rove, declared: "The fact is, Karl Rove did not leak classified information." Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) called it "a nonstory."

Frist's comment reflected the main hope of Republicans on Capitol Hill, as well as in the White House: that the leak investigation was sufficiently tangled and obscure that it would fail to capture much public attention — or would be supplanted by other news.

"As soon as there's a Supreme Court nomination, this will be knocked off the front pages," predicted Kenneth M. Duberstein, a former chief of staff to President Reagan.

Dream on.

David Broder:

Many of us in journalism are upset that the public seems largely indifferent to the jailing of one reporter and a prosecutor's pursuit of several others in the leak of the identity of CIA employee Valerie Plame.

But we should be smart enough to be able to figure out why the anger and alarm this development has caused in our ranks are apparently not shared by those outside the news business.

The relationship between reporters and anonymous sources is built on mutual trust -- the journalist's belief that the source will be candid, even while disclaiming personal responsibility for the information, and the source's belief that the reporter will honor her or his commitment to protect the identity of the informant.

But the reader is deliberately not included in that circle of confidants. Rather, each member of the audience is told implicitly by the reporter, "I won't share something important with you that I know -- namely, the identity of the person who is my source."

The rationale for this deliberate withholding of information is, ideally, that the substance of what the source has provided is so valuable to the public that it justifies the damage done each time the public is asked to accept the "gift" without knowing its origins.

This makes the equation a lot more complicated than many of us in journalism want to acknowledge when we speak of the simple principle that "when you promise to protect your source, you have to keep the promise." The current case shows just how difficult the tradeoffs may be.

"And I'm not paying Time to be told that Cooper has nothing to say"

Nor am I sitting through ads on Meat the Press in 45 minutes for Cooper to have nothing to say.

-- Rick Robinson

Interesting discussion on Chris matthews:

Matthews and Fineman predict indictments, Donaldson, Katty Kay and Clarence page say no.

Heh, we'll see.

Well, well, well, good morning Mr. Broder. Welcome to the party!

This may be the first statement by a major journalist that I've seen that recognizes that the "search for truth" argument that serves as the basis for the protection of anonymous sources has half of its roots in hiding the truth.

There's a reason why courts don't accept unattributed testimony. They recognize the "truth" it suposedly contains may be tempered by questions about the source of that information. Journalists never give us the opportunity to evaluate their sources or their propensity for truth.

It's true that someone has to play judge here. But at least in court, that judge is actually... a judge. And a judge's ability to elicit truthful testimony doesn't depend on currying favor with the witnesses.

Cooper quoting Rove:

"I've said too much already."

The Cooper segment on Meat the Press was short and not particularly nutrient-rich. It was also ambiguous, and I'd have to see the transcript to know exactly what I heard. But it sure sounded as if Rove knew he was revealing/confirming classified information, even if he said something about how it would supposedly be declassified soon.

Any other takes here on the Cooper interview?

-- Rick Robinson

See Laura Rozen this morning on a number of these questions. She also has the meat of Fineman's article.

I think that when Rove told Cooper that something would be declassified soon he meant the INR report, which Emptywheel discussed at length yesterday. The WH thought they had something that they could put out there to discredit Wilson. The impetus to discredit him has to have come from Cheney, particularly after Powell and Tenet had distanced themselves from the 16 words. Cheney is the guy who never lets go of an idea regardless of the facts, like al Qaeda and Saddam.

I think it likely there were several iterations of the INR Report, or a basic draft (which Laura suggests was done in May) that was later massaged by others, and then the damaging info about Valerie was inserted. The WH wanted to declassify it, but that would have had to go to CIA, no? And they would have pushed back, because of the inaccuracies. So it never got declassified, just leaked to the WSJ, Gannon and who knows who else. Fitzgerald seems to be trying to find out.

THis all sounds so much like Nixon--taking the gov't power to assemble confidential information about people and almost casually using it to discredit your political enemies.

And it also goes back to the Niger forgeries. Who was responsible for them?

And, of course, ultimately about how and why we were lied into a war that has now cost $314 billion, or over 3/4 of the cost of the Korean War (in today's dollars) and is on track to equal Vietnam if it goes on for the several years thar Rumsfeld talks about. (Per this am's SF Chronicle.)

Mimikatz:

There is a key point about that memo, though. Either the memo Novak refers to is the same memo leaked to WSJ and Gannon--in which case we need to explain how it went from being a CIA memo to being an INR memo. Or there should be a CIA memo out there somewhere.

I do think the CIA memo is the INR memo. But how would someone get confused about the difference (especially people like Rove and/or Novak)? Perhaps if someone jointly appointed to both places wrote the memo--someone like Fleitz? But even if Fletiz did write about it, it means there SHOULD be some INR folks running around pissed as hell that their reasonably good notes (remember, INR was the intelligence agency that got it right on Iraq) got turned into a blatantly partisan memo.

What I think is that Laura Rozen may be right in her guess that the genesis of the INR Report (in May, she says this am) may have been relatively innocuous--how does this Niger stuff keep coming back when we thought it had been debunked, for example. My exerience as a (state) government attorney is that memos may go through more than one iteration. Someone does a draft, maybe for one purpose, and sends it up the chain of command. Other people may make changes. Now that everything is electronic, there may also be a lot of cut and paste, and material from one memo done for one purpose may end up somewhere else.

So I do think that there was an INR Report that made the rounds, and people may have edited it or added to it between May and June 10, 2003.

There was also a CIA internal report that was done on Wilson's trip.

As I said above, the WH may have wanted to declassify a memo they had (that began life as the INR memo) but wouldn't it have to be sent to the CIA before it could be declassified, given the contents? And wouldn't they say no?

Maybe that is how they got confused. Or maybe there was an intent to mislead. Maybe Fleitz was involved, as the go-between between State and WINPAC. I am willing to bet that there ARE some INR folks (or former INR folks) who are pissed that their notes and recollections were twisted, just as there are obviously CIA folks out there who are upset abut the mischaracterizations. I think we may have heard from some, and may yet hear from more.

I think it highly likely the INR or Grossman Report of May, 2003, is a re-write of Wilson's report submitted to the Africa Desk in State very soon after his return in 2002. Apparently this too was an oral report which Wilson reviewed and edited before it was filed.

It would be interesting to see if Wilson's report says anything about his wife. Something tells me that the re-write may have been an effort to include her in.

Apparently CIA says the INR report includes many errors, putting people at meetings that could not have been there.

And Sirota says it could be Condi that Miller is going to jail for.

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