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October 13, 2005


Well, the NYT magnum opus on Miller/plame is supposed to be out Sunday, whether or not Miller participates. It'll be interesting to see whether it's a real investigative journalism piece or an ass-saving whitewash.

Oh, I would bet my ass that they're just trying to save theirs.

Must schedule time to rip that to shreds. Do you think they'll admit Jill Abramson has been lying HER ass off? Do you think they'll admit they had already but the shilly girl on ice, which is why she couldn't leak Plame's identity?

Precisely. A terrible price is paid for the Washington Press Corp's special and secretive system of access, and that price is paid in the loss of press integrity and the American's people's ability to make informed judgements.

Cohen's main advantage over a blogger is this whorish access, and he does not want it devalued and replaced by facts or fairness.

According to the NY Observer, the investigative piece is being run by the following individuals

Deputy managing editor Jon Landman—who is overseeing a Miller-case reporting team that includes Adam Liptak, Janny Scott and Don Van Natta Jr.—said that the delay is a matter of full access, not permission.

I guess there are two questions:

1. Are these individuals entirely independent from the Abramson/Miller apparatus?

2. If so, will they have sufficient freedom to right a piece that criticizes their employer?

In the (very) old days, when I was on the police beat - in Colorado and Wyoming - a prosecutor NEVER gave press conferences, and people took grand jury secrecy so seriously that hardly any reporters I knew ever even tried to obtain such information. It was always: Wait for the trial. And even then, rarely did the defense or prosecution give interviews until the jury had returned with a verdict.

You can imagine my shock observing the out-of-the-court feeding frenzy of the O.J. trial.

I have some sympathy for DC journalists. Like journalists anywhere, they depend on inside information and they've got deadlines. So they take shortcuts. This can lead to shallow reporting, but it need not lead to the spreading of outright lies.

Where the Beltway Brigadistas truly fail, of course, is by being willing hod carriers for propaganda, a term we've gussied up lately by calling it "talking points."

I'm not describing the people who the CIA planted in the media starting way back in the 1950s or the rightwing shills who got their political perspective from reading The Spike. I'm talking about once-respectable reporters who lost their way. Originally, there was the idea of quid pro quo: I'll write up something about this trial balloon you're giving me if you give me something valuable and real in return. I'll help you out if you help me out. I may pass on some bullshit but I won't pass along any lies.

That situation, obviously, has long since changed. Unfortunately, the current crew of reporters, and especially their editors, have all-too-often become conduits for what is transparent to rookie and amateur investigators as Goebbelsian garbage.

Although laziness, cowardice and venality are much of the problem, another is the sheer unwillingness to dig. As I noted yesterday, you, emptywheel, have done a prodigious job - much of it I.F. Stone-style - by using what is in the public record to try to show what's really been going on: parsing line-by-line government documents and earlier press reports and comparing them with recent reports. (Stone just about went blind in this process, but then he had to read millions of pages of agate type in the Federal Register.)

One note of caution, however. To do an effective job - in D.C. or Beyond Hope, Idaho - reporters will always depend partially on anonymous sources, insider sources, and these people may have suspect agendas. Even real whistleblowers may have base motives, getting rid of a boss, destroying a policy s/he doesn't like, revenge on a co-worker. A good reporter learns to sort out the agenda from the information and strives always NOT to be a pipeline for people whose job is manipulating public opinion.

I agree with you about the anonymous sources, MB. As I said, Cohen isn't makeing a First Amendment argument (if he were, he should have his pundit card taken away right away, because his piece is logically inconsistent with a first amendment stance). He's decrying the end of impunity, the state where journalists can just write anything they want.

I have been looking over some of the Al Qaeda missive articles from last week. Why aren't we laughing at these people, who didn't at least include a caveat "this missive is improbable for X Y and Z reasons"? We may not be doing so now--but we will be soon, once this Plame thing breaks.

Thanks for this and the whole series, Emptywheel. As I reminded your readers the other day, this whole Plame thing is all about Iraq, but Cohen has done us the service of framing what it means to the DC press corps who knew things about Bush that they didn't write, for, literally, years. The Times hasn't written about Miller.

What the hell else haven't they written?

I'm glad MB mentioned I.F. Stone, because as I read this piece I was thinking about him, and the regretably mostly unknown Walter Karp.

Back in the mid-to-late 80's, when I became politically aware and really began to develop my critical thinking skills, Karp--who died around 1990--wrote several pieces for Harpers. One piece, which I think is in a collection of his essays that Harpers has published, was on how the media worked. I had read some Chomsky by that point, but for some reason it seemed to mechanistic, some vague forces that enforced compliance, but the description of what cogs and gears did what seemed missing. But when I read Karp's article, it was an epiphany.

In short, his contention was that those in power instil compliance through leaks. People in power, especially in DC, tend to be very good about parceling out just enough tidbits of information to individual reporters and news outlets that, like wild animals made docile and dependent through feeding, these reporters and news organizations stop doing independent, critical reporting. Sure, lots still happens. But most reporters grow lazy, and they grow scared, because if they screw over a source, they'll be locked out of future leaks and scoops, and they'll remain behind their competetors in those categories.

Of all the insights about the press the Bushies brought with them to the campaign and to DC, that's been their most important. The strong-arming of Newsweek with the Koran stories, shutting down Dana Milbank and Helen Thomas in the press room, even feeding the reporters far better food on the campaign plane than they were getting on the Gore plane, the Bushies have played the press quite well. They've preyed on their pettiness, their lazyness, and their fear. And those who wouldn't be easily cowed, they've tried to destroy, to lock out, to shut down. And because they've grown so dependent on handouts from those in power, too many in the DC press corps don't know how to hunt for their own keep.

Interesting side-note about Karp and Stone. It's widely known that late in life, despite that failing eyesite mentioned by MB, Stone taught himself Greek so he could read and eventually write a well-recieved book on the trial of Socrates. (He concluded Socrates was very anti-Democratic.) Conincidently, Walter Karp--who like Stone stayed clear of the normal haunts of DC journalists, and dug in other places for his stories, especially in information in the public sphere--was a bit of an expert in the Greeks, enough so that an essay on Thucydices is included in the Norton Critical Edition of The Pelopenisian Wars.


I've got bad news for you. You're going to have to move your TraitorGate Conspiracy Theory timeline back a just a bit. I'm not a "conspiracy theory" type a' guy but you're freakin' me out. I thought this Jeapardy Answer and Question might be interesting to you.

The Jeapardy Answer is:

June 9, 1981

And the Jeapardy Question?

On what date did the following words or phrases first appear in a single New York Times story? Iraq, Niger, Italy, Uranium, Miller

It gets curiouser and curiouser.

See also this for 10/13/2005.

from Kurtz:

In Salon, Sid Blumenthal , who had his own grand jury experience during Monicagate, doesn't like the media's performance this time:

"Unlike in Watergate, which was largely advanced by the press, this scandal has unfolded despite much of the press corps' efforts to avoid, demean or restrain the story until very recently. Also unlike in Watergate, major influences in the press have aligned with their sources in the administration, not with the professionals in the government acting as whistle-blowers."

Now go back and read Cohen. Until very recently? It's still going on.

Hey, aspTrader,

Can you give us at least a headline and excerpt, for those of us who aren't Times subscribers?

Here you go, Redshift:

U.S. OFFICIALS SAY IRAQ HAD ABILITY TO MAKE NUCLEAR WEAPON IN 1981 State Department and intelligence officials said today they believed that Iraq had acquired enough enriched uranium and sensitive technology to make one nuclear weapon by the end of this year, and several bombs by the mid 1980's.

This conclusion, intelligence officials said, is based on Iraq's ambitious nuclear program, which they described as far exceeding either the Iraqis' power requirements or programs aimed at commercial use. But the conclusion is questioned by some Administration and Congressional quarters.

I'm still skeptical about your Miller/Times bias but I entirely agree with your reaction to the Cohen column - and emailed him today, specifically regarding deaths that may have occurred as a result of this leak (would he feel different if journalists had died?).


I broke my pledge to not subscribe to Times Select. Luckily they have a 14 day trial so I'll be cancelling before the trial period is up.

The title of Judy Miller's NYT article was "U.S. Officials say Iraq had Ability to Make Nuclear Weapon in 1981". There was a 1982 article also that didn't have the word "Italy" in it but it did have the word "yellow-cake" in it.

Let me say that I have no idea what connection there is between these 1980s articles and events after 2000, if there is any connection at all. I just wanted to be sure that emptywheel and others knew about this. It would be interesting to find out what other journalists were reporting this story in the 1980s.

Here are the first four paragraphs of the 1981 article.

"State Department and intelligence officials said today they believed that Iraq had acquired enough enriched uranium and sensitive technology to make one nuclear weapon by the end of this year, and several bombs by the mid 1980's.

"This conclusion, intelligence officials said, is based on Iraq's ambitious nuclear program, which they described as far exceeding either the Iraqis' power requirements or programs aimed at commercial use. But the conclusion is questioned by some Administration and Congressional quarters.

"Concern about Iraq's nuclear capabilities has grown recently, the officials said, in light of intelligence reports that Baghdad has been negotiating with an Italian company to purchase a small reprocessing plant. In addition, the officials said that Italy had been training Iraqi technicians and scientists in reprocessing technology, which could be used to separate plutonium as a weapons material, a development that generated intense concern in Israel.

"One official said that Iraq had also purchased large quantities of uranium ore from Portugal and Niger, and that, in negotiations with Portugal, it had threatened to cut off oil shipments unless uranium ore was supplied."

Journalists have died. It was in Iraq, not DC, and maybe they had funny names, and maybe don't go to Cohen's swank restaurants, so it doesn't count.

See Another death in Mosul brings number of journalists killed since 2003 to 72.


That's worth a post in and of itself.

Since we're on this tangent, DHinMI, did you know that Stone wrote The Trial of Socrates - a thin volume that is an excellent read and sits next to my copy of The Great Quotations (written by another truth-telling, old-school journalist, George Seldes) - using a Mac with the typeface size turned up so high that one letter filled the entire screen? Took him forever.

I found this out when I interviewed Stone in 1988 for a review of his book, the second-to-last by-lined piece I ever wrote for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Of the famous journalists I've actually talked with or met, he and Seymour Hersh are the two I most respect for relentless dedication to piercing the lies of those who rule us.

So I just saw that Cohen article. And it's pretty much as I thought: the spin is "they're attempting to criminalize politics." I just didn't think the first volley would come from the press. I thought they'd shamelessly run with it, but I thought they'd at least give the "admininstration" the courtesy to launch it themselves.

The 1981-era Iraqi nuclear capability would be that which was discovered and destroyed at Osirak, no?

I'm still trying to recover from the bout of nausea I suffered watching Andrea Mitchell on Hardball.

Jeebus the absense of shame among these people is just gobsmacking.

Kagro, Cohen is not only a hack, but an unoriginal hack. Tom Oliphant said it first on Hardball three days ago.

OLIPHANT: Maybe more.

I mean, according to this developing theory of the case, you could even suggest that one of the reporters is technically exposed. What I don‘t understand is why I don‘t hear more of my fellow lefties screaming to the heavens about a situation like this, where the power of the state is being used essentially, as near as I can tell, to criminalize the political transactions of Washington.

I mean, we learned from Pat Buchanan in Watergate that that was an excess of...


MATTHEWS: So, you think may just be political hardball and not criminal, going out to destroy or discredit somebody like Joe Wilson?


MATTHEWS: That is the question.

OLIPHANT: Exactly.

What was that thing about the frog in the pan of water, again?

here is a thought and it is not one i got today. it's something i have thought about for a while.

close down the white house press corp.

close it down completely: the rooms, the daily briefings, the amenities (which i understand aren't much anymore), the closeness to power (snuggle), the broadcasts from the lawn.

let journalists earn their pay by going about town and asking lots of questions. And, at the same time,make it less convenient for the white house to engage in manipulation or obfuscation.

this would be partly symbolic, of course, leaks and othe manipulations occur by e-mail, phone, or over waffles.

such a reform, unlikely as it is, would prevent editors from easily arguing that "we have to make what the white house said today a headline".

and it would make the white house work harder, too; their communications people would have to plot how to inform opinion leaders and the public, rather than how to arm wrestle with a bunch of bored reporters.


I want to stew on that for a while. But post glass of wine, it sounds absolutely brilliant.

"This -- this creepy silence -- "

Oh please! I stopped reading RC's article early because I had a feeling he was going there. On the other hand, I've been enjoying the inspiring stories of better times---for journalism, at least---that people on this thread have been sharing.

Regarding that mass pile-up of hot topic keywords ... well, I guess if you're going to do a, you know, thing-y, that needs to be operated over time and distance without much co-ordination, it would help to have a script handy, wouldn't it? Remember how C.Rice used to talk about fears that terrorists might use communications through the media to send coded messages? Jam that up with this crowd's propensity to project, and it does prompt a moment's wonder.

Btw, a google of the exact title given above brings up one whitepaper-type document that cited it. The paper is titled "The Duty to Defend Them: A Natural Law Justification for the Bush Doctrine of Preventive War", by William Bradford of Indiana University School of Law. There's no clear date, but some citations are from as late as Sept., 2003. The subtitle's a little interesting to me, because I'd thought the meme was "pre-emptive" war, and because I know from a little sparring games experience that pre-emption is aimed at intercepting an attack underway (someone jumps at you, you kick them first), whereas prevention would precede that. Pre-emptive, maybe ok in court; preventive, probably dubious at best.

Anyway, the Miller article is cited on page 28, as part of a discussion of the Israeli attack on Saddam's Osirak reactor, and the legal fallout in the UN that ensued. Interesting stuff.

After this does blow open, it won't just be Judy Miller's reporting that comes under scrutiny. It'll be the whole system of leaks, in all its disgusting squalor. -- EW

Yeah. Just like what can happen when the python swallows the alligator. Disgusting squalor, indeed.



'But if, as Joe Wilson claims (and I believe) this leak happened to shut people up, then how does sending Fitz away help the cause of press freedom?'

Fitz may leave and not indict Plame for her admission in 'Vanity Fair.' This helps freedom.

can't let this pass:

Boston, Mass.: You mentioned the column by Richard Cohen yesterday. I was stunned by the amazingly broad--both visceral and well-reasoned criticism of his column. He was, and continues to be slaughtered in the blogs. Has this created any debate within The Washington Post Newsroom?

Jim VandeHei: there is very little discussion in the news room about columns. we are too busy working.

I'll start from early on in my evolution... I am a biracial man whose father is African-American and mother is Caucasian. My parents met in 1959 when my un-wed mother was in a nursing school where my father was employed as a nurses aide... my mother was engaged to a white man who was attending engineering school. My father had an African-American wife and (5) children at the time of his extra-marital relationship with my mother. At some early point of my mothers pregnancy with me she made the decision to marry her fiance, and to lie to everyone about who the father of her un-born child was... she achieved this by claiming that I had been afflicted with a skin-disease called "melanism".

My mother and step-father had four more children together in the space of nine years after I was born, and we grew up together in a middle-class household in white america where the subject of "race" was never discussed. My earliest recollections of having to be aware of race was when I was asked questions about the color of my skin by other classmates in first grade... "Why was my skin dark?", "Was I adopted?" race was certainly a hot-button issue in 1965-66 when I began school , but any awareness that my mother and step-father had achieved from growing up in their white neighborhoods in the 40's and 50's was insufficient in preparing them for raising a biracial child... and to complicate things, they were both in complete denial of their complicity in my mis-education. When I came home from school after having been asked questions by fellow students from my all-white school district, my mother then explained "the skin-disease story" to me... "other kids with this disease usually have dark blotches all over their bodies, so you should feel fortunate". When I would tell my mother about other boys and girls who would call me names or act aggressively for no apparent reason, I began to understand that I would get no further assistance from her to explain this rationale... my step-father was even more removed from the conversation and would only add, "You know what your mother said".

By the time that my step-father transferred jobs and our family of (7) had moved from the all-white Cleveland, Ohio suburb of Stow to the all-white school district of Portville in Western up-state N.Y. it was the spring of 1970 and I was in fourth grade, and already the veteran of many racial incidents and altercations between myself, classmates, and even some adults. My four younger siblings had also been told the same story, and had to explain the same things to their friends when asked why they had a brother who was black... "Hey, did your mother fool around a little bit??" I remember how much that hurt me when I heard it, and I'm sure that they felt just as badly when they did... nonetheless, this was a "subject" that we never discussed as a family, not once, at least in my presence.

I was taught through my observations of my mother and step-father to keep quiet about things that I wasn't sure about, and I was also taught to ignore the obvious.

As I matured into my teen-aged years and began to experience societies issues and insecurities in coming to terms with this countries racial in-equalities during the 70's, I felt an increasing need to rationalize and then codify the information that my mother had given me, regardless of what I was beginning to realize inside... I felt a growing discomfort/conflict, yet there was no one in my life to offer any other perspective... I had learned that black people were a part of society that we didn't talk about. ( There was a black family in my small town, and they were poor and lived in a run-down house near the river...I never had any opportunity or reason to associate with them)

I was a "B" student and also began taking an interest in sports where I was above average. Meeting other schools and student athletes were opportunities to then be exposed to populations that had not been inured by my story yet...I was just another black kid to them.

Communicating my experiences to my mother and step-father was difficult because they had no experience with racial prejudice, therefore when I had problems with other children it would be looked at as an issue that "I" had in getting along with others(as well as intra-family sibling issues).
Because "race" was being ruled-out entirely, by my mothers denial of my father, she could not logically use that rationale to explain any conflicts that I would have. My step-fathers complicity in this was to blindly support my mothers viewpoint.

The "white" viewpoint has always been that blacks(black society) were pretty well cared for, and what contact they did have would be polite and careful... What, with the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts being passed, the playing field had been leveled.(re: my mother and step-father's generation)
The feelings and comfort of my mother were apparently what was important, and her inculcation had to have been partly comprised of the idea that white society acted as the gate-keepers and care-takers of an infantilized black population.


How has black society formed its identity?

What role models have been used, and how does white society react to positive
black role models today? (Are they held to a more critical prism??)

Is there enough information readily available for black people to easily form a
positive racial identity?

Is it important that black society is able to connect accurately the dots of its social
evolution in America? and is it also important that white society can connect those
same dots??

What is White Privilege?

What is White awareness?

What is Whiteness?

What about Affirmative Action?

Is Race just a social construct?

How do we improve our society in America?

Is there any other way(besides the attrition of the old guard) to achieve this??

Dave Myers

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