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July 19, 2005

NY TimesWatch®: Still pLaming The Victims

The NY Times continues spinning the truth in L'Affaire Plame.

Yes. By all means, let's do talk about some of those issues.

Protection for sources:

...the hard truth is that no reporter can choose the circumstances for upholding a principle. It doesn't matter whether we think a source is a good person or has good motivations. A reporter promises confidentiality, and the paper backs up the journalist because otherwise the public will not learn what it needs to know. It's up to the reporter and editor to determine whether information given under a promise of confidentiality is reliable. But reporters cannot apply ideology when protecting their sources, any more than civil liberties lawyers can defend the First Amendment rights of only the people they agree with.

Wrong. Your reporter created the circumstance when she made a promise that never should have been made. And though she cannot reverse the choice she made then, it is never too late to do the right thing.

The Times continues to allege that a crime has been committed here. If that is so, then your reporter is presented with a choice. She must choose the lesser of two evils: will she break a promise to protect a criminal, or break the law by obstructing the grand jury charged with bringing this criminal to justice?

The inescapable fact here is this: if your readership accepts your version of events, Plame was under cover and it was a crime to disclose her identity. If one accepts this premise, then the leaker committed a crime and your reporter is preventing the criminal from being brought to justice.

There is a name for this: aiding and abetting. An illegal promise does not deserve to be kept. Yes, it is wrong to break one's word. But it is a greater wrong to obstruct justice. It's really quite simple when one looks at things squarely, isn't it?

The waivers:

The prosecutor produced what he claimed were waivers of confidentiality signed by White House officials, and his supporters have asked how Ms. Miller or any other journalists could remain silent if the presumed sources say they are free to talk. In fact, these documents were extracted by coercion, so they are meaningless. Employees who are told they are required to sign waivers to keep their jobs are not sincerely freeing reporters from promises to keep their identities secret. Mr. Cooper said he had gotten a "specific waiver" of confidentiality from Mr. Rove. Ms. Miller says she has not received any such thing from her sources.

Has she asked? You are assuming facts not in evidence. If Rove gave a specific waiver to Cooper, what reasonable basis is there for assuming he would withold one from Ms. Miller?

Joseph Wilson's report:

He said he had found no evidence to support the claim of a uranium purchase, or even a serious attempt to negotiate one, and that he had reported this to Washington. That is entirely accurate.

This is a bald-faced lie. There is no other way to put it.

[Wilson's] intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was Prime Minister (1997-1999) or Foreign Minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it. Mayaki said, however, that in June 1999,(REDACTED) businessman, approached him and insisted that Mayaki meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations" between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report said that Mayaki interpreted "expanding commercial relations" to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales.

Moreover, the SSCI report concluded that Wilson had lied about who recommended him for the trip and that far from casting doubt on the yellowcake story, his report had actually bolstered the case for most analysts. Furthermore, regarding Wilson's now-famous allegation about forged documents (constantly repeated by the press despite having been debunked for well over a year), the Senate concluded:

Mr. Wilson's assertions on this point made no sense, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which said in its report: "Committee staff asked how the former ambassador could have come to the conclusion that the 'dates were wrong and the names were wrong' when he had never seen the CIA reports and had no knowledge of what names and dates were in the reports." Mr. Wilson lamely replied that he may have "misspoken" to the reporter for The Post when he said that the documents were forged. He also said "he may have become confused about his own recollection after the International Atomic Energy Agency reported in March 2003 that the names and dates on the documents were not correct and may have thought he had seen the names himself." The committee also found that, contrary to Mr. Wilson's repeated denials, Mrs. Plame had suggested him for the Niger mission. So much for the notion that Mr. Wilson is some vaunted whistleblower that the Bush administration was seeking to smear because of his vaunted insistence on telling the "truth."
What really bothered Mr. Rove was Mr. Wilson's view that the administration had deliberately twisted the intelligence on Iraq and that Mr. Bush had misled Americans about the need for war.

What really bothers careful and informed readers like myself is dishonest and biased reporting that deliberately omits material facts to serve a twisted agenda. The NY Times is well aware that the famed 16 words in the SOTU speech were not based on Wilson's report, but on British intelligence that was investigated and found to be well-grounded in the Butler Report. But even had it been based on Wilson's report (see above) there would have been some basis for the claim. That is the true irony of this story. This only shows how dishonest the Times (and Wilson) are.

We don't know whether top officials heard about Mr. Wilson's findings and ignored them, or whether the findings never reached the upper levels - at the time, dissenting views on Iraq were not getting much of an airing in the administration. There's a lot we don't know about this case.

Actually, we do know. The administration has said over and over again that they did not use Wilson's report. You simply refuse to report that fact. And your readers will never know it - or the very important fact that Wilson has been thoroughly discredited by their own government - because you refuse to report it.

But these things are clear:

Actually, very little has been clear in this case; primarily due to the media's obfuscation and insistence on misstating the issues and omitting material facts that would clarify the story considerably, if the public only knew them.

Journalists should not tailor their principles to their politics. In fact, readers should not even know their politics. That the Times wears its politics on its sleeve is yet another indication of its failure to serve its readership. Maybe next time the Times indulges in a bout of navel-gazing, they could benefit from a little California-style journalistic ethics:

On fairness:

A fair-minded reader of Times news coverage should not be able to discern the private opinions of those who contributed to that coverage, or to infer that the newspaper is promoting any agenda. A crucial goal of our news and feature reporting – apart from editorials, columns, criticism and other content that is expressly opinionated – is to be nonideological. This is a tall order. It requires us to recognize our own biases and stand apart from them. It also requires us to examine the ideological environment in which we work, for the biases of our sources, our colleagues and our communities can distort our sense of objectivity...


In rare instances, sources may insist that the paper and the reporter resist subpoenas and judicial orders, if necessary, to protect their anonymity. Reporters should consult a masthead editor before entering into any such agreement. Even in the absence of such an agreement, the possibility exists that a prosecutor, grand jury or judge will demand to know a source’s identity, forcing the reporter to choose between unmasking the source and going to jail for contempt of court. Such situations are rare, and they should not deter us from investigating sensitive or contentious matters.

Promises to a source must be kept except under the most extraordinary circumstances. If a source, acting in bad faith, were to succeed in using the newspaper to spread misinformation, we would consider our promise of anonymity no longer binding. That said, we do not “burn” sources.

Well I'll be...

Staff members may not engage in political advocacy – as members of a campaign or an organization specifically concerned with political change. Nor may they contribute money to a partisan campaign or candidate. No staff member may run for or accept appointment to any public office.

Staff members should avoid public expressions or demonstrations of their political views – bumper stickers, lawn signs and the like.

Wow... that's like, way harsh. Almost like they're... professional military officers or something. Imagine a world in which the media voluntarily took on the burden of staying neutral.

In such a world, readers might stand a fair chance of learning the truth.

Posted by Cassandra at July 19, 2005 09:05 AM

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I must confess that I'm not deeply into the nuances of the "leak" controversy -- I can barely understand Tom Maguire's posts, even though they are clear as can be!

I do have one question -- do we know that Miller is protecting a criminal, or even somebody who leaked Plame's identity? That is, she might be protecting somebody who told her something like "Karl Rove declared that he was going to leak Valerie Plame's name in front of Donald Rumsfeld." That would be extremely probitive and therefore interesting to Fitzgerald, but it would not mean that Miller is protecting a criminal or even somebody who was skating on the legal edge.

If in fact we know that she is protecting somebody who leaked Plame's status or identity, then obviously I withdraw the question.

Posted by: TigerHawk [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 19, 2005 11:25 AM

Of course not!

In fact, I have never believed a crime was committed. Few reasonable persons who have read up on this do.

But that is immaterial here, and in my view it doesn't take much to understand that. A grand jury is not tasked with deciding on its own, before the investigation is done, whether a crime has been committed. And if the special prosecutor were to suddenly announce "no crime has been committed here", can you imagine the shrieking? Of course he can't do that. He must finish the investigation. That is WHY they are there.

And anyone who obstructs them is holding them up and complicating the process.

Regarding your question, if her source were someone who simply offered to rat on the leaker DON'T YOU THINK THE TIMES OR MS. MILLER WOULD HAVE SAID SO BY NOW?

Because that person would truly have been a whistleblower. The exact class of person protected under so-called "shield laws". That would have been the best possible legal defense Ms. Miller had - she was defending a genuine whistleblower.

And you think that the NY Times, with it's huge legal staff, missed that opportunity?

Forgive me if I am skeptical. Don't you think it's funny that they never point out that the leaker ISN"T A WHISTLEBLOWER?

It's precisely because that's the chink in Ms. Miller's armor. If that fact were in her favor, they'd be trumpeting it from here to Peoria.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 19, 2005 11:53 AM

I find it utterly amazing the leaps of conjecture which lead to other leaps of conjecture, which are going on in the effort to keep this Karl Rove connection alive. From Mark Shields' column today:

That same senior administration official said: "Clearly it (the leak 'outing' Plame) was meant purely and simply for revenge."

Are you ready for a barefaced lie? Listen to the Republican talking points. It is true that Rove did talk to Matt Cooper. But he was not trying to smear Wilson and thus silence a formidable critic of Bush's Iraq policy. (END QUOTE)

The whole column by Mark Shields, excerpted above, contains the same omissions and assumptions that you are referring to above, Cassandra:

Never mind the facts of the case. Just as they simply, "know," that Bush was AWOL from the TANG, they simply, "know," that Karl Rove was motivated by a desire to, "discredit," Joe Wilson--who had already discredited himSELF, by being caught in bald-faced lies!

*shaking head in true disgust*

Posted by: JannyMae at July 19, 2005 04:36 PM

Here is an ever more frightening trendlet:
On page 130 of this month's Red's Digest (according to COL. Flagg) is a paragraph that had me in
a snit. I quoth:

"Don't confuse me with the facts!" That could be the motto of those of us who rely on the blogosphere, rather than traditional media for our news. What's the future of newspapers and networks in this all-opinion world? Tom Rosenstiel, who directs the Project for Excellence in Journalism, told USA Today that traditional media will evolve inot "Authenticators" telling people what information they can trust.

End Quote.

Posted by: Cricket at July 19, 2005 06:39 PM

Hmm, Cricket. Reading that, I get a sense that we are in for another typical liberal onslaught of, "the public is too stupid to know what's good for them." So, we, the peons, are deemed to be too stupid to discern what is legitimate news, and what isn't, and need to be told what the, "real," facts are? I beg to differ with Mr. Rosenstiel: the reason the public is turning away from newspapers/traditional media is that they know the news is spun and filtered in a way in which they can no longer trust the, "facts," being reported. I have no difficulty whatsover in ascertaining/discerning what is legitimate on the internet and what is not.

Posted by: JannyMae at July 19, 2005 06:56 PM

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