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Friday, July 22, 2005

The Press, Truthtelling and Plame

Here’s a good question for you: when two people give testimony and that testimony differs, isn’t it reasonable to ask WHICH ONE isn’t telling the truth? But the press in the Plame case has been reporting discrepancies between the testimony of Administration officials and reporters and asking only if the officials were making “false statements.” The operative assumption is that the members of the press corps are incapable of making false statements.

Well, we know that is not only untrue, it is so untrue that the truth telling ability of the press is ranked somewhat below that of used car salesmen. Take for example the following story from Bloomberg:

July 22 (Bloomberg) -- Two top White House aides have given accounts to a special prosecutor about how reporters first told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to people familiar with the case.

Lewis ``Scooter'' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, one person said. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn't tell Libby of Plame's identity, the person said.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Fitzgerald that he first learned the identity of the CIA agent from syndicated columnist Robert Novak, according a person familiar with the matter. Novak, who was first to report Plame's name and connection to Wilson, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor, the person said.

These discrepancies may be important because Fitzgerald is investigating whether Libby, Rove or other administration officials made false statements during the course of the investigation. The Plame case has its genesis in whether any administration officials violated a 1982 law making it illegal to knowingly reveal the name of a covert intelligence agent.

My points are expanded and amplified by Just One Minute who smells a press cover-up.

He asks why more reporters who talked to the White House were not questioned. And also asks why reporters are not either verifying or denying discrepancies between stories. Why are reporters not reporting whether they have been interviewed by the FBI; surely that is a story. If they were interviewed, did they cooperate and if not, why not. This is, after all, a story about the White House’s relationship with the press, who said what to whom. Yet the press treats it as if they were not an integral part of the story, as if the only information that is available comes from grand jury leaks and lawyerly statements.

No, that’s not good enough. When the press is intimately involved in the story, they had damn well better be forthcoming about what they said and when they said it or THEY are conducting a cover-up. It’s time to end the conspiracy of silence by the press about their role in the Plame case.

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