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Monday, July 18, 2005

Confidentiality

Here's a point that I haven't seen discussed at all today. I am slammed for time but will try to add links later.

There has been a lot of discussion of Matt Cooper's choice to testify to the Grand Jury. One of the issues discussed has been whether Rove really granted Cooper a specific waiver, as well as whether whatever he did do was any different from the blanket waiver Rove apparently signed months (years?) ago at the behest of Fitzgerald's office. Here is Cooper from yesterday's MTP:
[On the morning of July 6, 2005,] my lawyer called me and had seen in The Wall Street Journal that morning Mr. Rove's lawyer saying, "Karl does not stand by any confidentiality with these conversations," or words to that effect, and then went on to say, "If Matt Cooper's going to jail, it's not for Karl Rove." And at that point, at that point only, my lawyer contacted Mr. Rove's lawyer and said, you know, "Can we get a kind of personal waiver that applies to Matt?" And Mr. Luskin and he worked out an agreement and we have a letter that says that "Mr. Rove waives confidentiality for conversations with Matt Cooper in July 2003." So it's specific to me and it's personal, and that's why I felt comfortable, only at that point, going to testify before the grand jury. And once I testified before the grand jury, then I felt I should share that with the readers of Time.
Robert Luskin (Rove's lawyer) has suggested that no specific waiver was granted; Cooper's statement about a "letter" suggests that Luskin has not been telling the truth on this point. But that's not my point here.

I recall that when Cooper told the media he'd agreed to testify, he said the waiver he'd received specifically concerned grand jury testimony. That is, I don't recall having ever heard or read that this waiver was a total renunciation of confidentiality. And yet here we have Cooper writing an article in Time about his testimony and agreeing to a lengthy MTP appearance. What gives?

My thinking on this is that Cooper is violating his confidentiality pledge. Now, regular CCM readers know that I think Rove is a liar and very possibly a serious criminal. They should also know that I think many journalists have abused their readers by casually handing out carte blanche confidentiality to high officials who use anonymity to do things they'd never dare do for attribution, when the doing of these things does not serve any public interest whatsoever; quite the opposite in this case. I think journalists should treat confidentiality agreements as a last resort and refuse to play unless there is a clear public interest served. But having said all that, I think that once these pledges have been made, they should be kept except in the most extraordinary of circumstances. I'm on record as having said that I don't blame Cooper from testifying, given the abusive and dishonest use of confidentiality that Rove, Luskin, and others in the WH have made.

And I'm even willing to buy that Cooper would be within his rights to renounce his pledge to Rove with regard to Cooper's journalistic responsibilities, given the misleading statements and lies that Rove has told and allowed to be told in his behalf.

But if that's what's going on, I think Cooper should be clear about it. I haven't read the full Time article yet, but a quick look makes me think he doesn't discuss this issue in much detail. He does say that
I received a specific last-minute waiver from one of my sources, Karl Rove, the President's top political adviser, releasing me from any claim of confidentiality he might have about our conversations in July 2003.
Again, I don't recall the unqualified phrase "any claim of confidentiality" two weeks ago. Moreover, the statement on MTP that "once I testified before the grand jury, then I felt I should share that with the readers of Time" sure does seem to say, hey, I can shed some light for the public, so why not? It does not tell us that Rove released Cooper from his pledge with respect to publishing.

After fighting the good fight for nearly two years, I just can't understand why Cooper appears to have so casually tossed aside his pledge of confidentiality. If his reason is that the pledge is an implicit contract, and Rove has serially violated that contract, then I'm sure on board, and it would be a valuable thing for Cooper to say so, so that everyone understands that lies have consequences for such pledges. If his reason is that he has a total blanket waiver -- press and testimony -- then that's important, too, since it would suggest that Rove is less worried than guys like me have suggested.

Either way, Cooper owes us more.

1 Comments:

Blogger strategery4 said...

Yeah, Cooper's totally caved here and is now trying to get his full 15 minutes, isn't he? I can understand not wanting to leave your kid behind and go to jail to protect these specific assholes -- particularly after you rboss just sold you down the river -- but what fucking difference does it make that he got a "personal" waiver. Why is that "better" then the blanket waiver provided earlier?

As the Times folks are saying, ya gotta stand on principle on this one, even if this isn't the best test case. If leakers can be forced to grant waivers and reporters then feel free to spill their guts, then the promise of confidentiality is ultimately meaningless. Judy Miller may be a credulous reporter, but she's clearly a stronger person.

And WTF is up with him being married to Mandy Grunwald? I mean, marry who you want but then you gotta recuse yourself. What, there are no other assignments you can take besides covering the White House to avoid a rather obvious conflict of interest?

7/19/2005 11:33 AM  

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