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Monday, July 11, 2005


Just finished watching Deborah Orin on Hardball. This should tell you what the rightwing strategy is going to be, at least for the moment. At one point, she conceded that it's possible that Rove may not have "told the truth and the whole truth" [translation: the only jeopardy for Rove concerns perjury, not the IIPA or Espionage Act]. Then she comes up with this beauty:
But what's more important is that it's pretty clear that Joe Wilson didn't tell the truth.
Leave aside the fact that many of the substantive rightwing claims about Wilson's accuracy are either false or irrelevant. Let's assume arguendo that all of those claims are true.

So, focus on the claim that Joe Wilson's supposed untruths are "more important" than Karl Rove's possible lies to a federal grand jury (again, assuming arguendo that he didn't violate either the IIPA or the EA).

It's "more important" that a private citizen wrote a purportedly wrong op-ed than that the President's chief political adviser lied to a grand jury about his use of "double super secret background" to publicly undermine a political enemy?

Didn't these people impeach a President over perjury claims in a grand jury investigation? And wasn't it about sex, not a national security issue?

I am becoming very disillusioned by the Republicans and their supporters, who I was told were protecting our culture from the liberals at the gate. Tisk, tisk.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Really like your blog. You may not remember me, Nathan Anderson, from the University of Michigan (vacation homes paper). Anyway, keep up the good work! It is nice to have met you in Philly this year.

7/11/2005 8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fitzgerald's successful argument to compel reporters' testimony may have included that professional standards required reporters to find out WHY Rove was giving this information on "double super secret background."

Confidentiality is not taken for granted.

I'm a 27-year veteran reporter/editor who encounters an average of 1-2/month requests from sources to give information off the record. I always immediately reply that I don't speak OTR, period. I can count on one hand the number of times I've felt information was critical enough to break that standard.

So, should we think the Washington press corps is so sloppy and inept to include "at least six" reporters who think nothing of accepting information without finding out first WHY Rove couldn't give it on the record?

In this case, the notion that so many reporters agreed to talk to Rove on this confidentially is absurd, or indicative of a much bigger problem in journalistic standards. At best, it was a he said/she said story, with NO OFFER that Rove would substantiate anything he said with documents.

No good reporter should have even spoken to Rove and another official on this confidentially, if the sources' purposes had been disclosed. No good reporter would find Rove's opinion or perceptions of events any more or less credible than Wilson's. We are to be unbiased, after all.

The exclusive alternative is that Rove and the other source did disclose to reporters that Plame's status was security protected. And shame on the reporters -- those who published and those who did not -- for not following up to document the facts after accepting such information.

It is illogical to believe Rove's and Luskin's claim Rove didn't know it was wrong to reveal Plame as CIA, and they had no reason to think a law -- not just the intel law but any law, including slander, libel, espionage act, etc. -- was being violated in telling reporters that Wilson's wife was an "official" at the CIA.

This case presents a new ethics question, as I see it: Should a reporter keep confidence when the source is not simply staying quiet but is lying about his role and his purpose in the leak? Perhaps journos should make a caveat when they accept OTR or deep background info that if the source comes forward to LIE about his role, the deal is off.

One other thing:

The legal concept of imputed liability would seem to give expectation that Rove and Rove's source for the information had a responsibility to find out Plame's security status before revealing the information.

We're not talking about a campaign volunteer here. Two "senior White House officials" should be expected to find out Plame's status before telling anyone, even each other.

7/12/2005 11:50 AM  
Blogger Jonah B. Gelbach said...

Regarding these two comments:

1. Nathan, I do remember you (and I did really like your jm paper). Shoot me an email to let me know where you wound up and how things are.

2. The second commenter makes some really interesting points. I will try to say sth detailed about them in the future. I esp like your new-ethics-issue point, and I think there's probly a good deal of merit to the last point, that WH folks should find out the scoop even before talking to each other (this claim is v consistent with the well-known "need to know" reqt for even people with high clearance: you aren't supposed to go looking at classified info just b/c you (a) feel like it and (b) have necessary clearance; these are *nec* conditions, but not sufficient ones).

Thanks very much for your post. Come back soon.

7/12/2005 5:53 PM  

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