Wednesday, March 23, 2005

It Pays to Cover Up 

WIlliam E. Jackson, Jr., of Editor & Publisher reports that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of the Valerie Plame outing may end in a damp fart, with uncooperative witnesses Judith Miller and Marc Cooper doing time and the actual perp getting off scot free:
Paradoxically, there is now little expectation that Fitzgerald will succeed in identifying the person or persons in the Executive Office of the President who was first to knowingly and intentionally violate the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by revealing Valerie Plame's covert CIA identity to journalists. It appears that every official is in a position to claim that her name was "out there," in circulation, before Bob Novak's July column, and that they merely repeated what had been heard from someone else to members of the press or the administration.

For example, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- a skilled lawyer -- is claiming that he first heard Plame's name from a press source. (Bob Novak is speculated to be Scooter's alleged source; Judith Miller comes in second.) If Libby mentioned the sensitive information to staff, they might have passed on what they had heard about Plame to selected reporters, without necessary knowledge of the law . . . .

The bloom is definitely off this case. No longer does one hear it described as a once-in-a-generation showdown between the government and the Fourth Estate over the First Amendment. It’s not that it is being ignored by the working press; indeed, several reporters told me that, unfortunately, the Plame affair is often mentioned by would-be confidential sources when explaining their skittishness in talking about classified matters, doubly so given the obsession with secrecy of the Bush White House.

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