Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Why Isn't Novak In Jail Too?

Probably because he sang like a wee birdie to the grand jury just like his column aria revealing Plame's status as a CIA operative. The man doesn't mind talking, apparently.

Otherwise, I don't really understand why N.Y. Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed today while Matthew Cooper barely escaped incarceration when his piece ran after Novak had published Plame's name and Miller's never ran one at all.

There are times when I do think reporters should be required to dime on sources. This isn't one of them. The story, in short:

Fitzgerald is investigating who in the administration leaked Plame's identity. Her name was disclosed in a column by Robert Novak days after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, impugned part of President Bush's justification for invading Iraq.

Wilson was sent to Africa by the Bush administration to investigate an intelligence claim that Saddam Hussein may have purchased yellowcake uranium from Niger in the late 1990s for use in nuclear weapons. Wilson said he could not verify the claim and criticized the administration for manipulating the intelligence to "exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

Novak, whose column cited as sources two unidentified senior Bush administration officials, has refused to say whether he has testified before the grand jury or been subpoenaed. Novak has said he "will reveal all" after the matter is resolved and that it is wrong for the government to jail journalists.

Disclosure of an undercover intelligence officer's identity can be a federal crime if prosecutors can show the leak was intentional and the person who released that information knew of the officer's secret status.

Cooper spoke to White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove after Wilson's public criticism of Bush and before Novak's column ran, according to Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, who denies that Rove leaked Plame's identity to anyone. Cooper's story mentioning Plame's name appeared after Novak's column. Miller did some reporting, but never wrote a story.
If Novak had refused to identify his administration sources, wouldn't he be in contempt also? He doesn't seem to be in jail . . . .


Anonymous said...

Don't you suppose that Bob Novak complied with the law and gave the investigators what they asked for and that they need Miller and Cooper to corroborate Novak's claims?

Otherwise, assuming the leaker denies telling Novak anything, it would be just "he said," "she said." (Or perhaps "he said," "he said.")

cd said...

Yes, that could be true. Like I said, I think his freedom implies he, in fact, talked with them and gave them what he wanted.

The story could unfold in any number of ways - was one of these journos used to get back at Wilson? Did one of the journos him/herself leak the info to Rove/whomever who then leaked it back to Novak or Cooper or Miller? Who ratted when and to whom and what for?

Scott said...

Have to disagree about the circumstances under which a reporter should be required to disclose his/her sources.

When the transmission of information from a source to a journalist is, itself, a felony and a breach of national security, confidential sources can not and should not expect that a journalist's right to keep their sources secret outweigh the interests of the American public in keeping the nation safe.

Furthermore, this was not some whistleblower telling some reporters about government malfeasance (i.e. this was no Deep Throat). This was a government official who, unsolicited, blew the cover of a CIA operative whose mission was to track the very weapons of mass destruction the administration claimed and continues to claim are a grave threat to the security of the United States.

Whether she published it or not, simply by being told the identity of the operative, Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper witnessed a breach of national security. By not revealing the perpetrator of the particular crime, they are obstructing justice.

I know you're the lawyer here (or closer-to than I am, anyway), but the case seems pretty cut and dried to me.

cd said...

In a case like this, I tend to side more with you.

I think that most of TPM's conjecture on the topic, however, that things may have been passed in an unconventional way, ie: reporter to official, etc, or whatever, makes guessing on this story a little bit more difficult.

I probably should wait to comment on the story until we know the whole story. If we ever do.